One of the 28 people charged in connection to major drug bust in Yellowknife in April 2016 was sentenced to four years plus a month Tuesday for trafficking in cocaine and for a 2014 sexual assault.
Arnold Manuel faced drug charges after Project Green Manalishi, an investigation into an Northwest Territories drug-trafficking network that led to the territory’s largest drug bust in a decade.
Manuel pleaded guilty to the drug offences and was found guilty of the earlier sexual-assault charge after a trial by jury.
Manuel was given 1.5 days credit for his 507 days spent in jail on remand, which means he will serve a total of two years in custody. The two-year sentence allows him to serve his sentence in a federal penitentiary, where he will have access to specialized rehabilitation programming.
The sexual assault took place in 2014. The name of the victim and identifying details are under a publication ban.
At the sentencing in the Northwest Territories Supreme Court, Crown prosecutor Duane Praught said the pair had been texting the night of the attack, but the victim ultimately told Manuel she was not interested in him.
The court heard Manuel came to the victim’s home, where she repeatedly refused his advances. She pushed him and tried to kick him before he sexually assaulted her.
The woman was “very intoxicated” at the time, which made her more vulnerable, said Praught. Manuel had also been drinking, but was less intoxicated.
In a victim-impact statement read aloud in court, the woman described the suffering she has endured.
She was angry at work and would cry in the bathroom. She said she didn’t feel safe in her home and didn’t like being alone.
“I was always double checking the doors to make sure they were locked,” read her statement. “I had to have lights on upstairs and downstairs and the TV loud.”
The woman said she was praying for Manuel’s family and she hoped he too would get better, “not only for you, but for your kids.”
The court also heard about Manuel’s drug-trafficking convictions.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Manuel worked as a street-level drug dealer in a criminal operation helmed by Yellowknife residents Todd Dube and Norman Hache. The trafficking ring moved a variety of illicit drugs to communities in Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
Manuel was caught after police intercepted phone calls and texts to and from Todd and Hache.
Between the end of February and mid-April, 2016, Manual bought powdered and crack cocaine, a quarter or half ounce at a time, as well as marijuana to sell for a profit.
Praught said Manuel “only dabbled” in drugs, and wasn’t dealing to support an addiction. Rather, he said, Manuel’s motive was “simply greed.”
Manuel has 43 prior convictions dating back to 1992, when he was a teenager, including two minor drug offenses and seven violent offenses.
At his sentencing Tuesday, the tragic fallout of of his parents’ experiences in residential school, and Manuel’s own turbulent childhood, were laid bare.
His mother and father both attended the Grollier Hall, a residential school in Inuvik that, for the entire time it was open, employed at least one staff member who would later be convicted of sexually abusing students.
Manuel’s mother Beverly McNeely gave a tearful statement Tuesday, in which she spoke of the sexual, physical and psychological abuse she experienced at residential school.
“Money could never compensate for what happened to me, my parents, siblings and kids,” she said. “They went unnurtured.”
She said it broke her heart to learn of Manuel’s charges.
His parents were 19-years old when Manuel was born and his early childhood in Fort Good Hope was suffused with abuse and alcoholism.
At 11 he was placed in foster care. He lost friends to suicide and once attempted to take his own life.
Justice Andrew Mahar noted the “significant Gladue factors” in Manuel’s case.
Regina v. Gladue is a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision that addresses the problem of the over-incarceration of Indigenous offenders.
Courts are required by the decision and the Criminal Code to consider the unique systemic or background factors that may have played a part in bringing the particular Indigenous offender before the courts, and to look for alternative sentencing options, in order to reduce over-incarceration.
In his own statement Tuesday, Manuel said not a day goes by that he doesn’t feel remorseful for his actions.
“I know what I did was wrong, unacceptable,” said Manuel, his voice quavering. “I feel ashamed. Extremely sad.”
Defence lawyer Rod Gregory said his client has devoured books on success and healing while incarcerated. He also attended Alcoholics Anonymous, sharing circles with an elder, violence prevention and parenting programs.
The judge noted Manuel’s “willingness to change and seek help,” and said that while he cannot deviate greatly in sentencing on the sexual assault, he has more latitude with the drug charges.
Manuel also got three years’ probation, and will be on the sex-offenders registry for 20 years.