A few weeks ago I blogged about an Inuk down on his luck, Phillip Shaqu, who was jailed in Ottawa for being drunk and disorderly, as well as for the predictable “assault on police”—an encounter with Ottawa’s Finest in which he clearly got the worst of it. I asked what good prison would do in such a case, and never did get a clear answer.
Today brings news of another Inuk, obviously considerably more disturbed than Shaqu:
A Nunavut man who admitted he indecently interfered with human remains in a graveyard has been sentenced to two years in jail.
Bobby Suwarak of Baker Lake was arrested last fall after graves were dug up in the remote Arctic community. He was charged after DNA tests on bodily fluids found at the site. An RCMP spokesman at the time said the charges involved sexual activity.
Suwarak will also be on probation for three years after he is released and will have to stay at least 50 metres away from all graveyards.
Justice Sue Cooper said in her decision that Suwarak violated social taboos found in all cultures.
In fact, the corpse that Suwarak “interfered with” was that of an Inuit elder.
Much legal digging was done to find precedents for Suwarak’s offence. As reported, courtroom officials pretty well drew a blank, but found a Yukon case in which the perpetrator was handed a two-year sentence. And so Suwarak was given the same.
I’m not aware of any “cultural” issues that might have clouded this case. No group of people that I am aware of sanctions or has ever sanctioned sexual intercourse with a corpse. It occasions horror wherever it happens.
But my earlier question remains nevertheless, and I re-state it here: what conceivable social purpose is achieved by jailing a person so obviously in need of psychiatric treatment? Once again, the floor is open.