Sentencing reasons offered for youth who killed Kugluktuk woman

·4 min read
Community members held a vigil in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, after a six-month sentence for manslaughter was delivered in the brutal death of Margaret Ogina.  (Falisha Klengenberg/Facebook - image credit)
Community members held a vigil in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, after a six-month sentence for manslaughter was delivered in the brutal death of Margaret Ogina. (Falisha Klengenberg/Facebook - image credit)

The reasons for judgment regarding the killing of Margaret Ogina in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, by a minor have been made public.

The Kugluktuk woman was 46 when she died in her own home after she was brutally beaten without provocation by the youth in 2017. The youth confessed nearly two years later. The youth's name cannot be published under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The sentence delivered in the community earlier this month was six months in custody, six months supervision and 12 months probation, which caused outrage in Kugluktuk.

The youth, who was intoxicated at the time, believed Ogina stole her phone when the perpetrator could not find it and returned to Ogina's house where she had been earlier that day and beat the woman, court documents show. She left the victim, covered in blood and after she had stopped moving. She then stole several items, including a truck, from the victim's home.

The youth was first arrested for criminal negligence causing death, a charge which evolved into murder throughout the investigation, eventually reaching a conviction for manslaughter, Crown lawyer Gary Wool told CBC. Ogina was killed in April, 2017, and charges were announced on Jan 30, 2019.

Nunavut Court Justice Bonnie Tulloch said in her reasoning that under the Youth Criminal Justice Act she was required to sentence the perpetrator differently.

Rehabilitation the goal

Youth are considered to have a greater chance at successful rehabilitation, though they need to be held accountable, said Tulloch.

"This young person's behaviour can only be described as shocking... Serious bodily harm was easily foreseeable in these circumstances," said Tulloch.

The perpetrator had no criminal record, but has had a challenging life.

She was already a mother at the time of the crime and was removed from her adoptive parent's home for a period in her childhood, due to violence and alcohol abuse in the home.Her adoptive mother said her husband, the perpetrator's adoptive father, has served jail time for assault offences toward the adoptive mother. The perpetrator said she herself was not abused.

A court report indicated the perpetrator would be willing to engage in the rehabilitation process and willing to comply with any conditions imposed in court.

Tulloch noted that since the incident, the perpetrator says that she quit drinking alcohol and using drugs and has been concentrating on making a good life for her daughter, elements that spoke well to her chances of rehabilitation and reintegration, she said.

The youth had already spent 67 days at the youth facility in Iqaluit.

'A good person who did not deserve to die'

Tulloch said she had "carefully considered all alternatives to custody," but found that, "given the disturbing and serious nature of the facts, balanced with all of the other factors to be considered, the only fit and appropriate sentence must include further custody."

During probation, the perpetrator must not possess or consume drugs or alcohol, other than those prescribed by a doctor, may not have contact with the family of the victim and must attend meetings with a mental health worker and counsellor, among other requirements.

Tulloch said of the victim's death, "She was a good person who did not deserve to die in the manner she did. The sentence of this court can not bring her back. Her family and friends are serving a life sentence without her.... The best I can do is give everyone, including the accused and her family, closure so that healing can commence."

Wool told CBC that as soon as the verdict came down, family members of the victim inquired about appealing the six month sentence.

At a vigil held for the victim on Nov. 10 and posted on Facebook, some community members called for justice they felt wasn't being served by a sentence of this length.

CBC reached out to the family of the victim but they could not be reached by press time.

'No winners'

Emilie Coyle, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, said the sentence may feel inadequate but is in line with the vision of Youth Criminal Justice Act.

She said Canada struggles with two issues: that of protecting Indigenous women, and that of trying not to over-incarcerate Indigenous offenders as a whole.

"This case is an intersection of these two issues."

More broadly, she said restorative justice and community-led solutions need to be explored further in the justice system, as do resources that communities need to prevent harm in the first place.

As for this particular case, she said: "There are no winners.There is just a lot of pain all around here."

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