(THUNDER BAY, ON) – A string of thefts in Greenstone has resulted in the arrest and conviction of a 47-year-old Pernell Chapais from a First Nation near Longlac. He appeared in courtroom 102 this morning in-person from the prisoner’s box. Her Honour, Justice Joyce Pelletier was presiding along with Crown Attorney Ashton Brown and Chapais’ criminal defence lawyer Kevin Matthews.
Chapais is facing 3 charges today of theft under $5000 that stem from three different incidents spanning between September 29th, 2018, and November 24th, 2018. He is read his charges and pleads guilty on all three counts.
On September 29th, 2018, Chapais attended the Rexall in Longlac and walked down an aisle where there were watches on display. He took a box off the shelf and placed the watch on his person. He dropped the box on the floor and left the store without making any attempts to pay for the item.
This was caught on surveillance video and an employee of the store witnessed a substantial portion of the offence being committed.
On November 12th, 2018, Chapais entered the Value Mart in Longlac and went to the cash register where chocolate bars were on display. He took a Twix chocolate bar off the display area, placing it into his right coat pocket. He then left the store without making any sort of attempt to pay for the item. This incident was also caught on video surveillance as well as witnessed by store employees.
On November 24th, 2018, at approximately 5:20 pm the Ontario Provincial Police were dispatched to the Can-Op gas station in Longlac after a report of a theft pulled off by Chapais. Chapais was known to the clerk that was working in the store that day due to recognizing him from being in the community.
The Can-Op clerk believes that Chapais was possibly intoxicated at the time as he was acting very strangely, speaking strangely, and appeared to be foaming at the mouth.
When Chapais entered the store he told the clerk to give him chips and chocolate bars, the clerk advised him that he would have to pay. At that time Chapais said, “If you don’t give me anything, I’ll kick your a**”. Then Chapais left with approximately:
- 8 Caramilk chocolate bars
- 2 Mentos
- 4 bags of chips
Chapais then fled on foot from the Can-Op.
The clerk contacted his boss, informing him of what had happened and gave him a description of Chapais. His boss and the clerk went looking for Chapais and were able to identify him to the police.
The Crown submits Chapais’ lengthy criminal record which includes violence and property crimes such as theft.
Criminal defence lawyer Kevin Matthews is seeking a joint submission from both him and the Crown Attorney for his client Pernell Chapais to be sentenced to time-served followed by a probation order of 12 months. Chapais has served 26 real days in jail thus far, which he is asking to be enhanced to 39 days. Since the November 24th incident, Chapais has not been re-released.
Chapais is an Ojibway man, who’s both of his parents are residential school survivors. He continues to struggle with the intergenerational trauma as a direct result of the residential school system. As a young boy he observed, witnesses, and suffered from violence in his community. Alcohol has been a significant factor with his run-ins with the criminal justice system.
He was working part-time doing garbage removal, snow removal and various other tasks around his First Nation community. Chapais was also going through a substance abuse related counselling program, which was helping him better manage himself.
Chapais had a significant period of sobriety from 2015 to 2017 until his 17-year-old son had died. He then suffered from a friend that had passed away which contributed to his decline.
Defence lawyer Matthews says that he wasn’t really that intoxicated during these incidents, but more so that he was just hungry. He did not have any food in his house. This was a desperation move with the state he was in, resulted in the matters that he had plead guilty to.
Chapais regrets it, he is remorseful. It was due to his substance abuse and mental health issues.
Matthews recommends a 12-month probationary period with conditions surrounding rehabilitation such as counselling and a no-contact order.
The Crown states that this is a joint submission, and adds that she would like a condition to be that Chapais does not attend the Value Mart or Rexall in Longlac while he is under the influence of any intoxicant. She is also recommending that Chapais get counselling regarding grief, mental health and substance abuse. The Crown joints Matthews in recommending that Chapais get sentenced to time served plus 12-months of probation.
The aggravating factor in Chapais’ case is that he threatened the store clerk while he was committing a criminal offence. The 39 days deemed served plus 1 day, being today, would be an appropriate sentence, according to the Crown and Matthews.
Justice Pelletier is acknowledging that Chapais’ record may be lengthy but is dated. She also notes that the criminal code in section 718 has been acknowledged in this sentencing. Her Honour agrees that the aggravating factor is that Chapais threatened the store clerk during the theft.
The joint submission presented by both Matthews and The Crown is granted by Justice Pelletier, she reads Chapais his probationary conditions before ordering him released.
His probation conditions are:
- Keep the peace and be of good behaviour
- Appear in court as required
- Notify your probation officer of any change in address/name/employment
- Report to probation today and as required by your probation officer
- Do not attend the Rexall or Value Mart in Longlac while intoxicated on any substance
- Do not attend the Can-Op in Longlac
- Do not contact the store clerk
- Attend and actively participate in counselling/programming surrounding grief/addiction/substance abuse
Chapais exits the prisoner’s box, has his handcuffs removed and takes a seat in the body of the court. Thunder Bay Courthouse – Inside Edition asks me if she should offer Chapais some of their chocolate. I responded with “yeah why not?” but later on I realize that that would not be a good decision, as we should not be enabling addiction.