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Sanikiluaq educator convicted of sex crimes against children

Calling him a sexual predator who was brazen, canny and devious, Justice Neil Sharkey convicted Johnny Meeko of 27 charges of a 32-count indictment from 2012.

Johnny 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 by Justice Neil Sharkey in a written decision released March 19, ahead of sentencing submissions set to begin in April.
NNSL file photo

"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," Sharkey stated in his written decision released March 19.

Sharkey delivered his oral decision late last year.

Meeko was a respected school teacher, Canadian Ranger instructor and church warden in Sanikiluaq. The 32 counts came from nine complainants from incidents taking place over 30 years between 1972 and 2007.

"And throughout all this time, Johnny Meeko suffered no repercussion for this behaviour," writes Sharkey.

The offences mostly took place at Nuiyak School, and the complainants were generally eight- and nine-year-old girls in Meeko's Grade 3 class at the time the abuse began. One was a boy.

Sharkey heard the case in August 2015.

"During the trial, I heard testimony from the nine complainants about the abuse they said they had suffered. I found their testimony, with one exception, convincing."

Sharkey noted the complainants' memories of their responses to Meeko's sexual predation were age appropriate in his in-depth analysis of their testimony, and acknowledged the case law that has evolved in relation to historical crimes.

The charges included a wide variety of offences, including indecent assault, unlawful confinement, rape, sexual interference and sexual assault.

One complainant testified that Meeko touched the girls on the chest over their clothes repeatedly throughout the day, on a daily basis, saying he would sometimes say he was doing this so that their chests would grow bigger. When the complainant was in a higher grade, and the touching continued, she tried to tell the principal, but wasn't believed.

Meeko would later force his hand into her pants while her mother was visiting with his mother. He would continue to attempt to touch or grab her and make lewd sexual commentary after she finished Grade 9 and left the school.

The same complainant testified that she only decided to charge Meeko after her own daughter told her she had gone to the police and done so. It was at this point that she decided to come forward, saying to the court, "at first I wasn’t interested because I didn’t want to go through that again. But when I heard my daughter was going through the same thing, I just decided to go ahead with charging him."

Testimony from other complainants is similar, and escalates to removal of clothing and sexual assault. Several of the complainants skipped school or pretended to be sick to avoid Meeko. One recalled Meeko saying that if she told her parents "that God would cut out my tongue."

Some did speak to their parents, but were not believed.

Meeko received a written reprimand in 2009 for inappropriate touching of students, for "pat(ing) them on the bottom to get them to sit down at their desks. But he maintained that this patting was never 'touching', and that after realizing such conduct was wrong he discontinued the practice and has not done it since."

Meeko retired shortly afterward.

"Otherwise, year in and year out, Johnny continued to prey on his young charges, oblivious or mindfully dismissive to any harm he may have been inflicting upon their fragile psyches, and confident that he would remain untouched and free from interference, as he always had been," said Sharkey.

One complainant testified that she reported the abuse to the police in 2012 because she heard Meeko had applied to teach again "and she was fearful for her daughter, who was starting kindergarten in the fall."

Meeko pleaded not guilty to all 32 charges.

Along with listening to testimony from the nine complainants, Sharkey viewed a video of an RCMP interview with Meeko, who admits to sexually touching six of the complainants. In his court testimony, Meeko denied any sexual abuse and called his confession bogus and made under duress.

"I did not believe Johnny Meeko and I found him guilty on 27 of the 32 charges against him," said Sharkey.

"Following the Crown's meticulous cross-examination of Johnny Meeko, there was little left of his credibility."

Sharkey said victims who testified "displayed remarkable courage and resilience in so doing. Finally, they are now believed."

Sentencing submissions are expected in April.