An Edmonton man arrested in Fort Providence with over 130 grams of cocaine and a loaded AR-15 rifle has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Cassiuis Paradis, 30, was pulled over in October 2018 by a pair of Mounties — tipped off by residents to suspected drug trafficking — as he and a teenage passenger passed the South Slave hamlet’s RCMP detachment in a rented Volkswagen.
Locked in a safe in the truck of the car, officers seized over four ounces of cocaine — divvied up into hundreds of smaller bags along with two large bricks weighing over 28 grams a piece — and nearly $4,000 in cash.
Mounties found the loaded high-powered carbine rifle, along with ammunition and a knife, inside a suitcase in the vehicle’s backseat.
At the time of his arrest, Paradis was less than two years into a 10-year weapons ban. In January 2017, police found a loaded handgun in Paradis’ car after pulling him over for speeding.
Paradis pleaded not guilty to a slew of offences, mounting a constitutional challenge following the seizure.
Paradis’ lawyer, Benjamin Lotery, argued his client’s Charter rights were violated when he was pulled over by RCMP. Lotery wanted the evidence — the drugs, money and weapons — tossed on the grounds it was gathered unlawfully.
In March, NWT Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood ruled Paradis’ rights had been breached — first when Mounties arbitrarily detained him, and again when the officers failed to advise him of the reason of his detention and his right to contact a lawyer. Paradis wasn’t advised of his right to call counsel until after he exited the vehicle, several minutes after the traffic stop and detention started.
Despite her findings, Smallwood ruled the evidence admissible.
The trial then continued on the basis of agreed facts, and Paradis was convicted of a dozen offences, including drug trafficking and firearm related charges — possessing a restricted firearm among a raft of others.
In a Yellowknife court on Friday, Smallwood — who struck middle ground between the Crown’s “excessive” seven-year sentencing recommendation and Lotery’s call for three years in custody, which she deemed not reflective of the gravity of the offence — said the illicit combination of drugs and guns is a “serious concern in Canada.”
The loaded AR-15 was found to be inoperable when seized by police. It was determined the firearm could fire after investigators removed a pin and reassembled the gun. There was no evidence to suggest Paradis knew how to make the firearm operable, Smallwood said Friday.
Smallwood said the Charter breaches, while not significant, were mitigating factor in her sentencing decision. Paradis’ lawyer had argued the sentence should be reduced because of the violations.
Smallwood also weighed the circumstances of the Indigenous offender — who is Metis — in coming to sentencing decision. Paradis, she said, had a “troubled background.” He was living on the streets as a young teen, and at the time of his arrest, was addicted to cocaine, Xanax and alcohol.
But Smallwood didn’t mince her words when admonishing the impact of drug trafficking in the territory — and the role Paradis played in it.
For communities still grappling with the enduring effects of residential schools and the loss of culture, Smallwood said, now residents “have to deal with the impact of cocaine.”
“How can communities heal when people like Paradis prey like vultures (on the vulnerabilities of residents),?” asked Smallwood.
With credit for time spent in remand custody — Paradis has been behind bars since his arrest in October — he has four years and one-and-a-half months left to serve.
Paradis was ordered to submit a sample of his DNA. He’s now barred from possessing weapons for 12 years.
Paradis, who remained stone-faced as the sentence was handed down, declined to speak in court.