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P.E.I. appeal court overturns jailing of drug trafficker, 20, who was taken from Cree parents at birth

P.E.I. appeal court overturns jailing of drug trafficker, 20, who was taken from Cree parents at birth
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CHARLOTTETOWN — An appeal court has found that a judge mistakenly failed to consider the Cree background of a drug trafficker who had been taken from his Manitoba parents as an infant and raised by a non-Aboriginal family on Prince Edward Island.

Nicholas George Nash McInnis was taken from his biological Cree parents at birth and placed in the care of Manitoba Child and Family Services.

When he was seven months old, he was adopted by John and Brenda McInnis, who are originally from Sherwood, P.E.I., and are not Indigenous.

A provincial court judge rejected a joint Crown-defence submission that would have seen the 20-year-old man avoid jail time for possession of cannabis for the purpose of trafficking.

McInnis was apprehended with marijuana and cash at Charlottetown Rural High School where he was a student, The Guardian reported. He told police he was selling marijuana to about six students.

Furthermore, she decided not consider the man’s Aboriginal heritage in arriving at her decision — an intermittent sentence of 90 days in jail — because he had been adopted at a very young age.

In a new ruling, Prince Edward Island Court of Appeal ruled the judge erred in refusing to accept the systemic factors that would reduce McInnis’s culpability.

The appeal court imposed the joint recommended sentence — two years’ probation.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 Gladue decision said judges must take note of systemic or background factors when determining a sentence for Indigenous offenders in order to address their “serious overrepresentation” in prison.

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