A former leader with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets has been handed a one-year jail sentence for sending a photo of his genitals to one his cadets, a 15-year-old girl.
The 42-year-old Halifax man was sentenced Jan. 25 in Shubenacadie provincial court on a charge of making sexually explicit material available to a person under the age of 16 for the purpose of committing an offence.
Judge Mark Heerema’s sentencing decision was released in writing Monday.
The man, whose name is banned from publication to protect the identity of the victim, will be on probation for two years after he gets out of jail. The judge also ordered him to provide a sample of his DNA and register as a sex offender for 20 years.
“A clear message must be sent to (the offender) and to all members of society that children are off limits sexually, especially to those who are trusted adults in their lives,” Heerema said.
“Our society vitally depends on organizations wherein children can trust adults. Such organizations and activities enrich the lives of our children. Great damage is done to the fabric of our society when children are sexualized in such circumstances.
“When adults trespass upon the right of children to be free from exploitation in these childhood involvements, they can expect that the justice system’s answer will focus on denouncing and deterring their behavior. Such sentences are merely one part of a broader societal response needed to keep children safe.”
The man was 36 when he and the girl exchanged emails and electronic messages in the fall of 2019.
“The messages … covered various topics of conversation,” Heerema said. “He teased her about being ticklish. He called her a teddy bear. He told her how he wanted to rub his hands on her legs after she complained of injuries she suffered.”
At one point, the man sent the girl a picture of his erect penis, and she sent him a photo of her nude upper body.
“In one message, (the girl) expressed to (the leader) that she was contemplating taking her own life,” the judge wrote. “(He) reported this to his commanding officer and advised (the girl) that he was going to get a slap on the wrist for speaking with her outside of approved channels.”
The relationship was exposed by the girl’s mother, who saw a message from the man to her daughter offering her a drive to an interview for a staff cadet position.
The victim provided an impact statement to the court.
“She detailed how these events caused her to lose focus at school and how she found it difficult to attend Sea Cadets,” Heerema said. “She described attending counselling afterwards and shared how she felt like she let down her family.
“She advised that while she does not fear (the man), she fears facing him again for how it could bring back emotions that she has been trying to suppress.”
The man pleaded guilty to the charge in November 2022, and the judge heard sentencing submissions in November 2023.
Crown attorney Alex Keaveny recommended a sentence of 18 months in jail and two years of probation. Defence lawyer Michelle James argued for a conditional sentence of three to six months, followed by 18 months’ probation.
The man expressed regret and remorse to the author of his presentence report and said he believed he would benefit from counselling.
“In looking at the degree of responsibility that (the man) bears for this offence, his counsel offered that his diagnosis of ADHD may be a partial explanation for this offence, most notably the impulsive nature of it,” the judge said. “While this may be possible, it is difficult to fully accept given the relative length of the relationship.”
In his analysis, Heerema cited Supreme Court of Canada decisions directing judges to understand and acknowledge the wrongfulness and harmfulness of the sexual abuse of children by adults.
It’s clear that the victim has suffered because of the man’s conduct, the judge said, “however, the full extent of her suffering remains to be seen.
“It is sad that (the girl), traversing a tough time in her childhood, aligned herself to a trusted adult who looked past her humanity and focused more on his own sexual gratification than her well-being. This objectification is demeaning to (her) inherent dignity.
“Having said this, I accept that (the man) is genuinely remorseful. He has accepted responsibility. I believe he deeply regrets his conduct. He is a man without a criminal record, and I can and do infer that this behaviour is out of character. Moreover, I believe that he would be amenable to receiving counselling to examine what led him down this path. Rehabilitation … is an important component of a sentence that I will impose.
“Despite this, I believe that a period of custody is required. I respectfully disagree with the defence that a period of actual custody is not required. This is a decision that I have not come to easily, lightly or without anguish. Despite the mitigating factors present in this case, I believe that a conditional sentence would not be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing set out in the Criminal Code.”
Heerema ordered the man to have no communication with the girl while he’s incarcerated or on probation. He also must participate in any psychiatric, psychological or mental health counselling deemed necessary by his probation officer.