BRITISH COLUMBIA

Stanley Cup Rioter's First Nations Heritage Highlighted In Sentencing

06/11/2015 08:00 EDT | Updated 06/11/2016 05:59 EDT
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Another Vancouver Stanley Cup rioter has been sentenced almost exactly four years to the day the massive public disturbance occurred, but the woman has been given a break by the judge, because of her efforts to turn her life around — and because she's of First Nations heritage.

Dawn Michelle Vanichuk, 27, of New Westminster, B.C., had pleaded guilty to taking part in a riot and assault causing bodily harm, after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup final on June 15, 2011.

She turned herself in after Vancouver police published photos of some of the rioters.

Judge Reginald Harris of Vancouver provincial court has handed Vanichuk a suspended sentence and 16 months probation. She could have faced up to 10 years in prison.

The court heard Vanichuk was intoxicated when she took the leg of a table smashed during the rioting and struck a female Good Samaritan in the face. 

Her victim had been trying  to stop vandalism and violence occurring on the Seymour Street side of the Hudson's Bay store. Vanichuk then entered the store through a smashed window and was seen with a stolen shoulder bag.

'First time aboriginal offender'

In delivering his decision on Wednesday, Judge Reginald Harris found that Vanichuk is "a completely changed person," having sought help for her addictions in 2013.

In addition to the suspended sentence, he ordered that Vanichuk perform 50 hours of community work service "in a First Nations setting, for instance a native education or resource centre."

Harris noted Vanichuk is "a first time aboriginal offender" and handed her the light sentence, citing a section of the Criminal Code that calls for "all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances" for aboriginal offenders, because of the historical mistreatment of First Nations people and their disproportionate representation in Canadian prisons.

The judge also referred to last week's Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, which found decades of residential schools had amounted to "cultural genocide," stripping many First Nations people of their sense of family and identity.

Harris noted Vanichuk came from a broken, addicted family and that "she, too, is a victim of abuse."

The judge added that while he took into account Vanichuk's actions the night of the Stanley Cup riot, he balanced that with her own "remarkable actions toward recovery," which included her two years of sobriety and volunteer work in the community.

Vanichuk has been ordered to reappear before Harris in 12 months to ensure she has adhered to the conditions of her suspended sentence.

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