Whitehorse Daily Star

Arntzen's victims' pain will endure, Hardy says

'I don't know if you can ever say there's a strong-enough sentence,' Opposition Leader Todd Hardy says of Thursday's 15-month conditional sentence handed to outgoing Copperbelt MLA Haakon Arntzen.

By Whitehorse Star on September 9, 2005

'I don't know if you can ever say there's a strong-enough sentence,' Opposition Leader Todd Hardy says of Thursday's 15-month conditional sentence handed to outgoing Copperbelt MLA Haakon Arntzen.

Arntzen was convicted of three counts of incident assault against two women who were children at the time of the crimes, which occurred between 1974 and 1980.

In Yukon Supreme Court Thursday afternoon, Justice Leigh Gower placed a sentence on Arntzen that included a stringently laid-out home arrest and 240 hours of community service.

Despite Arntzen's sentencing, Hardy says the crime is not yet all over with, because abuse still exists in communities and Arntzen's victims still have to live with it for the rest of their lives.

He says he hopes the trial and the sentence have brought them some healing, but adds that Arntzen still needs to show some remorse in the matter.

Arntzen maintained his innocence of the charges throughout the trial and following his conviction last May.

Though the sentence is conditional, Hardy says Gower sent a strong message to Arntzen by clamping several restrictions on his life and routine.

However, Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell doesn't agree. He says he's concerned a message may have been sent to the community that with the passage of time, the severity of a sentence diminishes.

But, he adds, 'I'm glad he's finally been sentenced.'

Arntzen's sentence indicates that should his bail supervisor see it necessary, he must take a psychological assessment and participate in a program directed at sex offenders.

Hardy says he hopes that happens. 'He needs to recognize he needs help.'

'It's good to have this long and drawn-out affair over,' says Mitchell.

Arntzen maintained his seat in the assembly throughout his charges, trial and conviction and continued to collect his $53,776 annual salary while also working as a truck driver on the side.

Arntzen should have resigned when he was convicted, says Mitchell.

Nothing has changed since the conviction except Arntzen firing Whitehorse-based lawyer Ed Horembala and hiring Edmonton-based attorney Brian Beresh, the Liberal leader added.

'If he felt it's appropriate to resign now, he should have resigned in the spring,' says Mitchell.

Beresh told the court Arntzen would resign his position as MLA following yesterday's sentencing.

Arntzen has submitted his letter of resignation to Ted Staffen, the Speaker of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.

A notice will then need to be given to Patrick Michael, clerk of the legislative assembly, who will inform Commissioner Jack Cable the seat has become vacant.

It will then be Premier Dennis Fentie's responsibility to contact the commissioner to call a byelection.

Fentie told the Star Thursday a byelection in the riding of Copperbelt will be called as soon as possible.

'We will make sure that the timing of the election is in the immediate future,' Fentie said. 'That's our focus now, and I want to assure the residents of Copperbelt that we are going to move as soon as possible to hold a byelection for them.'

Mitchell said the premier should make sure the election is called quickly.

The people in the riding have been without representation since the spring of 2004, when Arntzen was charged with the crimes, he said.

Arntzen has not asked a question in the house since Dec. 13, 2004 and was away from the assembly for much of the spring session because of his trial.

'I think the people of Copperbelt deserve a byelection,' Hardy told the Star. 'They could have had proper representation. The people of Copperbelt deserve to have an MLA for the fall sitting.'

The NDP put forward a motion during the spring sitting of the legislature calling for Arntzen's resignation, but the Yukon Party refused to debate it and it died on the floor.

'It's unfortunate that the premier and the Yukon Party have played politics around this for so long,' said Mitchell.

Mitchell, a resident of Copperbelt, ran against Arntzen in the 2002 territorial election and lost. He expects to run for the seat again in the pending byelection.

Be the first to comment

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.