Yellowknife lawyers to challenge mandatory firearms minimums

Defence expert says Kugluktuk sex offender at 'considerable risk' to reoffend

In a Yellowknife courtroom on Tuesday, two lawyers served notice they will be arguing that the four-year minimum prison sentence for discharging a firearm in a reckless manner amounts to cruel and unusual punishment for their clients.

One of the accused, Tony Kakfwi, 49, is accused of firing off a rifle outside a public meeting in Fort Good Hope last November. People at the meeting scrambled for cover and took refuge at the health centre.

The accused in the other case, 29-year-old Corey Robert Cardinal, has already pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm in a reckless manner in Inuvik last year, but has yet to be sentenced.

In yet another case, a constitutional challenge is in the works targeting the four-year-minimum for using a firearm to commit robbery.

The accused man in that case, Cameron Bernarde, is alleged to have used a .22 calibre rifle to rob the Rooster gas bar and convenience store in Hay River last November.

All three men have criminal records.

Bernarde, 22, was convicted of sexual assault and drug possession in 2014. Kakfwi has been convicted of assault at least three times and of uttering threats. Cardinal has been convicted of assaulting a peace officer, assault with a weapon and uttering death threats.

No date has been set for hearing the constitutional challenges.

The mandatory minimum sentences were introduced in 2008. They quickly came under fire from many in the justice community, including the Canadian Bar Association, for reducing the flexibility judges have to tailor sentences to the circumstances of each crime and offender.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down mandatory minimums set for possessing prohibited weapons, such as assault rifles and sawed off shotguns.