Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 11, 2017 - 4:00 pm

Shots from the bench: Nunavut judge slams “shameful” treatment of prisoner

Justice Paul Bychok cites institutional failures during Michael Cooper-Flaherty sentencing

STEVE DUCHARME
Justice Paul Bychok sentenced Michael Cooper-Flaherty to five years in prison for masterminding a series of robberies in Iqaluit in 2014 and 2015—minus time-and-a-half served for remand custody in Ontario and Nunavut. Bychok gave Cooper-Flaherty
Justice Paul Bychok sentenced Michael Cooper-Flaherty to five years in prison for masterminding a series of robberies in Iqaluit in 2014 and 2015—minus time-and-a-half served for remand custody in Ontario and Nunavut. Bychok gave Cooper-Flaherty "enhanced credit" for his custody time because of a litany of "institutional failures" the man suffered at the hands of correctional authorities. As a result, Cooper-Flaherty will serve only another 589 days in prison. (FILE PHOTO)

The young Inuit man who coerced a group of teenagers into a committing a chain of robberies around Iqaluit two years ago has been sentenced to five years in jail, in a court decision that condemns southern correctional faculties, and Nunavut, for their “shameful” treatment of the accused.

Michael Cooper-Flaherty, 20, wore a blue prison-issued tracksuit and quietly nodded to Justice Paul Bychok that he understood his sentence, delivered at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit, July 11.

“Southern jails do not reflect traditional Inuit culture or norms. Southern jails do not rehabilitate our offenders. Southern jails do not contribute to a healthy Nunavut,” Bychok said, devoting a considerable amount of court time to criticizing the institutional failures suffered by Cooper-Flaherty during his time in custody.

“Canada’s 150th anniversary provides an opportunity for all of us to take stock of how far we still must go in building a fair and truly compassionate society.”

Cooper-Flaherty pleaded guilty to multiple charges stemming from five robberies in Iqaluit, between late 2014 and 2015, when he pressured several local minors to rob various businesses around the city.

In two of those robberies, he supplied a .22 caliber rifle to two 15-year-olds who then held-up Iqaluit’s Quickstop convenience store on April 6, and again on April 12.

Crown lawyers, during sentencing submissions in April, said Cooper-Flaherty’s actions terrorized the community and introduced “big-city type crime” to Iqaluit, but they acknowledged the accused faced mental health challenges.

Cooper-Flaherty will serve about a year and a half of the five-year sentence after Bychok credited 1,236 days already served—with enhanced credit—from his time spent in custody awaiting his sentence.

“Serious crimes must have serious consequences,” Bychok told the court, but then he itemized the shoddy treatment the prisoner had already received in custody.

Cooper-Flaherty attempted suicide twice during his time in remand, which was served over two years between three jails: the Baffin Correctional Centre and Ontario’s Central East Correctional Centre and Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.

Expert submissions to the court diagnosed Cooper-Flaherty with post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance addiction and clinical depression. But Cooper-Flaherty was only ever given one course on “alternatives to violence” during the entirety of his time in remand, despite repeated requests for assistance, Bychok said.

He was also subjected to systemic institutional lockdowns and cell confinement, while at the two southern facilities, which restricted his access to food, showers, fresh air and recreation for a total of 158 days.

Baffin Correctional Centre administrators “ignored requests” by Cooper-Flaherty’s defence lawyer who asked for the number of occasions his client was subjected to lockdowns at that facility during the 377 days spent there, Bychok noted.

“I am troubled and dismayed by Mr. Cooper-Flaherty’s corrections history,” he said, adding, “he asked for more psychiatric help, which never came.”

“This case is yet another shameful example of how we failed to offer meaningful help to those of our fellow citizens who are most in need.”

Bychok noted the “deplorable physical conditions” reported at the OCDC, which was also mentioned in a recent provincial review of Ontario’s corrections system.

“This mentally-ill young man has suffered enough at the hands of the correctional system,” Bychok said, bemoaning the current practice of sending Inuit men south to serve federal sentences—jail terms longer than two years.

“Of his two-year remand, he spent almost one year and a half of his most formative years in the South, where he was isolated and alone.”

Bychok said removing Cooper-Flaherty again from Nunavut would be a “grave injustice” and recommended “in the strongest possible language” that he serve what remains of his sentence at the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility.

“Every effort should and must be made to get you the counseling and mental health treatment you require.”

Nunavut, Bychok said, is in “a crisis,” can’t effectively rehabilitate its offenders, and does not provide the necessary tools for repeat offenders in Nunavut to break out of the cycle within which they are trapped.

“We see scores of these offenders in court, over and over again,” he said.

“Anyone who doubts this territory is in crisis should travel with this court. The needs are immediate, the pain and suffering is real, but the sad reality is, very few, if any, offenders are ever rehabilitated the way things are now.”

During sentencing, the court imposed a 10-year firearms ban on Cooper-Flaherty, and his DNA will be added to the national offenders database.

Bychok also ordered the court clerk to forward complaints Cooper-Flaherty had made about his treatment at BCC, along with a psychiatric evaluation report, to the facility’s warden.

  R v. Cooper-Flaherty, 2017 NUCJ_new by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(20) Comments:

#1. Posted by Bychok you r dreaming on July 11, 2017

Bychok ! So that guy gonna have it easy after several armed robbery to serve is sentence in rankin !! first of all sentence should be more severe and another 4 years in jail would be not enouh but fair, and send him to federal jail and he will learn the real jail life !!!! Argghhhhh

#2. Posted by earth3rd on July 11, 2017

Michael Cooper-Flaherty sounds like a Qablunaaq name. Is he Inuk?
I feel for him about serving his sentence in Southern prisons but if you don’t have the room for him up there where else can he go?
If you can do the crime you can do the time.
From seeing photos of the jails up there though it looks like it would be better in the south.
Bottom line…. he broke the law and has to pay.

#3. Posted by Northern Inuit on July 11, 2017

Waaa I had a tough life.  I was bad. I was abused.  I was mad. I am sorry. 

Whatever.  You terrorized Iqaluit with messed up big city crime.  Do some real time. 

#4. Posted by Leadership? on July 11, 2017

Mr. Cooper-Flaherty should be given a job as teacher, he seems to know how to motivate youth to apply themselves.

#5. Posted by Tommy on July 11, 2017

Give him $10.5 million dollars…

#6. Posted by whatever #1 on July 11, 2017

funny try doing time if you say go federal jail i bet you dont know how to do time when you do time its hard, no help nothing

#7. Posted by Retired officer on July 11, 2017

This guy is a max inmate , not in a million years rankin is set up to house these guys

#8. Posted by Think about it on July 11, 2017

How come with people like Bychok, people never have rights until they commit a crime?  What about the rights the people this person terrorized and the damage he imposed on those kids?
Meanwhile he saying that because of his restricted access to food, showers, fresh air and recreation this is some sort of abuse, we have a group of people in Nunavut that face these very same conditions everyday, except for the fresh air, because they are HOMELESS.  And this group is not in their current situation because they victimized others.  It is time we start focusing on the victims in Nunavut and not the people that whine the loudest.

#9. Posted by Arnold McGillicuddy on July 11, 2017

I like Tommy’s suggestion.  Since this poor guy has suffered and the Canadian government is likely to blame somehow, he should be awarded a big fat payout!!!

Maybe not $10.5M but how about $2M for all the pain and suffering he has endured in the prison system?

Oh the taxes I will pay…

#10. Posted by Gladue Court on July 11, 2017

I believe Justice Bychok resounded what Supreme Court of Canada ruled should be applied in sentencing Indigenous offenders. I think proper justice was served, and Justice Bychok gave sound reasons in his decision.

#11. Posted by Bad either way on July 12, 2017

Sounds like he was treated just as badly in the jail here. What Inuit values are being instilled in the jail here?

Perhaps more needs to be done for the troublesome youth before. It starts with the community. If you see something wrong speak up. Talk. Open the communication. Stop ignoring people until something terrible happens. Doesn’t matter if you’re black, white or inuk. Be proactive. Protect our children.

#12. Posted by Common Sense on July 12, 2017

I have PTSD, clinical depression, and have dealt with substance abuse since my teens yet I have never comitted a crime. Why is that? I haven’t had an easy life either.

#13. Posted by Gladue What on July 12, 2017

This is classic example of the cycle of violence….This Kid has some serious mommy and daddy issues…Only to lash out later when he was forced to grow up. Causing others unnecessary grief ... At what point do the victims have a say in the incarceration of this human being…

#14. Posted by Aakuluuk on July 12, 2017

A lot of the commenters don’t seem to appreciate the suffering Inuit and First Nation youths suffer on a daily basis because of the actions of Qalunaqs in the past. 

They must be allowed some leeway with their sentencing when committing crimes since it is therapeutic and may help them recover and rehabilitate. 

#15. Posted by 14 comments on July 12, 2017

it only took 14 comments to blame white folk for the actions of this individual. Projecting behavior by way of that theory is all indigenous folk should be damaged and commit crimes.

#16. Posted by Guantano North on July 12, 2017

The justice thing is such a miserable fail all over the north. 

It will be making millionaires out of criminals for being such a fail.  Taxpayers cannot afford such bad things.

#17. Posted by Cry's crocodile tears for a university on July 12, 2017

It’s refreshing and positive to year Judge Paul Bychok comments on incarceration failures.  Holding the raw uncomfortable truths into front of Nunavut politicians, hamlet councillors, mayors, KIA, QIA, NTI, ITK, MP, MLA’s (including ministers and premier)  to ALL wake-up.

He seems to be asking, why are you all accepting to be macho mind and body torturous bully jailers without a thought sending prisoners south or north.  Your own people, to live in hell ten times over and expect them to come out better?

As Nunavut cries crocodile tears for a university because to hard to go to school in the south.  Demand employers implement IQ days and start meetings and events with prayer.

Good to read this judge knows the power of a good jail system, by stating he wants the prisoner sent to Rankin Inlet healing Centre. Understands, if done right, the prisoner (a human being) can leave as a better person.  Especially making it safer for the public.

#18. Posted by warehousing inmates like cargo on July 12, 2017

#15 yes #14 speaks the truth.  How many commenters can move toward healing without proper values? 

Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticise my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his mocassins.

#19. Posted by Sim on July 13, 2017

There is not enough mental health in Nunavut, every person has their own battles with mental health, some worse than others.
This is a good example of that, with proper mental health services this young man could of been helped and I’m sure it would not have escalated to what it became.
Everyone has their own issues, you cannot compare your own. Infrastructure is badly needed, proper healthcare and so on. For some reason you have to live on the boarder of the US to get that in Canada.

#20. Posted by Why a nothing, lower than a cow? on July 13, 2017

Recently a letter writing outrage took down an expensive advertising promotion and received a written public apology.

It was over the promotion of Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport, with slogan:

“You’re precious cargo, not cattle.”

This slogan outraged people as it hurt the feelings of cattle. Ports Canada agreed, stopping the advertising and apologized for insulting cows.

In Nunavut we laugh at that.

However in Nunavut, if a prisoner who is mentally challenged, low in education and a has a nightmarish childhood history, it seem they are considered lower than a cow. Abuse acceptable towards them. A nothing.

Why?

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