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Judge hears Meeko sentencing submissions, revokes bail

Lawyers on both sides say former teacher Johnny Meeko – convicted in December on 27 counts for sex crimes against children – should face less than four years in jail for his crimes.

Justice Neil Sharkey heard sentencing submissions for Johnny Meeko from Crown and defence lawyers at the Nunavut Court of Justice April 13. Meeko a Sanikiluaq educator who stood trial in 2015 for 30 years of sexual crimes against young children, was convicted on 27 of 32 counts in December.
NNSL file photo

Justice Neil Sharkey heard sentencing submissions from Crown and defence lawyers at the Nunavut Court of Justice April 13. Crown prosecutor Priscilla Ferrazzi and defence lawyer Stephanie Boydell had reached prior agreement to jointly submit stays regarding 13 of 27 convictions based on the Kienapple principle, a leading Supreme Court of Canada decision establishing the rule that an accused cannot be convicted of two offences where they both arise out of substantially the same facts.

The remaining 14 convictions should be registered, they argued, presenting count-by-count sentencing suggestions for each remaining conviction.

Meeko maintains his innocence, does not acknowledge the court's decision, and has expressed no remorse. Crown prosecutor Priscilla Ferrazzi said the mitigating factor associated with a guilty plea or remorse is not present in Meeko's case.

Ultimately, Ferrazzi suggested Sharkey, based on sentencing trends, will have to view Meeko's matter with regard to denunciation, deterrence and rehabilitation, though she suggested that when dealing with children under 18, the first two are primary.

Ferrazzi submitted a consecutive sentence of 18 years and seven months. After applying the principle of totality, which says punishments should not be unduly harsh, she submitted a suggested five-year sentence. Adjusted for time served, the Crown's recommended sentence was three years, seven months and two days in a penitentiary.

"You suggest it should be adjusted globally from 18 down to five. Now I'm wondering, why not 18 down to 11 or down to nine," said Sharkey.

Defence lawyer Boydell asserted that Ferrazzi relied heavily on Justice Robert Kilpatrick's 2015 sentencing decision of convicted child molester and former Oblate priest Eric Dejaeger, and argued that Meeko's crimes were not comparable to the Dejaeger's more egregious crimes.

Boydell suggested a starting point of eight years, nine months, reduced by the principles of totality to 3.4 years, minus pre-trial custody. She submitted Meeko should now serve two years less a day in the territory.

The Gladue principle will be applied to Meeko, and his time at residential school and separation from his parents and community may be a mitigating factor.

Sharkey also received five victim impact statements. One victim, known as X in Sharkey's written decision, attempted to deliver her statement orally by video link from the health centre in Sanikiluaq.

As regards to X, Meeko was convicted of sexual interference, sexual assault, and assault. X requested that Meeko not be visible to her.

She trembled and cried, and shakily attempted to read her prepared victim impact statement.

"I can hear you very well. Take a deep breath and just start reading," said Sharkey.

X's reading was mostly unintelligible, but she could be heard saying the school, where many of Meeko's offences took place, brings back too many bad memories.

"The fear I have is that the family members will go after me or my family," she said.

Meeko was a respected teacher, Canadian Ranger, and church treasurer in his home community of Sanikiluaq, and the Crown suggested he abused that power and trust. However, the defence stated it should not be forgotten that Meeko was also a contributor to his community, as a hunter and by providing a variety of other services, such as to elders.

Meeko was free on bail until the hearing. Sharkey ordered him to voluntarily turn himself in to the Baffin Correctional Centre by noon April 17.

His sentencing is April 26.