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Machete attack nets one-year sentence

'It just doesn’t get more dangerous than that,’ says Justice Gregory Rice
A Bigstone Cree Nation man was told by Justice Gregory Rice his one-year sentence for a machete attack was a light consequence for the weight of his actions.

ATHABASCA — A Bigstone Cree Nation man got off lightly with a one-year sentence after using a machete to resolve an argument last fall, according to Justice Gregory Rice.

“I would have gone above the Crown, frankly,” said Rice during sentencing. 

In the  Athabasca Court of Justice March 25, George Jonathan Bigstone, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of assault causing bodily harm as part of a joint submission between defence lawyer David Keyes and Crown prosecutor Matthew Kerr. 

Additional single charges of possession of a weapon dangerous to the public, mischief causing damage under $5,000, resisting a peace officer, and two separate counts of failure to comply with release conditions were withdrawn as part of the submission. 

Kerr told court on the evening of Aug. 20, 2023, Bigstone attended a residence in Calling Lake where he began breaking things in the home out of anger. When asked to leave, Bigstone refused, resulting in an escalating argument during which Bigstone took up a machete. He struck the man repeatedly in the hand, arm, neck, and stomach. 

More than an hour after the incident, RCMP officers arrived to find the victim with injuries to multiple body parts. Bigstone was located walking nearby with the machete but fled into the bush when approached by officers. After an unsuccessful attempt to track him with dogs, officers found him at another nearby residence where he was arrested without the machete. 

Justice Gregory Rice accepted the joint submission, stressing the weight of sentence proportionality to the crime, and issuing Bigstone a warning about his violent behaviour.

“The issue, really, for me on this sentencing is the gravity of the offense,” said Rice. 

“You grabbed a machete, and not only did you grab a machete and brandish it, you struck (the victim) in the neck, in the hand, and in the stomach,” said Rice. “That is so violent and so dangerous that, frankly, the Crown’s position at a year is on the light side."

“It just doesn’t get more dangerous than that,” said Rice. “It’s a miracle someone’s not dead.”

Bigstone received one year in custody and 12 months of probation — he had accumulated 172 days of actual time served, enhanced to 258 days of credit, leaving him with 107 days left to serve. Rice waived the victim-fine surcharge due to Bigstone’s incarceration. 

Case factors

Along with injuries dealt to the victim, Kerr listed Bigstone’s previous criminal record as an aggravating factor, which carries four violent convictions and two weapons convictions; Bigstone has received jail time sentences for related convictions in the past. 

“He is entering a guilty plea — it was a trial day guilty plea, so less mitigating, but it is of course always mitigating. He’s taking responsibility, he’s expressing remorse,” said Kerr. 

“We’ll both be suggesting a period of probation to follow whatever custodial sentence there is, with some treatment-based aids in the hope that Mr. Bigstone can get on a better path,” he added. 

Although Bigstone’s Gladue report was not completed in time for the submission, Keyes told court about relevant factors that have impacted his life. 

“Suffice it to say, he’s had a pretty rough life,” said Keyes. “In this business, we hear some of these Gladue reports and wonder how someone actually got a fair chance at life.” 

“This isn’t the worst Gladue situation I’ve seen, but he wasn’t going to Harvard Law on this trajectory either,” he added. 

Hailing from the Bigstone First Nation, Bigstone’s father and all four grandparents are residential school survivors. One of his brothers recently passed while he was in custody, leaving him unable to attend the funeral. 

Keyes added Bigstone has dealt with addiction issues throughout his life.

“Justice (Steven) Hinkley properly characterized a meth addiction as a special kind of hell, and I thought that was well-put.”

“He’s been made aware there’s more to addiction recovery than simply not doing it,” added Keyes. “There’s obviously some underpinning wounds and healing that needs to take place as well.” 

About the Author: Lexi Freehill

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