The Supreme Court of Canada won’t hear the appeals of two Nunavut men who argued that mandatory four-year minimum sentences for their firearms convictions are unconstitutional.
Canada’s highest court ruled Thursday that it will not hear an appeal of the Nunavut Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the four-year sentences.
By dismissing the application, a 2020 Nunavut Court of Appeal sentencing decision and constitutional ruling stands.
Cedric Ookowt of Baker Lake and Simeonie Itturiligaq of Kimmirut each pleaded guilty to intentionally discharging a firearm into or at a place, in separate incidents. Those offences occurred in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
Trial judges handed each of the men sentences of two years less a day despite a law that required mandatory four-year sentences for firearms offences.
In both cases, the judges ruled that imposing the mandatory minimum would breach the offender’s rights under section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
Judges in both cases considered the potentially damaging impact of sending young, first-time Inuit offenders to serve sentences in federal prisons in the south. Sentences longer than two years must be served in a federal penitentiary.
The Nunavut Court of Appeal disagreed with the lower court and changed the sentences to four years — consistent with Criminal Code provisions that required a mandatory four-year sentence for firearms offences.
In June 2020, a panel of Nunavut Court of Appeal justices ruled the four-year mandatory minimum was constitutional and overturned the previous judges’ rulings.
However, Ookowt and Itturiligaq were not ordered to serve more time because both men had already completed or had nearly completed their original sentences.
Later in 2020, Ookowt and Itturiligaq appealed the Nunavut appeals court decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Nearly two and a half years later, on March 9, the Supreme Court issued its decision to dismiss that leave to appeal.
By Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Mar 10, 2023