This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Selective Victims

"[Bellemare is among the] collateral victims of residential schools and of the cultural genocide that the Atikamekwe of Wemotaci experienced."
"[The violence inflicted by Bellemare was] serious, revolting and must be denounced to protect other children who are victims of violence."
"The court imposes a less severe sentence on Mr. Bellemare considering the consequences experienced by the community because of residential schools and the aboriginal reality."
"[The girl said she] screamed and cried, because it hurt. She does not know in how many places the accused touched her with his cigarette."
Quebec Court Judge Guy Lambert, Montreal, Quebec

"Usually it's things like simple assault or not respecting conditions imposed by the court [when a reduced sentence under a Gladue report is imposed]."
"In this case, the crime was so serious that we felt the Gladue report should apply less."
Crown prosecutor Eric Theriault

"On the counterbalance, how can you be more constructive when you have this pervasive history of abuse and degrading social conditions?"
"There are some specially unique circumstances that are involved with aboriginal persons that can be traced back to colonialism and residential schools."
David Milward, law professor, University of Manitoba
Native children and nuns are seen in front of a residential school in Maliotenam, Que., circa 1950.
Library Archives of Canada     Native children and nuns are seen in front of a residential school in Maliotenam, Que., circa 1950.

In appraising aboriginals for criminal actions, a court is asked to consider "circumstances of aboriginal offenders" when sentencing takes place. A Supreme Court of Canada ruling in a significant aboriginal justice case clarified that the particular circumstances of aboriginal offenders be considered, extending that consideration even to serious crimes. The history in Canada of abuses against aboriginals by government and society at large is to be taken into account.

This issue and the consideration of lighter sentences to be imposed than would accrue to someone of a non-aboriginal background was a reaction to the very real situation of aboriginal inmates in Canadian jails being vastly over-represented in comparison to their numbers within the wider population base. A lower standard of behavioural expectations, in other words, has been institutionalized in law when weighing justice in an appropriate manner for First Nations people.

The fact that they have suffered historically racial biases and a reduced quality of life living on reserves, being particularly susceptible to alcoholism and drug abuse, along with familial dysfunctionality, and a higher crime rate than for the non-aboriginal communities appears to serve to excuse anti-social and criminal behaviour. In this particular case, an Atikamekw from Wemotaci who lives 270 km north of Montreal has been given a light sentence for his violent abuse of a five-year-old child.

The assaults against the little girl caused 27 third-degree burns, 24 of which were inflicted with a lit cigarette, and two others from a lighter. The little girl now has permanent scars that will never heal on her face, arms, legs and genitalia. The abuser, Alain Bellemare, is 22 years of age, too young to have attended the residential school system, and nor did his parents attend those schools. But both sets of grandparents did. And the judge in his wisdom deduced 'collateral damage', a legacy of residential school abuse, had caused him to assault the child.

The judge expressed his own reservations when noting that the defendant had denied in court that he had been the cause of the child's burns. Despite that he had confessed to police earlier. His denial, stated the justice, represented cause for concern. That Bellemare who is addicted to methamphetamine use, claimed that he was under the impression the child's scars were a result of her having had chickenpox is an additional indication that he suffers no remorse.

To continually excuse violent and aberrational behaviour on the part of aboriginals by referring constantly to their suffering is certain to ensure that they will continue to feel justified in behaving in such criminal and irresponsible ways. The larger society forgives them in a paroxysm of collective guilt for the past, and the native groups feel entitled to being excused, spitting out the invective of "genocide" to suit that purpose.

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