A sentencing hearing for a man who accused two North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC) employees of sexual misconduct stalled Wednesday after the brewing scandal moved off headlines into a Yellowknife courtroom.
Twenty-six-year-old Kelly Canadian, an openly gay man who detailed dozens of alleged inappropriate sexual encounters between himself and two NSCC staff members to Yellowknifer late last year, was set to be sentenced in NWT territorial court after pleading guilty to a slew of offences, from shoplifting and uttering threats to harassment. The appearance ended with a visibly frustrated Canadian abruptly walking out of the courtroom, returning to a cell in the courthouse basement.
Canadian’s departure came after Judge Brian Bruser said he couldn’t go ahead with sentencing because Canadian’s lawyer, Jessi Casebeer, alluded to an alleged sexual relationship between her client and one of the two accused jail employees in her submissions, in an effort, she said, to add context to the criminal harassment charge.
Canadian pleaded guilty to sending multiple social media messages to the NSCC employee and the employee’s partner over a four-day span in October. He also admitted to attending the staff member’s residence during that period as well and to indirectly uttering threats to cause death to the two individuals. Casebeer said Canadian threatened to reveal that the employee was selling drugs at the jail, a claim that has not been substantiated.
Lawyer explains “motivations” behind incidents of harassment
In a bid to “explain the motivations” of Canadian’s harassment of the two individuals, Casebeer cited “several” alleged incidents involving her client and the staff member in question. She said the employee, who worked as a guard at NSCC, met Canadian inside the jail, and later pursued a sexual relationship with her client outside of the facility, when Canadian was released. Canadian told Yellowknifer last year the encounters occurred both inside and outside of the jail, a allegation Casebeer reiterated in court Wednesday.
The territory’s Department of Justice announced last week that two NSCC staff members were “no longer employed,” at the jail following a workplace investigation into the allegations leveled by Canadian.
Casebeer told the court the guard who was harassed by Canadian is no longer employed at the Yellowknife jail.
Canadian filed a $1.2 million civil claim against the GNWT, the operators of NSCC and Corrections Service, earlier this month, alleging “sexual assaults” behind the jail’s walls that left him suicidal and incapable of leading a normal life.
The claim does not name the ex-NSCC guard – the victim of Canadian’s criminal harassment – but names the second jail employee Canadian has accused of sexual misconduct.
Yellowknifer chose not to identify the accused guard, or the second employee named in the civil claim, following Canadian’s allegations, as the individual does not face criminal charges.
Because the former guard was named by Canadian’s lawyer in court, Bruser said the individual should be given an opportunity to address the “serious allegations” brought before the court.
Crown prosecutor Alex Godfrey agreed, and asked the court to impose a publication ban protecting the ex-guard’s identity.
Judge orders publication ban on the former guard’s identity
Bruser ordered a temporary publication ban on the former guard’s identity, giving Godfrey time to “see what the (victim’s) views are,” ahead of the next court date. Bruser weighed the decision to adjourn sentencing with the impact of the delay on Canadian, who is being kept in the same jail he alleges he was sexually assaulted in. Citing the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, Bruser ultimately concluded the former employee’s right to have their identity protected was paramount.
Before Canadian abruptly left the courtroom towards the end of his appearance, Casebeer asked the court to consider her client’s difficult and “traumatic” upbringing and personal circumstances when sentencing him for the harassment, uttering threats and shoplifting charges.
Canadian, the court heard, bounced from foster home to foster home, where he experienced sexual abuse, from the age of three to 18. He’s been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and has long struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, said Casebeer.
As an openly gay man, she said Canadian never felt accepted growing up. “(He) was often abused by people in positions of power,” which has led to his substance abuse and the “cycle of behaviour that brings him before the court,” said Casebeer.
Casebeer called Canadian an “intelligent and funny person who’s endured a lot in his life,” adding her client is actively seeking addictions treatment in B.C.
Canadian back in court Thursday, sentencing scheduled for Friday
Canadian’s matter will be spoken to in court Thursday, with sentencing scheduled to continue on Friday. Bruser said he’s doubtful Canadian will be sentenced on that day, given the “complicated” nature of the file.
Canadian pleaded guilty to a total of 13 charges Wednesday, the bulk of which were for offences for theft under $5,000 from city stores. Casebeer said her client stole to feed his own addiction.
The Crown is calling for a jail sentence of six to eight months followed by two years of probation for the offences, which occurred between October and December of last year.
Canadian’s lawyer is recommending four to six months custody followed by a probation period of one year.
Yellowknifer is awaiting comment from the Department of Justice regarding whether or not the two positions left vacant at NSCC following the staff members’ departure have been filled.
Canadian was awarded $5,000 in an out of court settlement last year after filing a human rights complaint against NSCC, alleging he was subjected to discrimination and homophobic slurs by jail staff.