A 17-year-old boy from Fort Liard has received the maximum youth sentence – three years in custody – after he was convicted of manslaughter and sexual assault causing bodily harm following the death of a 12-year-old girl in that community in 2015.
The boy, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was sentenced by Judge Robert Gorin in Territorial Youth Court in Yellowknife on Thursday.
He was to have been sentenced in Fort Liard on December 19 but the hearing had to be postponed and moved to Yellowknife due to bad weather.
Court heard that on October 3, 2015 the offender, who was 13 years old at that time, a 15-year-old male friend and the girl were drinking alcohol in the evening in the hamlet, not far from the Liard River.
The girl, whose name is protected by a publication ban, passed out severely intoxicated and the boy sexually assaulted her.
He then encouraged his friend to do the same.
Court heard that the friend. who did not sexually assault the passed-out girl, encouraged the offender to assist him to get help for the girl but they did not, leaving her unconscious in the chilly fall air.
When the friend went to check on her the next day, he found her deceased.
The cause of death was alcohol poisoning.
Court heard that the boy had a traumatic upbringing with substance abuse and violence in the home.
He was put into foster care more than once.
The boy told court workers that he was smoking marijuana by six years old, tobacco at nine, drinking alcohol at 13 and using cocaine by the time year was 15-years-old.
Both his parents are residential school survivors.
His father was in court for the sentencing hearing as was a woman, believed to be the victim’s mother.
She was consoled during the hearing by other female supporters believed to also be from Fort Liard.
Taking into account his pre-trial custody, the teen will have 202 days left to serve in the youth section of the North Slave Correctional Complex in Yellowknife where he had been serving pre-trial time.
He will then spend 101 days in a community, possibly under curfew and other house arrest-related conditions.
His lawyer Peter Harte doubted that he would return to Liard to serve out the sentence.
He was also convicted of several other charges – offences that occurred after the girl’s death.
They included breaking into the Fort Liard band office in 2017.
Harte called it a tragic case noting that some of the boy’s actions could be at least partially explained by his troubled upbringing.
He also called for a Coroner’s Inquest into the girl’s death.
“If it takes a community to raise a child, then where was the community on this one?” Harte wondered. “Why is it that two young teenage boys and a pre-teen girl were drinking within the hamlet limits and nobody said anything, nobody intervened? That’s the real question here.”