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Stanley Cup rioter's victim describes controversial sentencing as 'wonderful outcome'

06/11/2015 09:26 EDT | Updated 06/11/2016 05:59 EDT
The assault victim of a Stanley Cup rioter says she is pleased with the court ruling against her attacker Wednesday.

Tory Pearson was hit by Dawn Michelle Vanichuk, 27, during the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver on June 15, 2011. This week Vanichuk pleaded guilty to taking part in a riot and assault causing bodily harm.

She was handed a suspended sentence and 16 months' probation, given credit by the judge, because of her efforts to turn her life around — and because she's of First Nations heritage.

"This is a young woman who has obviously made some great strides in her life to move in a better direction and in a healthier direction," said Pearson.

'A really wonderful outcome'

Pearson, who responded to comments on a CBC story with her own account of what happened, says she is proud of Vanichuk.

"She's obviously really done some looking into her own behaviour and what she wants for her future, and I think... this is a really wonderful outcome," said Pearson.

"I support the ruling that was given."

​Many others commenting on the story felt the sentence was too light, but Pearson said she wanted to make sure everyone knew her side of the story, especially when it was suggested she wasn't properly heard in the process.

"I feel I was very well heard," she said.

"I think [it] also balanced very well with what's best for society moving forward, and that was the intention behind my post."

'First time aboriginal offender'

The court heard Vanichuk was intoxicated when she took the leg of a table smashed during the rioting and chased Pearson. She then struck her in the face with her bare hand.  

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.

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.

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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