Aunt sentenced in death of toddler
A judge has sentenced a Winnipeg woman to 18 months of house arrest for her role in the death of her two-year-old great nephew.
Shirley Guimond was convicted of failing to provide the necessities of life to Gage Guimond, who died in July 2007 after falling down a flight of stairs.
The toddler had been in the care of Child and Family Services for more than a year after his birth mother voluntarily gave him up.
He initially lived with his grandmother and then with a foster family before being placed in the home of Guimond, a distant relative, six weeks before his death.
Guimond pleaded guilty in November 2009 to failing to provide the necessities of life.
'God will eventually decide Shirley's fate. We obviously can't rely on Manitoba's legal system.'—Natasha Guimond, Gage Guimond's mother
Gage's mother is outraged that Guimond will not spend any time behind bars.
"It's just saying that it's OK to kill an innocent child because they can't be here to defend themselves," Natasha Guimond said as she cried outside court.
"God will eventually decide Shirley's fate. We obviously can't rely on Manitoba's legal system."
Boy routinely beaten
Sentencing submissions were heard in April. During that time, court was told Guimond frequently slapped, punched and kicked Gage.
Court also heard that in July 2007, Guimond put the boy on a chair near the top of some stairs after coming home from a shopping trip and running to the bathroom. The toddler fell down the stairs, hit his head, went into a coma and later died in hospital.
His death sparked anger in the community after an internal review found that child welfare workers did not properly assess Guimond's home.
Gage and another child were placed with his great-aunt in the summer of 2007, despite the fact that she had a criminal record and did not ask to take care of the children.
Guimond was previously convicted of assault causing bodily harm for hitting the child and was sentenced last fall to time served after spending 68 days in custody. Tuesday's sentence was on one count of failing to provide the necessities of life and focused only on the fall that killed Gage.
Pressured into taking foster kids
At the April sentencing hearing, Guimond's lawyer Saul Simmonds told court the Manitoba child-welfare system should be "in the box" along with his client, referring to the prisoner's box where the accused sits in court.
He suggested she was pressured into accepting the kids and that the system strives to keep aboriginal foster children with relatives or in aboriginal homes — even if those homes are not safe.
Shirley Guimond had suffered physical and sexual abuse since she was eight years old, Simmonds said, and was in no position to take up foster care. She had "borderline intellectual capacity," according to a medical expert.
Simmonds asked for 18 months of house arrest for Guimond.
The Crown was seeking a two-year jail sentence, but provincial court Judge Lee Ann Martin on Tuesday called Guimond's actions "bad judgment in a moment of haste."
Guimond did call 911, the judge noted, and tried to resuscitate the toddler.
"She has also accepted responsibility for his death and expressed her remorse," Martin said.
Guimond will also have three years of supervised probation and is prohibited from owning a weapon for five years.
Case helped change to foster care
Gage's death was one of several cases that raised questions about the Manitoba government's move to hand over care of aboriginal foster children to native-run regional authorities.
Critics said too much emphasis was placed on cultural concerns at the expense of safety.
The controversy prompted the NDP government in 2008 to change its legislation to specify that a child's safety is given higher priority than cultural or family ties.
Gage's death followed the high-profile case of Phoenix Sinclair, a five-year-old girl who spent most of her life in foster care and was killed after child welfare workers returned her to her mother.
Samantha Kematch and her boyfriend were convicted of murdering the girl in the basement of their home on the Fisher River reserve north of Winnipeg following months of abuse and neglect.
Guimond`s aunt given conditional sentence
Shirley Guimond, the woman charged in connection with the death of her two-year-old great-nephew, was handed an 18-month conditional sentence today for failing to provide the necessities of life. She will also serve three years of probation.
Gage Guimond died in July, 2007 after being placed in Guimond's care. His death allegedly came after he was placed in a high chair at the top of a flight of stairs and he tumbled down.
Gage and his sister had been removed from a loving foster home, placed with a grandmother who didn't want them, and finally given to Shirley Guimond. She had never previously met the children. In the course of their stay, she made at least two desperate calls to CFS, asking for help.
Premier Greg Selinger says he is disappointed with the 18-month conditional sentence handed today to Shirley Guimond in the death of her great-nephew, Gage.
Selinger expressed the sentiment in the legislature in response to a question by Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen, who asked the premier if he agreed that a little boy’s life was more valuable than what was reflected in the judge’s sentence.
"This decision that was made by the courts is one that we’re obviously disappointed in," Selinger said. "Gage Guimond lost his life tragically. We really believe that the recommendation of the Crown to have jail time would have been appropriate in this case, and of course the Crown will be taking this decision under review and deciding what next steps they wish to take."
Last November, Shirley Guimond pleaded guilty to assault cause bodily harm for injuries both Gage and his sister suffered. She also pleaded guilty to failing to provide the necessities of life to Gage when he fell down the stairs in July 2007.
A judge said Guimond would do no further time in jail for the assault charge, after giving her double credit for 68 days she'd already spent behind bars.
Her sentence today was for two counts of failing to provide the necessities of life.
Gage's death was one of several that prompted demands for change in Manitoba's troubled child welfare system. The province devolved authority to aboriginal agencies in 2003, with a focus on keeping aboriginal kids, who make up the vast majority of those in care, with either relatives or in homes with an aboriginal culture.
After Gage's death, Family Services Miniwster Gord McIntosh said the safety of children should be paramount.
It was poor judgment -- no more jail time for woman in toddler`s death
Shirley Guimond will not serve any more jail time for the death of her two-year-old great nephew Gage.
Guimond, 55, will serve an 18-month conditional sentence in the community, Judge Lee Ann Martin ruled Tuesday.
The sentence includes an absolute curfew for the first year and a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for the remaining six months. Guimond’s sentence is to be followed by three years of supervised probation.
The Crown and defence jointly recommended Guimond be sentenced to two years less a day. Guimond’s sentence is in addition to three months she has served at double credit.
Gage Guimond died in July 2007 after falling from a high chair and down a flight of stairs. Shirley Guimond was originally charged with manslaughter but pleaded guilty last November to failing to provide the necessaries of life.
“It is apparent ... there are many individuals who are saddened and dismayed by Gage’s death and the circumstances leading up to it,” Martin wrote in a 14-page decision. “There are no words ... that can change what happened and bring Gage back.
“This court can only comment on the profound senselessness of it all. To lose a young boy who was described as such a likeable and loving child is truly devastating.”
Gage and his three-year-old sister were in the custody of Sagkeeng Child and Family Services before they were placed in Guimond’s care in June 2007. In the weeks prior to Gage’s death, Guimond, who was also caring for her 13-year-old grandson, repeatedly assaulted the two young children.
She pleaded guilty in November to assault causing bodily harm and was sentenced to 68 days time served plus three years supervised probation.
At a sentencing hearing last April, Guimond’s lawyer Saul Simmonds argued Sagkeeng CFS foisted the children on Guimond against her wishes.
“She was not out there asking to be a foster parent,” Simmonds said. “CFS came to her. Her position was she was clearly not prepared for that task.”
Guimond “reluctantly” agreed to care for the children but was asking CFS to take them back after two weeks, Simmonds said.
On the day Gage was fatally injured, Guimond was shopping with the three children and needed to use the washroom when they got back home. She put the boy in a backless high chair adjacent to the basement stairs and ran to the washroom. When Guimond returned, Gage had fallen down the stairs, critically injuring himself.
Guimond called 911 and Gage was rushed to hospital where he died several days later.
“These facts ... are quite frankly facts indicative of poor judgment in a moment of haste,” Martin said.
Martin said Guimond’s assaults on Gage were not a factor in his death.
“Though there had been instances of ‘over-correction’ in the month preceding this incident, the ‘over-correction’ did not lead to Gage’s death and in fact is not related to it,” he said.
When asked in question period Tuesday whether the Crown might appeal the sentence, Premier Greg Selinger said his government did not agree with the judge’s decision.
“This decision that was made by the courts is one we were obviously disappointed in,” Selinger said, adding the Crown is now reviewing the decision in order to decide whether to appeal.