A man convicted of smuggling guns across the border, whose trial was marked with the tribulations of self-representation, may get a lawyer after all, as constitutional issues were raised in sentencing.
Senk’lip, known officially as Alex Louie, was found guilty in October of nine gun-related charges for attempting to smuggle a pair of guns into Canada at the U.S. border on Feb. 1 this year, and was up for a sentencing hearing on Thursday.
Due to the similarity of some of the charges, Senk’lip will only be facing sentencing for five of the charges.
A potential constitutional challenge halted the process, as the court prepares to consider the constitutionality of mandatory minimums for Indigenous offenders, if a challenge is filed by Senk’lip. For gun smuggling charges, the mandatory minimum is three years.
Throughout the pretrial and trial process, Justice Arne Silverman advised Senk’lip to obtain legal counsel, a suggestion Silverman made again at the beginning of a sentencing hearing Thursday morning.
Senk’lip, again, declined to get a lawyer, declaring the Crown and court’s assumed jurisdiction over him to be “genocide.”
That type of argument was prevalent in Louie’s trial and pretrial proceedings, an argument that Silverman had originally appeared willing to hear initially.
Thursday, Silverman pushed back against a “nonsense question” at one point and shut down a speech from Senk’lip, who spoke of financial transactions and commercial bonds.
“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Silverman said after the approximately five-minute monologue from Senk’lip. “There’s nothing there that’s relevant to the sentencing process.”
Silverman said he would not get back into the same issues from “the time that was wasted of the five days that we spent in trial. … I would estimate that roughly half of that was Senk’lip ignoring me.”
It wasn’t just Senk’lip that Silverman butted heads with during the hearing Thursday. He and Crown lawyer Clarke Burnett had a lengthy back-and-forth over the a recent decision, referred to as R. v. J.L.M., which suggested an Indigenous background should be of consideration when sentencing, and could mean a sentence below the mandatory minimum.
What was largely at issue was Senk’lip’s lack of a lawyer on this matter, who could have filed a constitutional challenge to the mandatory minimum for consideration of his Indigenous heritage.
“There’s been no constitutional challenge to this section, and I say that has to happen,” Burnett said.
“Senk’lip isn’t capable of mounting a constitutional challenge. You are well aware of what a constitutional challenge means … but he’s never going to file the necessary paperwork,” Silverman countered. “I would have to indicate on his behalf that that’s an issue I want canvassed.”
Burnett suggested that would require an adjournment in the case, for the constitutionality of mandatory minimums for Senk’lip to be explored.
“Unless there is a constitutional challenge, your lordship doesn’t have the jurisdiction to go below the mandatory minimum,” Burnett said.
After a 20-minute back-and-forth, Burnett did ultimately convince Silverman a constitutional challenge would need to be brought forth for J.L.M. to apply for Senk’lip, because it was a constitutional challenge that took J.L.M. to the appeals court in the first place.
That led to a renewed call for Senk’lip to seek legal counsel.
“I’m not saying you’ll get less than a three-year sentence, even if there was no minimum,” Silverman said. “Mr. Burnett makes a good case for the proposition that I’m not permitted to consider that (J.L.M.) unless there is a formal challenge.”
Senk’lip said he would be willing to consider consulting with one of his lawyer friends to attempt to mount that constitutional challenge.
The court is set to reconvene in mid-January on the matter.