Nunavut mother convicted of counselling daughter to kill herself
Judge slams social workers for ignoring court order
A Nunavut judge has sentenced a 38-year-old mother to five days in jail and two years of probation for repeatedly counselling her 17-year-old daughter to kill herself.
“The nature of this offence is simply beyond the comprehension of right thinking people,” Justice Sue Cooper of the Nunavut Court of Justice said in a sentencing judgment issued Feb. 22.
The woman, known only as L.P., was convicted on a charge of counselling a person to commit suicide under section 241(a) of the Criminal Code.
“Everyone in Nunavut has been affected by suicide, either because they have experienced the suicide of a family member or friend, or because they themselves have attempted suicide. No one can live in Nunavut and not be sensitized to this issue,” Cooper said.
The court found that “on numerous occasions” over a period of two months, L.P told her teenaged daughter that she did not want her and that she should kill herself.
“Her daughter took the comments to heart. She attempted suicide numerous times. Two of those attempts were immediately after her mother counselled her to do so. She was medevaced to the south on at least one occasion,” Cooper said in her judgment.
The 17-year-old girl told a mental health worker about her mother’s advice to kill herself, Cooper said.
After that, the mother was charged and the teenager, as well as her one-year-old younger brother, were taken into the care of Social Services, and then placed in the care of a family member.
After L.P. was arrested and charged, she was released under a court order that forbade her from having any contact with her daughter.
But Cooper discovered that L.P. saw her daughter “on a daily basis” — a breach of the court order.
Cooper said Social Services should not have allowed this without first going to court to seek changes to the court order.
“They should not be turning a blind eye to, let alone facilitating, the breach of a court order. If they are of the view that contact is appropriate then they should assist L.P. in making an application to vary the conditions of the undertaking,” Cooper said.
And Cooper said it’s not clear if the evidence supports the idea that this continued mother-daughter contact was in the best interests of the child.
“It is the job of those responsible for her care to make decisions that are in her best interests and to protect her physical, mental and emotional health. It would seem that, absent a psychiatric assessment supporting reconciliation, such contact is risky,” Cooper said.
Cooper also raised questions about how the one-year-old boy was returned to the mother, because the mother did not undergo a parenting assessment.
“While the boy’s physical health might not be at risk, it is difficult to be as confident with respect to his mental and emotional health,” Cooper said.
Because of all that, Cooper said she will have a transcript of the criminal proceeding provided to the Civil Registrar so the judge hearing the child protection case can be made aware of how the criminal charges were resolved.
On the sentence, Cooper agreed to a “short, sharp” jail sentence of five days, plus a lengthy period of probation under which the woman is ordered to get counselling.
While on probation, the woman must:
• take counselling as directed by her probation officer, including parenting counseling;
• undergo a parenting assessment, with a copy of the assessment going to Social Services;
• have no contact with her daughter, directly or indirectly, without the permission of her probation officer and Social Services.
Cooper said L.P. has “intellectual limitations” and may have experienced mental health issues in the past.
“Unfortunately, there is very little information before the Court regarding L.P.’s issues,” she said.