Aboriginal Stanley Cup rioter receives lighter sentence

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Brittney Bush Bollay via Flickr

A B.C. Aboriginal woman charged with three counts from the 2011 Stanley Cup Riot was handed down a lighter sentence Wednesday in part due to her Aboriginal heritage.

Dawn Michelle Vanichuk, 27, was charged in 2013 with one count of taking part in a riot, one count of assault causing bodily harm and one count of breaking and entering with the intent to commit an indictable offence after police published photos of her taking part in the 2011 Stanley Cup Riot on June 15, 2011.

During the riot, Vanichuk took the leg of a table and hit a female “Good Samaritan” in the face after the victim tried to stop the vandalism on Seymour Street. She was then seen breaking into the Hudson’s Bay and stealing a purse.

Vanichuk reportedly sought help for addiction in 2013 and Judge Harris gave her credit for her ability to turn her life around, also stating that she was a “first time aboriginal offender” and thus deserved a lighter sentence. Section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code of Canada states: “All available sanctions or options other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders.”

This sub-section of the Criminal Code is in place because Aboriginals are “victims of systemic and direct discrimination [suffering] the legacy of dislocation, and are affected by poor social and economic conditions.”

According to CBC, Vanichuk could have faced up to 10 years in prison for her actions but was instead was given a suspended sentence and 16 months of probation, handed down by Judge Reginald Harris in the Provincial Court.

CBC also notes that Judge Harris referred to the recent Truth and Reconciliation Report depicting years of “cultural genocide” as well as Vanichuk’s “broken, addicted family” as reasons why the defendant is also a victim of abuse.

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