Calgary judge spares indigenous throat-slitter federal prison due to ‘colonialism’

Keean Bexte

November 30, 2022

A Calgary judge just let an indigenous man avoid a federal prison sentence despite having slit a stranger’s throat on the subway in May. 

Calgary judge spares indigenous throat-slitter federal prison due to ‘colonialism’

In his ruling on the case of 25-year-old Bobby Crane, Judge Harry Van Harten cited “the history of colonialism” as contributing to his attack on the white 65-year-old stranger, Leonard Smith.

“The history of colonialism has to be taken into account,” said Van Harten in his ruling. 

Instead of serving his sentence in a federal prison, Crane will serve two years in a provincial jail and an additional three years of probation. 

The brutal incident occurred on May 18 on a CTrain at around 6:20 a.m. Smith, who is visually impaired and relies on public transit, was attacked by Crane from behind. 

Crane slashed Smith’s throat with a utility knife from one side to the next, leaving him with a 23-centimetre gash on his neck that barely missed his carotid artery – which, if severed, would have likely left Smith dead.

“The accused … slashed his throat, dragging his knife from the right side to the left side of Mr. Smith’s neck,” said Crown prosecutor Tara Wells.

Wells called for the most strict sentence for Crane over the “horrific act of random violence.” 

Lawyers representing Crane argued that he should be spared the most severe sentence due to his status as an indigenous man, being diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and the so-called danger federal prison would pose to him. 

“If you were to impose the sentence that my friend is asking … that doesn’t help the public,” claimed lawyer Rebecca Snukal. 

Judge Van Harten agreed with the defence, saying he would let Crane partake in a FASD rehabilitation program. 

“That’s going to give him a life, and that’s what I’m asking you to do,” said Van Harten. 

Random attacks have been on the rise in Canada throughout urban areas like Calgary. Earlier this month, police charged a man for assaulting at least 10 random strangers in the city’s downtown.

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