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Abusive mother won’t serve jail time due to deficiencies of Nunavut’s foster care system, appeal judges rule

Editor's Note: This story contains details of childhood abuse that some readers may find graphic or disturbing. Also, a previous version of this story indicated adoption system, but it's the foster care system that is in question.

A mother who brutally beat her young son for the second time is better off caring for her daughter than putting the mom in jail and relegating her daughter into Nunavut’s foster care system, Nunavut Court of Appeal judges have decided.

The mother was back in court last December for sentencing after causing severe internal injuries to her five-year-old son. The boy was alarmingly underweight and also bore bruises and bite marks on his body. It was the second time the mother was convicted of assaulting the boy – the first occasion occurred when he was only two months old and she threw him down a flight of stairs, breaking his clavicle.

“This is a very sad case from everyone’s perspective,” the Nunavut Court of Appeal judges wrote in their sentencing decision.
Pixabay photo

The judges agreed that the December punishment given to the mother  was unfit – a conditional sentence and a suspended sentence for failing to provide the necessities of life and aggravated assault, respectively.

They also agreed, although very reluctantly, that forcing the mother to serve her time in jail on their revised sentence of two years less a day would be more detrimental than allowing her to continue to raise her four-year-old daughter, as she has shown no signs of being a danger to that child or to the community, the judges said they were informed.

Crown prosecutor Gary Wool helped persuade the appeal court justices that foster care in Nunavut “would jeopardize the future welfare of yet another of the offender’s children.” Wool provided a firsthand account of the limited resources available in the North and spoke of the “bleak future” of those in foster care.

In addition to the stay on the two years less a day of jail, the appeal judges – Elizabeth Hughes, Thomas W. Wakeling and Ritu Khullar – imposed three years of probation to be served after a two-year-conditional sentence for the failure to provide the necessities of life.

“This is a very sad case from everyone’s perspective – the vulnerable young boy whose mother cruelly and horribly abused him and withheld from him the love and support to which he was entitled; the youngster’s grandmother who has adopted the young boy and assumed the duties and responsibilities of parenthood late in life; the young-mother offender, whose formative years were characterized by the absence of proper parental role models, a victim of intergenerational trauma, and who must live the rest of her life with the knowledge that she has betrayed the trust the community imposes on parents to love, nurture and provide the necessities of life to their young and grievously harmed a young boy whom she had a moral and legal obligation to protect; and the community whose global welfare is diminished when one of its members acts in such a despicable and inhumane manner,” the judges wrote in their sentencing decision, released Wednesday.