71-year-old elder died after ingesting a solution containing tobacco, water and South American vines
The Sudbury Star (Canada), Apr. 26, 2003
By Margo Little, The Sudbury Star
Saying he had to strike a balance between “the spiritual and the temporal,” an Ontario judge sentenced a Shuar traditional healer to 12 months of house arrest for the death of a Wikwemikong elder in November 2001.
Justice Gerald Michel also sentenced Juan Uyunkar’s son Edgar to one day in jail, time served, plus six months probation. Edgar Uyunkar was also ordered to leave Canada as soon as possible.
On Thursday, the Uyunkars pled guilty to charges of administering a noxious substance and trafficking in a controlled substance.
They were arrested Nov. 24, 2001, after a police investigation into the death of Wikwemikong elder Jean (Jane) Maiangowi.
The 71-year-old diabetic died after ingesting a solution containing tobacco, water and South American vines.
The elder Uyunkar and his son had been invited to the Wikwemikong First Nation to perform traditional healing ceremonies for band members.
Justice Michel said the sentence was necessary “in order to bring home to all natural healers the message that they have to be careful with reference to unlawful substances and their consequences.
“The sentence cannot and will not satisfy everyone because of the conflicting principles between the spiritual and the temporal, but I must mete out a penalty,” the judge said.
“Jane Maiangowi was such a great person, loving, warm, helpful, a joy to be with and much more than that,” Michel noted. “For the court to even attempt to equate a penalty to reflect her worth would be disrespectful to Jane’s great legacy.”
In addition to the conditional sentence, Justice Gerald Michel put the elder Uyunkar on 12 months’ probation.
The Ecuadorian father of 12 was also ordered to perform 150 hours of community service and to remain in Ontario unless otherwise authorized by the court.
He is not allowed to conduct any holistic or healing ceremonies involving the banned substance harmaline. In addition, he must abide by a 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
After Nov. 15, Juan Uyunkar may apply to the court for permission to visit his family in Ecuador.
After the sentencing, Wikwemikong Chief Walter Manitowabi said the community is “relieved that the process is finally complete. The past year and a half have been very trying for all involved, both the Maiangowi family and the community.”
“We have mixed feelings about the outcome,” he said. “First and foremost we must never lose track of the fact that we lost a respected elder and leader in our community. Her family suffered a great loss and are desperate to carry on with their healing process now.”
Lloyd Greenspoon, legal counsel for Edgar Uyunkar, praised Michel for “his great wisdom in delivering the decision. He showed sympathy for the accused and the community. It was a noteworthy decision that showed he understands the spirit of the community,” Greenspoon said.
Federal crown attorney Joe Chapman said he was satisfied with the results of the hearing.
“Often it is the easiest thing in the world to say everyone should go to jail when you are dealing with drug charges,” he said.
“But in this case jail was not appropriate for these particular persons. The important thing here is the protection of the community.”
Juan Uyunkar’s attorney, William Trudell, was also “thrilled with the result.”
He, too, praised Michel for “working very hard to bring all the pieces together. He really reached out to everyone, the accused and the community, in order to get a balance.
“This judge did an incredible job. He recognized that it is important to talk about the spiritual aspects of this case. And by doing so, he really set the tone for the day; it was a brilliant decision.”