Family was the biggest thing drugs took away.
That was what a 33-year old Williams Lake woman told the B.C. Supreme Court before she was sentenced to two years probation for her involvement with a dial-a-dope operation.
Janine Alphonse was one of seven suspects arrested by the Williams Lake RCMP who had worked with various units over several months in 2018 investigation targeting a multi-layered cocaine trafficking operation. Because of various breaches she committed after her conditional release, Alphonse has been in jail ever since.
“She has acknowledged the harm done to the community and while I understand that she has not had an opportunity in the community to demonstrate her ability or to truly turn her life around, it is not lost on me that she has during her time in custody taken steps to demonstrate her ability to maintain a sober and more productive path when she is released,” Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church said Friday, Aug. 21.
Alphonse pleaded guilty July 13, 2020 to one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking and was sentenced Friday, August 21.
“I am remorseful for the things that I have done,” she said, appearing by video. “I would like to finally move on with my life.”
A member of the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN), the court heard how Alphonse’s parents, who were in and out of her life, struggled with addiction which her defence lawyer said ultimately impacted Alphonse’s childhood.
When she was pregnant with her first child at 16, Alphonse suffered a significant violent event involving an adult figure in her life and spent two months in a youth facility after which she resided with former WLFN Chief Ann Louie, who was a mother figure to her. Church said Alphonse continued to struggle with alcohol addiction as did other members of the household. Over time, however, Alphonse committed to sobriety and became a productive member of her community, the court heard.
Although Alphonse did not complete her grade 12 she was able to gain employment through the WLFN and attended Simon Fraser University (SFU) for First Nation studies. Following SFU, she gained employment at a local mine and later a construction company and she was able to provide a home for her and her two children.
After having lost that employment several years ago, however, Alphonse experienced difficulty in finding alternative employment and turned to the party scene where she used cocaine and alcohol, and eventually crystal meth, Church said during sentencing.
“That appears to be have been the beginning of a downward spiral in terms of her personal circumstance,” Church said, noting Alphonse, who had no prior criminal record lost her residence, vehicle and care of her children.
“It was during this period of relapse that she became involved in drug trafficking.”
Alphonse became the subject of an RCMP investigation after an undercover officer purchased $80 of cocaine from her through the alleged dial-a-dope operation on March 17, 2018. Just over a month later Alphonse was arrested, and found in possession of small plastic bags containing 19.5 grams of cocaine, three mobile phones, two boxes of shot-gun ammunition, various pieces of mail and more than $500 in cash after RCMP conducted a vehicle search.
Alphonse has remained in custody for nearly six months as a result of not complying with her release conditions, namely her curfew, and won’t be released until Sept. 20, 2020 after which her two-year probation sentence that will include a six month curfew from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. will take effect.
Defense attorney Eric Rines called the sentence ‘fair and just.’
“Justice Church did a really good job of balancing a need that’s very real in Williams Lake which is a relief from the problems that drug trafficking provides, and combining a sensible approach of the fact that people with those kinds of troubled backgrounds are often as much a victim of what they’re participating in as they are victimizing the community that they’re in,” he told Black Press following the sentence hearing.
Crown counsel was seeking a six to nine month jail sentence and electronic monitoring which the court said has currently been suspended due to the COVID-19 health crisis.
Barring exceptional circumstances the normal custodial range of a sentence with respect to a dial-a-dope operation is six to 18 months —a sentence Church said she was hesitant in this case to impose.
Alphonse told the court she intends to live with her sister in Williams Lake following her release, maintain her sobriety and attend a family treatment program in the hopes of being positively involved in the lives once again of her 16-year old daughter and 14-year old son.