A man who allegedly held a girl captive at a remote northern Saskatchewan cabin has gone through about five lawyers in six months.
Aaron Gardiner, 42, was arrested in April in a dramatic takedown by an RCMP tactical unit, which was flown in two CH-146 Griffon helicopters to an isolated cabin to rescue the girl.
“He has gone through four or five lawyers,” said Saskatoon Crown prosecutor Andrew Clements in an interview Nov. 12. “They either withdraw or they get fired.”
Gardiner has had numerous appearances scheduled in Meadow Lake Provincial Court but the matter continues to be adjourned. There are so many charges against Gardiner and a huge disclosure package that when a new lawyer takes over the file he/she needs time to go through the file, said Clements.
“All of the adjournments have been at the request of the defence,” he said.
Gardiner was arrested after the Île-à-la-Crosse RCMP received a report shortly after 6 p.m. on April 23, 2020, that a girl was being held against her will for four days at a remote cabin across from Île-à-la-Crosse Lake, about 10 kilometres from the village of Île-à-la-Crosse.
Police were informed that the man holding her had temporarily left the cabin. Île-à-la-Crosse RCMP made several patrols in the village of Île-à-la-Crosse in an attempt to locate the suspect. RCMP officers also began to strategize the safest way to get across the lake to the secluded cabin.
Île-à-la-Crosse RCMP determined the only way to access the cabin was by air because Île-à-la-Crosse Lake was covered in water and slush. They called in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Saskatchewan Emergency Response Team (ERT) to assist. The RCMP ERT are a group of highly trained officers that use specialized weapons, equipment and tactics to resolve extremely high-risk situations. The RCMP ERT deals with extreme danger that can’t be easily resolved by general duty RCMP officers.
Hours later, in the early morning of April 24, two Canadian Armed Forces CH-146 Griffon helicopters flew the ERT tactical RCMP unit across the lake and landed beside the cabin. Police quickly secured the location and safely rescued the girl from the cabin. She had minor bruising and was safely flown by helicopter back to her family in Île-à-la-Crosse.
Gardiner allegedly tried to flee from the cabin and resisted arrest. The RCMP deployed a Taser and arrested him. Gardiner was treated in Île-à-la-Crosse for minor injuries.
Police seized firearms and drugs from the cabin.
Gardiner was charged with unlawful confinement, assault, overcoming resistance, uttering threats, resisting arrest, possessing a firearm for a dangerous purpose, use of a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence, proceeds of crime, and possession for the purpose of trafficking.
More charges were laid against Gardiner three months later after more victims came forward to the police. In July Gardiner was additionally charged for multiple incidents involving several victims. The charges include four counts of sexual assault, three counts of forcible confinement, uttering threats, assault, reckless discharge of a firearm, use a firearm in commission of an offence, obstruction and breach of an undertaking.
The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional information to report to police is encouraged to contact Île-à-la-Crosse RCMP by calling 306-833-6300 or the Prince Albert General Investigation Section at 306-765-2105. Information can also by submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or submitting a tip online at www.saskcrimestoppers.com.
The charges against Gardiner haven't been proven in court.
Gardiner remains in custody and is now scheduled to appear in Meadow Lake Provincial Lake Court on Dec. 7.
Île-à-la-Crosse is about 380 kilometres north of Prince Albert.
Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Battlefords News-Optimist
Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist