A B.C. Supreme Court judge has granted bail to an Alberta man awaiting trial on a string of weapons charges related to a wild police chase in Kelowna which happened after the accused skipped out on a previous release agreement.
Justice Gary Weatherill acknowledged the serious nature of the allegations facing Cody Janvier-Charland, along with the troubling fact the 24-year-old had previously ignored a court order requiring him to stay in one place.
But the judge said he was swayed by the threat of COVID-19 — especially since a case has been confirmed at the Okanagan Correctional Centre (OCC) where Janvier-Charland has spent the year since his arrest in May 2019.
“Although I can tell you it was a close call, I am persuaded, particularly because the COVID‑19 has now spread to OCC and because of what I consider to be an appropriate release plan, that Mr. Janvier‑Charland has met the onus on him,” Weatherill said in a decision posted this week.
“I am satisfied that his release plan will adequately address the otherwise very serious concerns I have.”
‘This time it would be her promise’
The judge released Janvier-Charland to live under a form of house arrest with his mother on the Cold Lake First Nation Reserve in Alberta.
Judges have had to consider the impacts of COVID-19 in relation to bail in cases across the country. In addition to the case at OCC, federal correctional officials are trying to manage an outbreak involving more than 75 inmates and staff at Mission Institution.
In another case involving a stolen vehicle and a high speed chase, a B.C. provincial court judge said “to be clear, the coronavirus is not a get out of jail free card. It is a serious factor to consider and may tip the scales in some cases.”
This appeared to be one of those situations.
Weatherill said he was impressed by evidence from Janvier-Charland’s mother, who testified by telephone from her home about her “stated ability to control her son.”
“For example, when I asked about my concern about the apparent breach of the recognizance, she answered that the difference is that the recognizance was his promise; this time it would be her promise,” Weatherill wrote.
‘Generally outrunning the police’
Janvier-Charland had no criminal record prior to last spring. But it was at that time that his life appeared to spiral out of control.
He was first arrested in March 2019 and charged with weapons offences, stealing an ATV and fleeing police. He was released at the time on $,2500 bail and a promise to report directly to his bail supervisor.
A warrant was issued for his arrest and that of a co-accused in May 2019 after a drive-by shooting on the Cold Lake First Nations Reserve.
On May 25, 2019, West Kelowna RCMP were notified of the theft of a truck with Alberta plates and set off in pursuit.
“The driver of the stolen truck was able to out‑maneuver the police by making U‑turns, swerving around roadblocks, avoiding spike belts, and generally outrunning the police who were not inclined to engage in a chase,” Weatherill wrote.
“Ultimately, the truck drove down a dead‑end road in West Kelowna and became high‑centred after attempting to drive through a field. The truck was swarmed by a number of police officers with their guns drawn.”
Janvier-Charland was driving and allegedly had nearly a dozen 12-gauge shotgun rounds, a balaclava and cocaine on his person.
Police arrested Janvier-Charland and his passenger after allegedly finding two guns and several rounds of ammunition in the truck.
‘Not able’ to keep virus out
The Crown argued against Janvier-Charland’s release, pointing out that he had previously skipped bail on very similar charges and faces a length period of incarceration, if found guilty.
Although the accused has no health issues that make him more susceptible to COVID-19, Weatherill said the threat could not be ignored.
“Despite B.C. Corrections’ best efforts, the protections put in place to protect the inmate population at OCC have not been able to keep the virus from infiltrating the facility,” the judge wrote.
“The accused and other inmates are kept in confined spaces where protocols for physical distancing are far more difficult to implement, making the risk to the inmate population significantly higher than on the outside.”
The plan was for Janvier-Charland’s mother to make the 15-hour-long trip by car to pick him up and return him to Alberta. He must return to Kelowna for his trial this July.