The Yukon Court of Appeal reduced a convicted drunk driver’s sentence by half, ruling the sentencing judge did not consider the man’s Aboriginal heritage.
In 2014, Arthur Joe, a member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, was convicted of impaired driving and refusing to provide a breathalyzer sample.
He was sentenced to 43 months in custody, a 10-year driving prohibition and three years probation.
Before that conviction, Joe had issues with drinking and driving, but had no charges between 2008 and 2014.
At his 2014 sentencing, Judge Donald Luther ruled Joe was a “notoriously repeat drinking driver” and he “should have almost no particular consideration afforded to him as an Aboriginal offender.”
He also dismissed Joe’s Gladue report, which detailed the facts of his life.
“While not totally ignoring Gladue, I would rate it as infinitesimal in and of itself,” Luther wrote.
But the decision from the Appeal Court, released Friday, says that was a mistake. It ruled sentencing judges must take a person’s Aboriginal heritage into account when crafting a sentence.
“By effectively ignoring Mr. Joe’s background, it is self-evident in my view that the sentencing judge committed an error in principle that impacted the judge’s analysis leading to the sentence,” Chief Justice Robert Baumann wrote in the appeal court decision.
Joe, 65, was raised by his maternal grandparents until he was five and was then sent to a residential school. His parents frequently drank and his mother froze to death, court documents show.
“Mr. Joe was sent to the Lower Post Residential school in northern B.C. The school had a reputation as one of the more repressive and brutal residential schools in Canada,” Baumann wrote.
Baumann ordered the sentence to be reduced to 23 months and 5 days, which Joe had already served as his case went through the courts, meaning Joe is now free on probation.