Saskatchewan’s highest court is being asked to overturn the dangerous offender designation of Andy Peekeekoot.
His case has attracted the attention of Amnesty International and the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism.
The 34-year-old was sentenced to an indefinite prison term in 2010 after being convicted of pulling a knife in a bar fight.
He is from the Athakakoop First Nation in northern Saskatchewan.
Peekeekoot has 20 convictions including assaults on corrections workers.
The sentencing judge in 2010 said there is little or no realistic prospect he will ever change.
Peekeekoot was not represented by a lawyer when he was designated a dangerous offender.
SCAR says that alone should be grounds enough to overturn the designation and order a new hearing.
His lawyer Bob Hrycan argued the trial judge made two errors.
Hrycan says the judge put too much emphasis on Peekeekoot’s apparent unwillingness to change and failed to consider Peekeekoot’s cultural background, systemic marginalization and abusive childhood before declaring him a dangerous offender.
In general, he says the judge failed to take into account the Gladue principle, which was mandated by a Supreme Court ruling in 1999.
The aim of Gladue is to look at sentencing alternatives with a greater chance of success for Aboriginal offenders.
The prosecution argued Peekeekoot’s background was adequately addressed in various reports submitted to the court.
It also argued his lack of motivation to change left the judge with no choice but to declare him a dangerous offender.
After hearing three-and-a-half hours of arguments the court of appeal reserved its decision.
It can uphold the dangerous offender designation or overturn it and order a new hearing.
The process will likely be a long one but if Peekeekoot is successful, he could receive an end date for his prison sentence and hope for a return to the outside world within a very structured environment.
Peekeekoot took notes and quietly watched Friday’s proceedings via video link from a medium security jail in Grande Cache Alberta where he is currently being held.