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Sanikiluaq man’s marijuana conviction overturned

A man convicted of possessing nearly 1.7 kg of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking in Sanikiluaq has been acquitted by the Court of Appeal of Nunavut.

The case dated back to Nov. 1, 2013. The Crown admitted that the accused had been arbitrarily detained and unreasonably searched prior to his arrest, without being informed of his right to a lawyer.

Despite that, the Nunavut Court of Justice trial judge still allowed the evidence to be admitted because she deemed the police's breaches of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms were not "at the high end of the spectrum of 'willful and reckless disegard.'" The man was subsequently convicted of trafficking and given an 18-month conditional sentence on March 5, 2015.

The appeal judges, however, found a "wholly unacceptable pattern" of Charter violations by Sanikiluaq police.

"The willful disregard of the appellant’s... Charter rights is not only unjustifiable on an individual basis, but in considering its systemic nature, squarely defines this matter as a serious breach of the most fundamental protections under the Charter," one of the appeal judges wrote in a decision circulated this week. "Criminality or addiction problems in the small hamlet of Sanikiluaq, or in any community in this country, cannot be solved by deliberately unlawful policing."

Condoning the Charter breaches by police would "undermine society's confidence in the justice system and damage the long-term reputation of the administration of justice," the judge added.