Councillor convicted in beating
Judge has harsh words for first-time offender

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 05/97) - A territorial court judge had harsh words for a Yellowknives Dene band councillor who pleaded guilty Tuesday to beating his wife.

"I find it disturbing that ... people who beat their wives come to court asking for a fine, but in fact, it is their family that has to pay for the crime," said Michel Bourassa.

"This court is very concerned that (the accused) not pass on a culture of violence and booze to his boys ... so they won't grow up and learn to trash their wives." Bourassa sentenced three-year band councillor Ernest Narcisse Betsina to one day in jail and six months of probation for the Jan. 1 assault.

He ordered Betsina to stay sober, take counselling as directed and perform 50 hours of community service work.

The 33-year-old man, who appeared in court with his wife, his business partner and Yellowknives Dene chiefs Darrell Beaulieu and Jonas Sangris, apologized.

"I am ashamed. I pray I never put my family and I pray I never put myself through this again," he said.

Crown lawyer Sandra Aitken told court that in the early hours of Jan. 1, RCMP kicked in the door of Betsina's Ndilo house after receiving a call that a woman was being assaulted.

When they entered the house, police found Betsina holding his wife down on the floor.

"She had a swollen lower lip and her blouse was ripped open," said Aitken.

The couple's two young sons, who were home at the time, told police that their father had thrown their mother to the kitchen floor, causing her head to strike a brick by the wood stove.

Aitken suggested Betsina be sentenced to one day in jail as a warning and a lengthy term of probation for the assault.

Defence lawyer Garth Wallbridge told court that Betsina has no criminal record, is a band councillor, and has a past record of employment with contracting and development companies and the GNWT.

The carpenter, who has been married to the same woman for 14 years, has been going through a period of stress in his life due to a slow work period and some difficulties with alcohol, he said.

Betsina and his wife had both been drinking alcohol that night. "He realizes it is up to him to solve his problems," said Wallbridge.

He noted that since the incident, Betsina and his wife have been sober, attending church and regularly talking with local priests.