Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers.
A Sanikiluaq teacher convicted of numerous sex crimes against students has been granted an appeal and will get a new trial.
Johnny Meeko was found guilty of 27 charges in March 2018 relating to offences against eight victims, most of them ages eight and nine, between 1972 and 2007.
He was sentenced to 9.5 years in prison the following month.
A trio of appeal judges determined that the trial judge, Neil Sharkey, erred in admitting Meeko’s confession during his trial, believing that Meeko did not make the statement to police under duress.
“The Crown concedes the error tainted the convictions concerning two of the complainants,” the judges wrote in their appeal decision, released June 3.
However, the Crown tried to argue that a conviction still would have occurred regardless of “the tainted police statement.”
The justices overseeing the appeal were unconvinced.
“We are not satisfied that, absent reliance on the police statement, the appellant’s evidence inevitably would have been rejected and inevitably would not have contributed to a reasonable doubt,” stated appeal judges Shannon Smallwood, Jolaine Antonio and Kevin Feehan.
The charges against Meeko included indecent assault, unlawful confinement, rape, sexual interference and sexual assault.
In his 2018 written decision, Sharkey stated, “Year in and year out, Johnny Meeko remained confident that none of his young victims would dare to complain – or, if they did, he was confident that they would not be believed… and throughout all this time, Johnny Meeko suffered no repercussion for this behaviour.”
A Canadian Ranger instructor and church warden in addition to being a longtime teacher at Nuiyak School, Meeko pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He called his confession bogus and said it was made under duress.
Sharkey was critical of the offender’s refusal to accept the court’s findings in 2018, saying it does not “bode well for his rehabilitation and the health of the community upon his return after he has served his time.”