The case is a virtual indictment of a soft Canadian Justice System that’s becoming more flaccid with the passage of time.
Enter Johnnie Kilbourne (23), an Indigenous offender from Oxford House, Manitoba who was convicted of twelve (12) exceedingly serious offences that included:
- Sexual Assault Causing Bodily Harm
- Aggravated Assault
- Forcible Confinement
- Choking to Overcome Resistance
The charges originated from a brutal June 2011 attack where Kilbourne invaded the sanctity of a woman’s home and confronted her and a male friend while armed with a knife. During the incident he forced the victims into a bedroom where he tied up the man, burned him with a cigarette and then proceeded to violently rape the woman vaginally, anally & orally.
“During the incident he forced the victims into a bedroom where he tied up the man, burned him with a cigarette and then proceeded to violently rape the woman vaginally, anally & orally.”
When he was done raping the woman, Kilbourne unceremoniously shanked the male victim in the stomach and left him to bleed out.
He then abducted the woman and left in the male victim’s truck which he proceeded to get stuck in the muskeg. After trying to set the vehicle on fire, Kilbourne dragged the woman into the bush and violently sexually assaulted her again.
(The horrific assault would require multiple surgeries to repair the victim’s internal injuries.)
The Criminal Code of Canada assigns punishment for offenders convicted of criminal offences. Each offence carries a maximum punishment according to the law. In this case, I will only deal with the four (4) convictions reported in the media.
- Sexual Assault Causing Bodily Harm –Fourteen (14) years
- Aggravated Assault – Fourteen (14) years
- Forcible Confinement – Ten (10) years
- Choking to Overcome Resistance – Imprisonment for Life
(Judges have the ability to order sentences to be served consecutively, that is, one term must be served before the other term commences.)
During sentencing Judge Thompson stated, “Despite the high number of disturbing and shockingly violent cases I’ve dealt with as a judge, this case ranks as the worst.”
“Despite the high number of disturbing and shockingly violent cases I’ve dealt with as a judge, this case ranks as the worst.”
The twenty-eight (28) year old victim told the Court she lives in constant fear and has lost her independence, her job and her house. “Ever since that day I feel like a zombie wandering the earth,” she said. “He scarred my mind, my body and my life.”
It’s evident Kilbourne’s crime essentially destroyed the woman’s life.
A year later and Kilbourne stood before the Court an unrepentant man who had shown no signs of remorse or regret for his horrific crimes. He never so much as apologized to his victims and refused to participate in sex offender counseling.
Judge Thompson indicated he considered a just and fit sentence for the crimes to be twenty-one (21) years incarceration. His acknowledgement of a “fit” sentence was immediately undermined by the soft Canadian Justice principles he applied that not only destroyed any possible sense of justice for the victims of these heinous crimes, but also ensured that a violent unrepentant criminal will taste freedom long before he has any right to.
The first reduction to the twenty-one (21) year sentence came in the form of the “totality principle.” An arbitrary principle applied in cases where multiple convictions can result in a disproportionately long period of incarceration. The reduction; four (4) years, making the total sentence seventeen (17) years incarceration.
As Winnipeg Sun reporter Tom Brodbeck eloquently put it, “I don’t recall the “totality” of the horror, anguish and pain the victims suffered in this case being reduced in any way.” As Winnipeg Sun reporter Tom Brodbeck eloquently put it, “I don’t recall the “totality” of the horror, anguish and pain the victims suffered in this case being reduced in any way.”
As Winnipeg Sun reporter Tom Brodbeck eloquently put it, “I don’t recall the “totality” of the horror, anguish and pain the victims suffered in this case being reduced in any way.”
Unfortunately, Judge Thompson wasn’t done applying soft Canadian Justice discounts.
Enter the Gladue effect, a race based Court generated philosophical approach to sentencing designed to give discounts to Indigenous offenders based on the real or perceived harmful effects of the Canadian Indigenous experience and what, if any, dysfunction they may have experienced in their childhood.
Race based in that Section 15 (1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights spells out principles of equality for all Canadian citizens.
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
*Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Gladue fails to formally recognize principles of equality for African, Ukrainian, Polish, Bosnian, Chinese, Japanese and every other race that makes up the melting pot we call Canada. For some unexplained reason, the effects of slavery, genocide, civil war, forced internment camps do not merit formal recognition in Canadian Justice.
In any event, the application of the Gladue principles merited a further two (2) year discount on Kilbourne’s sentence. That reduction left Mr Kilbourne with a fifteen (15) year sentence, but soft Canadian Justice wasn’t quite done yet.
Enter pre-trial sentencing credit, an abuse of common sense sentencing principles the Federal Tories tried to address when they introduced the Truth in Sentencing Act to eliminate the ability of the Courts to provide offenders double and sometimes triple credit for every day spent in pretrial custody. The new law provides Judges the discretion to apply 1.5 days credit “if circumstances justify it.”
In this case Judge Thompson came to the conclusion that “circumstances justified it” and applied the 1.5 credit further reducing Kilbourne’s sentence by three (3) years to a total sentence of twelve (12) years with a condition to serve half the sentence prior to parole eligibility.
After all soft Canadian Justice principles were applied; Kilbourne will have to serve an additional six (6) years in prison before he is given back his liberty. That means he will be out of prison in time to celebrate his thirtieth birthday.
“After all soft Canadian Justice principles were applied; Kilbourne will have to serve an additional six (6) years in prison before he is given back his liberty. That means he will be out of prison in time to celebrate his thirtieth birthday.”
Meanwhile his victim will continue to suffer with severe emotional trauma for the rest of her natural life.
This case exposes the frailties of life in Canadian society and the degradation of a great Canadian principle, that of accountability.
Judge Thompson’s sentence demonstrates a complete lack of professional and moral accountability on his part for rendering a sentence that was not consistent with his stated belief that Kilbourne’s crime merited a prison term of twenty-one (21) years. Yet he opted to apply soft Canadian Justice principles and settled for a sentence of only eight (8) years.
Kilbourne remains unrepentant and refused to demonstrate any form of intellectual accountability for his crime, which in my way of thinking, is an aggravating factor that should have justified severe punishment.
The Gladue principles ensure Indigenous offenders like Kilbourne avoid accountability by offering them sentencing discounts that mitigate punishment for outrageously violent crimes.
A practice that further sews the seeds of societal racism and division.
The problem here is not the Criminal Code of Canada.
The problem is lack of accountability.
The Criminal Code of Canada provided Judge Thompson all the tools he needed to ascribe an appropriate sentence to Johnnie Kilbourne, he simply chose not too, and for that he deserves our condemnation.
Johnnie Kilbourne deserved a life sentence for his violent, heinous crimes. A sentence that would provide a sense of justice to his victims, a sentence that would serve to protect the public, a sentence that would hold a rabid offender accountable for his crimes and a sentence that would serve to modify criminal behavior under the threat of expeditious incarceration.
Canadian society will be better served when our political leaders find a way to inject “accountability” back into our justice system. Accountability for Judges and offenders, two key elements that are currently missing from the equation.
Until that time, soft Canadian justice will continue to allow violent offenders like Johnnie Kilbourne to destroy the lives of the innocents among us.
Like Mr. Brodbeck says, “It’s a bloody disgrace.”