(THUNDER BAY, ON) – Courtroom 102 was overbooked today with matters that are working their way through the criminal justice system. Some of the matters were sent over to courtroom 103 to be put in front of Her Honour, Justice Brochu. 48-year-old Tracey Mawakeesic from Sandy Lake First Nation was one of the matters that got bumped over.
Crown Attorney Rob Kozak was also handling the case along with criminal defence lawyer Kate Brindley. The courtroom has about 4 people including myself sitting in the body of the court. Mawakeesic pleads guilty to one charge of Mischief Causing Damage under $5000.
On June 10th, 2018, at 6:30 am Thunder Bay Police Service were dispatched to McIvor Court at 1100 Lincoln Street. Upon their arrival, they were made aware of a front lobby door being smashed with a rock. The incident was captured on video surveillance. The door was smashed at 5:53 am.
Police reviewed the video surveillance and was able to identify Mawakeesic. Criminal defence lawyer Kate Brindley admits that these facts are accurate on behalf of her client.
Criminal defence lawyer Kate Brindley states that her client is homeless, and on the night in question, Mawakeesic had no particular association with McIvor Court. The Shelter House was where she was normally staying but was not able to stay there that evening because it was full. She ended up near McIvor Court and says that a male was harassing her and following her around. The male was making comments towards her that made her feel unsafe.
Mawakeesic approached the lobby of McIvor Court and started buzzing random apartments hoping someone would answer. When no one did she got frustrated and smashed the window. It is quite clear it was Mawakeesic on the video.
She has struggled with being homeless along with an alcohol problem for quite some time. Also, she has had quite a few stays at the hospital in the last year due to her troubled health. This has caused a delay in Mawakeesic resolving these matters in a more timely fashion.
Mawakeesic has been staying sober and is involved in a treatment program that has been successful. There is also a significant gap in her serious criminal record. Even tho she has prior serious convictions, she has had a clean record since 2009.
Brindley says that Mawakeesic is unable to pay restitution due to her very limited financial circumstances, even tho the Crown is still pursuing restitution.
Justice Brochu asks if community service hours would be a suitable alternative instead of restitution, but Brindley fires back by claiming her client has significant health issues and that community service hours would not be reasonable.
The Crown is seeking a 12 month suspended sentence with only a “seek counselling as directed by your probation officer” condition. Further, the Crown is also requesting a restitution order to pay back the damage done to the lobby. Other than that, it is a joint submission between both the defence and the Crown.
As for the restitution issues, Justice Brochu decides that the restitution order is going to be issued and that it may take some time to pay it, but the victim deserves to be made whole. Justice Brochu says that Mawakeesic knows her actions were unacceptable and has taken responsibility for those actions.
Substance abuse issues appear to have caused Mawakeesic to likely act the way she did that night, and are also likely contributing factors to her housing issues at the time. Her Honour says that Mawakeesic is definitely in a better place than she was back in June, and notes the improvement.
Her Honour notes that this case has dragged on not because Mawakeesic was avoiding the courts, but that she has had significant medical issues which have held her back from addressing these issues.
Justice Brochu decides that the joint submission is reasonable and addresses the principles of sentencing, which are denunciation and deterrence while not bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.
Mawakeesic is put on a 12-month suspended sentence with a condition to following counselling directions from her probation officer. She is also ordered to pay Thunder Bay Housing $1000 for the damaged she caused.
What is a “Suspended Sentence” ?
Basically, the accused is placed on a probation order for 1 to 3 years. If they breach that probation order they will be charged for breaching it, as well as the Justice can now sentence them on the original charge (mischief in this case) with jail time or whatever they see fit. If they complete the probation order without breaching, they are free.