On May 16, 1992, Richard Shecapio, age 19, was shot and killed by a person under the influence of alcohol. The accused was arrested and then released from prison 10 days after this incident and placed in a halfway house in Amos, Quebec where he enjoyed freedom of movement in the town and the surrounding area.

He continued to have a normal life, including having a relationship with a girlfriend who became pregnant during this period of confinement. According to the judge, this is part of the life plan of having a family.

The rationale of this statement is difficult to comprehend. How can a person who recently took another person’s life and subjected the victim’s family to great anguish, sorrow and pain enjoy such freedom to plan a family while in custody? A person considered dangerous to society should be imprisoned until sentencing. This is the normal process in other instances, but not in this case.

After 21 months, on February 8, 1994, Judge Denis Lavergne, of the itinerant court which comes to Mistissini for a total of 10 days per year, finally rendered a decision on the killing which shocked, angered and insulted the people of Mistissini. The sentence for the charge of manslaughter was two years less a day.

Judge Lavergne’s judgement was based on the psychological portrait of the accused by an expert witness and was not necessarily based on the crime itself.

There seemed to be no native “expert witnesses” to support the prosecution of the accused. The court obviously had a low regard of native expertise, perhaps because we do not have titles or abbreviations after our names. But we are no fools when it comes to observation and deducing elements of nature that reflect a situation.

We question the actual state of the accused who in his reported blackout situation from alcohol was able to recognize each constable on duty and call them by their respective names from a distance of 100 metres; how the accused coyed with the police officers at the site of the incident; how the accused calculated his walk/run on dangerous thin ice with water holes around the area where he went; how he skillfully tapped the ice for thickness for a safe route; how the defiant behaviour of

the accused during his trips to Mistissini for his hearings was observed. We also question his defense strategy of declaring that he couldn’t remember any of the incident because of intoxication.

Judge Lavergne’s decision makes a mockery of the judicial mechanism that was designed to protect the victims of crime. To the contrary, this system seems to protect the accused charged with a violent crime while under the influence of alcohol or other substances. In this case, justice protected the accused. Where is the justice for the victim and the innocent?

The judge stated that alcohol must not be an excuse to commit a crime. We agree with this statement. However, in the next breath the judge said the accused cannot be held responsible for crimes committed while under the influence of alcohol especially if the accused had a history of blackouts, family problems and drinking problems.

Less violent crimes involving native people charged in non-native towns have resulted in more severe sentences regardless of whether the accused has an alcohol problem or criminal record.

The court decision and sentencing seem to transmit the message that an accused native will not be severely sentenced if he

kills another native person while under the influence of alcohol and is deemed to have a history of alcohol abuse problems.

The decision represents a silent genocide against the native people through a non-native justice mechanism that protects native people who commit violent crimes against their own people. This is the dangerous part of this decision. The decision will harvest further violent crimes against native people. The anguish, sorrow and pain will continue for our people. Who is next to say, “I don’t remember,” when another death results.

Alcohol is a silent killer of our people which is often viewed quietly as an act beyond our control when death results from its abuse. We do not need another forum to promote alcohol as an excuse for these so-called accidental deaths to continue.

To further insult the people of Mistissini and more specifically the victim’s family, Judge Lavergne viewed the court sentence as a reflection of the community’s denunciation of the crime—both an indication and an assurance that a prison term will be imposed on those who commit a crime.

The hypocrisy of this statement fuels the resentment against the non-native judicial process of the governments of Canada and Quebec.