Two young aboriginal women have been spared jail in favour of conditional sentences for a “horrific” crime that left two women with scars.
In granting conditional sentences, Justic John Menzies pointed to the offenders’ aboriginal background and a court system that repeatedly set them up for failure.
“It seems to me that they’re caught in a vicious circle,” Menzies said during sentencing in Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench.
On the evening of June 4, 2010, Jamie-Lee Tawny Peters and Nyomi Beatrice Lonethunder went to a bar, then to an after party at a Willowdale Crescent apartment complex.
At the party, both began to cause trouble and they were told to leave by the homeowners and guests.
The women left, but then returned to the apartment and a fight broke out in which Peters tried to attack the homeowner. During the scuffle, two women suffered serious injuries that included deep cuts to their arms.
Lonethunder and Peters then fled.
It’s believed the wounds were caused by a knife, and it was initially reported that Peters and Lonethunder were both armed with knives.
However, police never found a weapon and the allegation that Peters and Lonethunder were armed was never proven at trial as both pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm.
They were sentenced by Menzies on Wednesday.
Crown attorney Grant Hughes asked Menzies to impose jail for both offenders and described the attacks as “horrific.”
One victim needed stitches, the other suffered a wrist injury that made it difficult for her to write long after the assault, and both were left with scars.
As required by the Supreme Court, Menzies took into account the offenders’ aboriginal backgrounds and the lasting impact of European colonization on aboriginal communities.
Some of those effects cited in court include substance abuse, physical abuse, a residential school experience that left a lack of parenting skills, and a lack of schooling and job opportunities.
Peters’ family moved around when she was a child. Her dad abused her mom and left the family when she was 10 years old. Her mom abused alcohol and committed suicide when Peters was 15 years old.
Lonethunder’s parents split when she was young and she was raised by her grandmother for a time because her mother abused alcohol.
Both have their own struggles with alcohol, it appears, as it played a role in the attack. They’d split a 40-ounce bottle of liquor and drank beer in the hours leading up to the incident, and neither has a clear memory of what happened.
Menzies also took note of the offenders’ efforts to reform.
Lonethunder, 22, has taken “incredible” steps to turn her life around, Menzies noted. Now a mother, she has taken alcohol counselling, quit drinking and returned to school.
Peters, 20, has taken alcohol counselling, also doesn’t drink and plans to return to school.
Despite their troubled backgrounds, Menzies noted they had limited criminal records when it came to serious offences — one had two assaults and two thefts, while the other had two assaults and one theft.
Both, however, have been convicted of numerous breaches of court orders.
Menzies faulted the court system for imposing conditions that the women couldn’t comply with. The breaches served to balloon their records, he said, even though they barely had any record for serious crimes.
Menzies sentenced each with six-month conditional sentences with overnight curfews, to be followed by one year of probation.
For 18 months, they’re to abstain from alcohol and drugs and take counselling as directed.
Peters remains in custody for now, however, for an unrelated matter out of Portage la Prairie.