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This article was published 1/12/2013 (2608 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A young man who fatally stabbed a violent party guest on a northern Manitoba reserve has been handed a six-month jail sentence.
In a case that shines a grim light on social issues that plague the remote northern community of Shamattawa, provincial court Judge Murray Thompson ruled against a request from provincial prosecutors to keep the offender in jail for a longer period.
The now-19-year-old man recently pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He cannot be identified because he was charged and sentenced as a youth for the killing of Charles Beardy, 39, on Nov. 27, 2011. The Crown did not seek an adult sentence.
"The actions of the accused fell short of murder due to a combination of factors where the Crown could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt he had the requisite intent to kill," Thompson said in a recent written decision made public Friday.
After noting the offender’s time served on remand, the judge ordered he spend a further six months of community supervision with probation to follow.
Beardy was stabbed a single time through a crack in a door while trying to force his way back into a party he was kicked out of due to a violent outburst.
Witnesses said Beardy attacked the offender’s mother and knocked her unconscious with a board prior to being thrown out of the party. Another guest was also struck, Thompson said.
"That’s for beating up my mom," the offender, then 17, said after the stabbing, according to witnesses.
"I tried to scare him off — I think I got him," he reportedly said. Beardy was found collapsed on a nearby road by local RCMP.
The "chaotic" party scene and conflicting information about who was responsible triggered a lengthy police investigation. The offender wasn’t charged for killing Beardy until weeks after the incident.
Beardy had an extensive record for violent crimes, which included 27 various assault convictions since 1997, and the offender had witnessed Beardy committing violent acts in the past, Thompson said.
Defence lawyer Dan Manning told court the youth was "terrified" of Beardy’s actions that night. He had no prior criminal record.
"(His actions) appear to be a one-time event given the unique circumstances he faced on the night in question," Thompson said. "Given his lack of prior record, excellent behaviour while in custody, non-violent attitude and genuine remorse, this very much appears to be an out-of-character incident."
In his sentencing report, Thompson undertook a full analysis of the alarming social conditions in Shamattawa, a remote community located in northeastern Manitoba, and how they specifically relate to the offender’s actions. A report presented to the court painted a "bleak" picture of a community, where 61 per cent of the housing is in need of major repair, unemployment is rampant and just five per cent of the population has a high school diploma.
"The community of Shamattawa is plagued with numerous issues including substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse, child neglect, family breakdown and dysfunction, lack of foster homes, youth violence, shortage of housing, poverty, low income, lack of employment and educational opportunities," Thompson said.
The intergenerational effects of abuses brought about by colonization and the residential schools system has left Shamattawa’s large number of youth facing a "staggering" number of challenges, Thompson said. He listed 24 of them, including alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, "becoming oppressors and abusers of others" and rage and anger among them. Youth suicide also remains a serious concern, he indicated.
"Suicide levels reflect the bleak outlook in Shamattawa," the judge said. "In 2007, 74 youth attempted suicide. During the first five months of 2008, 47 people attempted suicide, this from an on reserve population base of less than 1,500 people," he added.
The offender himself admitted "that there is really nothing else to do in Shamattawa but to consume alcohol or intoxicants," Thompson said. "Overall, (he) is not favourable towards crime and he does not have a propensity towards violence. He recognizes the impact his actions had on himself, his family and his community," the report said, according to the judge.
Raised in a stable home by his grandparents until he was 10, the accused afterwards bounced in and out of foster care when his parents’ major substance abuse issues caused Child and Family Services to step in and apprehend him. His four siblings are also in CFS care.
At age 14, he attended a residential treatment program to deal with his drinking. He was eventually placed in a Winnipeg foster home and was excelling in school before the stabbing and his arrest, Thompson said.
"It is not surprising that in this context of community and social dysfunction, that (he) became involved with the criminal justice system," said Thompson.
Given the unique factors of the case and the nature of youth-justice laws, further jail time was not required, Thompson said. His community supervision prohibits him from drinking, puts him on a nightly curfew and he must take any counselling as directed by corrections officials.