Globe and Mail

Ewanchuk sentenced to one year in jail

By JILL MAHONEY
Globe and Mail Update
Friday, October 20, 2000

Edmonton — Steve Ewanchuk, the Edmonton man at the centre of a high-profile national showdown last year between two senior judges, was sentenced yesterday to one year in jail for sexually assaulting a young woman.

With his tearful live-in companion by his side in court, Mr. Ewanchuk held his head in his hands and sighed as he and his lawyer read a copy of the judge's ruling.

As he was led away, Mr. Ewanchuk was asked for comment and angrily told reporters: "You guys did enough damage already. Get out of my face."

The cabinetmaker, now 52, made unwanted sexual advances in 1994 toward a 17-year-old who arrived for a job interview in a trailer in the parking lot of a mall. The woman, who had allowed Mr. Ewanchuk to give her a massage and did the same for him, protested when he touched her breast and placed his penis on her shorts.

Mr. Ewanchuk, who has been convicted of rape three times in unrelated cases, was charged with sexual assault and acquitted because the court found the woman had implied consent.

The Crown took the matter to the Alberta Court of Appeal, where Mr. Justice John McClung dismissed the case, saying in part, that the woman did not present herself to the accused in a "bonnet and crinolines" and that Mr. Ewanchuk's behaviour was "less criminal than hormonal."

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which overturned the dismissal last year and found Mr. Ewanchuk guilty. A strongly written decision by Madam Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé set off a war of words.

Judge McClung wrote a letter to a newspaper calling Judge L'Heureux-Dubé's ruling a "graceless slide into personal invective" and saying her personal convictions may be the reason the male suicide rate in Quebec is increasing.

Judge L'Heureux-Dubé's husband committed suicide in 1978, a fact that Judge McClung said he did not know.

Judge McClung's actions were reviewed by the Canadian Judicial Council, which found the comments inappropriate but stopped short of recommending a formal investigation that could remove him from the bench.

Yesterday, Mr. Justice John Moore of the Court of Queen's Bench indicated that he rejected the defence's request for a conditional sentence to be served in the community partly because of the publicity this case has received. Mr. Ewanchuk's lawyer, Brian Beresh, had difficulty with the explanation.

"I don't understand that logic, why someone of some notoriety wouldn't qualify for a conditional sentence," he later told reporters.

Crown prosecutor Diane Hollingshead had argued for a five-year prison term. She had earlier requested that Mr. Ewanchuk be deemed a dangerous offender, but the attempt was eventually abandoned because the Alberta Department of Justice did not consent to the application.

Mr. Ewanchuk's related convictions formed a basis for the sentence imposed.

"This sexual assault was not extraordinary in some bad way. It was not flagrant or glaring. It was not egregious," the judge wrote. ". . . But Ewanchuk's related criminal record is an aggravating factor for the determination of Ewanchuk's sentence."

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