When Behchoko RCMP stopped a vehicle heading back to the community from Dettah on Valentine’s Day last year, it was anything but a routine traffic stop.
Rather, it was the culmination of a months-long drug trafficking investigation that saw Mounties conduct covert surveillance on Patrick Adzin, 29, a Behchoko man suspected of plying his home community with cocaine.
The probe, launched in the summer of 2017, even saw RCMP map the movements of Adzin after a judge authorized a “tracking warrant,” allowing Mounties to keep tabs on the then-suspect’s whereabouts through the location of his cell phone.
After tracking the vehicle in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2018, Mounties moved in.
During a search of the vehicle Adzin was in – he was a passenger – Mounties located and seized 51 grams of crack cocaine, along with a few grams of powdered cocaine.
The driver of the vehicle, who was initially charged following the search, has since seen his charges stayed by the Crown.
Adzin was arrested, and just hours later he gave a statement to RCMP. He admitted he was selling the crack cocaine in Behchoko, but told officers the powdered cocaine was for personal use. Adzin told police he never sold cocaine containing fentanyl – and there was never any evidence to suggest otherwise.
The seized crack cocaine was valued at a street price of $8,000 to $12,000.
Adzin was charged with possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. He pleaded guilty to the lone count in January, when he waived his right to a preliminary inquiry.
On Tuesday, in NWT Supreme Court, Adzin was handed a 22-month sentence by Justice Louise Charbonneau.
Adzin, who was backed by three supportive family members, hung his head as the sentence was handed down.
Prosecutors had called for a jail term of 18 to 22 months. Adzin’s lawyer, Jay Bran, agreed with the recommendation, but asked Charbonneau on Monday to consider a sentence on the lower end of the recommendation.
Charbonneau ruled the higher end of the recommendation was appropriate Tuesday.
Charbonneau weighed the need to denounce drug trafficking in the North – a trend she said “never seems to stop” – with the background and circumstances of Adzin as an Indigenous offender. Both of Adzin’s parents attended residential schools, and drank heavily until the offender was 9-years-old, the court heard.
“It’s a terrible cycle,” said Justice Charbonneau, noting the well-documented impacts of inter-generational trauma.
But, she said, there is a need to send a strong message to dealers and would-be dealers in the North through stern sentences.
“Hard drugs do real damage,” said Justice Charbonneau, adding the sale of hard drugs in communities “feeds a destructive cycle of misery,” that can lead to desperation and even death.
Adzin’s 22-month sentence is two months shy of a federal prison term.
Charbonneau ordered a 10-year firearm ban for Adzin, but he’s able to apply for a hunting exemption. Charbonneau will make a judicial recommendation that Adzin serve his sentence at North Slave Correctional Complex in Yellowknife, so that he may remain close to his family.
The court heard Adzin is experienced in traditional on the land skills, passed down to him from his grandparents.
Charbonneau said he can honour his grandparents by picking up those skills again, and passing them along to others in Behchoko.
“I hope you’ll go back to Behchoko and become a leader in that community,” said Charbonneau.
With credit for time spent in remand custody – 10 days – Adzin has 21 months and three weeks left to serve.