Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Top court's ruling on native hardship impacts local case

Case suspended, suspect's bio revamped

  • Print

She's a convicted drug dealer with a tragic background that came from growing up on a Manitoba reserve. And she is exactly the type of criminal Canada's highest court says should be in line for a reduced penalty based on her upbringing.

Rita Parenteau was supposed to be sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty to having a large quantity of cocaine and morphine inside her Winnipeg home. The Crown is seeking a penitentiary term, while her lawyer wants a conditional sentence that allows her to remain free in the community.

But the case has now been adjourned indefinitely because justice officials concede there hasn't been a thorough examination of her native ancestry. A probation report previously ordered late last year was riddled with errors and missing information, court heard Monday. For example, the report included a detailed history of life on the remote Shamattawa reserve. Yet Parenteau is from Lake St. Martin.

"It was fascinating reading but entirely irrelevant," said defence lawyer Darren Sawchuk. He said the courts clearly must proceed with caution, especially in light of last Friday's ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that says judges must consider more lenient sentences for offenders just like Parenteau.

"There's an entire history here that would be of assistance, especially with what came out from the Supreme Court," said Sawchuk. In Parenteau's case, Sawchuk said there is a litany of horror that includes watching a young relative beat her abusive husband several years ago.

Queen's Bench Justice Rick Saull agreed, saying it would be dangerous to proceed without a complete picture of Parenteau's past.

"There are some credible issues counsel has in terms of how this has been done," he said. As a result, Saull has now ordered a new report on Parenteau to be completed by an independent organization that specializes in them rather than probation services.

Justice sources told the Free Press this single case shows how careful officials are going to be, especially in light of the edict from the country's High Court. The result may be an already slow-moving justice system becoming even more backlogged as the wait for reports grows longer and delays are inevitable.

The Supreme Court said last week some judges have failed in their responsibility to probe the background of an aboriginal criminal based on a 1998 case called Regina v. Gladue. In that case, the court cited the over-representation of aboriginal offenders who are behind bars and called for alternatives to be explored based on their history.

"I don't know how far (last week's ruling) takes me other than to reinforce what I already knew to be the case," Saull said Monday.

Clearly not every Canadian judge had the same mindset.

"Application of the Gladue principles is required in every case involving an aboriginal offender," Justice Louis LeBel wrote last week on behalf of the 6-1 majority ruling. "The failure to apply the Gladue principles in any case would also result in a sentence that is not fit and is not consistent with the fundamental principle of proportionality."

What to consider

What factors is a judge required to consider in a Gladue report? Justice Louis LeBel outlined them in last week's Supreme Court of Canada decision.

History of colonialism


Attendance at residential schools

Lower educational attainment

Lower incomes

Higher unemployment

Higher rates of substances abuse

Higher rates of suicide

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2012 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Selinger addresses stadium lawsuit

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose protects her nest full of eggs Monday on campus at the University of Manitoba- Standup photo- Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 090728 / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS White Pelicans belly up to the sushi bar Tuesday afternoon at Lockport. One of North America's largest birds is a common sight along the Red RIver and on Lake Winnipeg. Here the fight each other for fish near the base of Red RIver's control structure, giving human fisher's downstream a run for their money.

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google