A Kamloops-area man who sexually abused his step-granddaughter when she was no more than 11 years old has been sentenced to five years in prison.
The man’s name is protected under a court-ordered publication ban to protect the identity of the victim.
Justice Len Marchand handed down the sentence, following a guilty verdict last summer in B.C. Supreme Court.
In a written decision posted online, Marchand said the circumstances of the abuse called on him to “denounce and deter the sexual victimization of an extremely vulnerable Indigenous girl” while also attempting not to “exacerbate the grotesquely disproportionate rate of incarceration of Indigenous people.”
“There is no easy solution,” Marchand wrote.
According to the decision, the girl came to live with her maternal grandmother at a young age following the murder of her mother.
Over a period of several months, the grandmother’s 65-year-old husband, the girl’s step-grandfather, sexually abused her, including intercourse and touching. The abuse was at times perpetrated through physical force and accompanied by verbal abuse.
Marchand said due to the nature of the evidence given by the complainant, he couldn’t determine exactly when the abuse started or how many times it occurred, but it ended in January 2019, when the girl was 11 years old. All the abuse occurred in the family home and at times when the step-grandfather was intoxicated.
In his ruling, Marchand noted the impact on the girl, who is now 13, was best demonstrated in her own words.
In the girl’s victim impact statement, she said her step-grandfather made her feel she didn’t matter and to this day she still feels worthless.
“I tend to sleep a lot because when I’m awake, I start to think of everything he did,” the girl’s statement reads, adding that even while asleep, she has nightmares of the abuse happening again.
“What he did broke me. And right now I’m at my lowest because everything he did to me is all I can think about … and the only way not to think of it was to do drugs. I lost myself, my smile and my happiness. And sometimes I think it’s my fault,” her statement reads.
Marchand noted his concern for the girl, who has since started cutting herself, adding she needs reassurance the abuse was not her fault.
The step-grandfather is a First Nations band member who overcame his own harrowing childhood, marred by parental drinking, violence and neglect, to live a productive and pro-social life. During the offender’s childhood, he was placed in a number of foster homes and spent two years at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, where he experienced physical abuse and hunger.
He found stable work in 2000, until these charges arose in 2019.
Aggravating factors in the case included that the abuse occurred in the home where the girl was supposed to be safe and that the step-grandfather breached his position of trust and care.
Mitigating factors included that the 65-year-old expressed a willingness to engage in sex-offender treatment, apologized in court and had some degree of remorse — though he has not admitted to the offences.
As part of his sentence, the man must stay 200 metres away from any residence, school or workplace of his step-granddaughter for 10 years following his release from prison and be registered as a sex offender for 20 years.
Crown prosecutor Frank Caputo sought a sentence of seven to nine years in prison, and, if not for Gladue factors, would have sought a sentence up to 12 years, while defence lawyer Daniel McNamee suggested a five-year sentence consisting of two years in jail and three years probation.
Gladue rights — named after the court case that spawned them — are based on the duty of the judge to consider the unique experiences Indigenous offenders. These include the challenges of colonization, racism, loss of language, removal from land, Indian residential schools and foster care Judges must keep this information in mind and consider rehabilitation and community-based sentencing options other than jail.