A Saskatoon prosecutor says Jessica Cameron died after “a brutal beating” at the hands of her partner, Jamie Smallchild, and his 15-year sentence for manslaughter shows the courts will not tolerate such violence against Indigenous women.
Parliament enacted new provisions in the Criminal Code in June 2019 — one month before Cameron’s death — with key changes targeting offenders who harm Indigenous women.
“The Crown invited them [the court] to go beyond the normal sentencing, and to sentence him to something that is much higher based on Parliament’s intention of those sections,” prosecutor Leslie Dunning said in an interview.
Dunning said Cameron, 33, died of “blunt force trauma” and that Smallchild was almost three times her weight. Court heard that the fatal assault was not the first time he’d beaten Cameron.
“This is a brutal beating at the hands of him,” she said.
In July 2019, Rosthern RCMP found a green minivan in the woods near Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation, located about 90 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon. The minivan had minor front-end damage.
Smallchild and Cameron were in the driver and passenger seats, respectively. Cameron was pronounced dead at the scene, while Smallchild had only minor injuries.
“Police officers observed inconsistencies between the injuries sustained by the occupants of the vehicle and the damage on the minivan,” according to the RCMP press release.
Officers charged Smallchild with second-degree murder.
Manslaughter sentences usually range anywhere from four to 12 years, the variance taking into account myriad factors.
Dunning said that in making her submissions she accounted for the so-called Gladue factors — life circumstances unique to Indigenous offenders — that could influence how Smallchild came to assault his partner.
“He’s got these Gladue factors, but he’s also had opportunity from his community to turn his life around and do the right thing,” she said.
“He had many supports out of his community.”
The judge sentenced Smallchild to 15 years. Given credit for time served, he has 13 years remaining on his sentence.