Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Photo Submitted

Pictured above: MICHAEL NEHASS

Man’s high-profile legal battle has ended

After nearly six years,

By Emily Blake on September 8, 2017

After nearly six years, Michael Nehass’s battle with the Yukon justice system is over.

This morning, Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux filed a stay of proceedings in the case, putting an end to the lengthy criminal matter.

Nehass, 33, was facing several criminal charges, including assault with a weapon and forcible confinement, related to the alleged assault of a woman by knife-point in Watson Lake in 2011.

The decision comes after Marcoux and defence lawyer Anik Morrow were unable to come to an agreement over three days of private discussions.

Morrow, who hails from Toronto, had applied for a judicial stay of proceedings, alleging that Nehass’ rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated.

A judicial stay is the most dramatic remedy available to the court, where a judge finds that a trial would be an abuse of process and violate the principles of justice.

Charges in these cases may never be prosecuted while charges stayed by the Crown may be recommenced within one year.

Marcoux told the court that the Crown does not agree with allegations by the defence and, upon review of public safety and the public interest, decided to stay the proceedings.

Meanwhile, Morrow called the stay a “manoeuvre” by the Crown to avoid the costs of litigation and hearing any allegations of misconduct.

“Mr. Nehass is cut free from the umbilical cord of the justice system but unceremoniously dumped on the sidewalk in Ontario,” she said, calling the actions of the Crown “shameful.”

Nehass is currently at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, where he was sent for a mental health assessment by court order late last year.

The facility is in the process of having Nehass discharged.

There are plans for him to be moved to British Columbia, which will be firmed up early next week.

Marcoux, however, objected to Morrow’s assessment of the situation, saying that the statements were her opinion rather than evidence.

“I am not going to sit here and listen to this blaming game,” he told the court.

Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale told Marcoux he would allow Morrow to voice her concerns about the case.

He noted that the Crown filed the stay “at the last minute.” That left the court with little other avenue to hear about issues of public protection and the treatment of people with mental illness.

Marcoux excused himself from the courtroom for the remainder of Morrow’s statements.

During a passionate delivery, Morrow detailed many of the issues that have been highlighted in the complex case over the years.

This includes allegations of Nehass’ mistreatment and the overuse of segregation at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC).

Morrow noted that the treatment of Indigenous people, people with mental illness, and the use of segregation are key issues in Canada’s justice system.

“We are unanimous in Canada and internationally that segregation for mentally ill individuals is not something we’re interested in,” she said.

Nehass, a member of the Tahltan Nation, has been diagnosed with mental illness including schizophrenia.

He was a needy and vulnerable individual who was put in segregation where he spent 22 to 23 hours a day in a cell, Morrow said.

He was often put in handcuffs, shackles and belly chains while he was out of his cell, she added, even while he showered.

“That is the treatment of an individual who was presumed innocent before a court of law,” she said.

While Nehass spent five years in jail, he was never sentenced for the criminal charges.

Morrow claimed circumstances are what lead to Nehass’ treatment, noting that the WCC is not equipped to deal with mental illness.

And moving forward, she hopes that improvements can be made.

“The Yukon has a special opportunity, it has the potential to be creative,” she said.

Justice Veale noted that he plans to write a memorandum on the case, noting that it is “far too important to simply disappear.”

He also expressed disappointment that the Crown decided not to stay for the remainder of the discussion.

“I find it unfortunate that the Crown has bowed out of the proceeding, having made their move. It makes it difficult for justice to be done.”

The case made legal history in Canada, as Nehass was declared unfit for trial after he was found guilty of several charges by a judge and jury.

Last February, a mistrial was declared in the case and the Crown opted to retry the charges leading to the current proceeding.

Comments (32)

Up 2 Down 0

Evangeline Ramirez on Oct 4, 2017 at 9:10 am

I am very happy that Mr. Nehass found Atty. Anik Morrow to defend him. Justice is for all no matter who you are. Even the dull and ignorant have their days in court. The value of "freedom" is measured by the cost of freedom. If you need freedom, then you have to become a "fighter" as no other option.
I myself a "victim" of crime and re-victimized by the Yukon justice system when a crown counsel withdrew the case of bigamy because there is no "PUBLIC INTEREST" of bigamy by the Yukon party government. Section 290,293 in the CRIMINAL CODE "BIGAMY" is to be prosecuted and 5 years imprisonment. This bigamist is still on the free but I believe in the last judgment that justice will be done. PERSEVERANCE is not a long race, it is many short races one after another. Thank you.

Up 7 Down 3

Robbo on Sep 13, 2017 at 4:37 pm

We have enough troubled individuals in British Columbia, we don't need Yukon's cast-offs. He's all yours. Please keep him and care for him.

Up 10 Down 15

Josey Wales on Sep 12, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Politico....you must be new here, I have offered a solution consistently for years. Do you remember Trevor the dog?
Well the Trevor the human types can use that as an example of why one must behave...as I support the same solution for problems as these.
Or do you support that we are mere stabbing, beating practice dummies for folks who absolutely should be segregated from a "civilized" society?

Up 23 Down 3

moe on Sep 12, 2017 at 8:16 pm

If he is not criminally responsible due to being insane, he belongs in an institution. If he is criminally responsible, because he's not all that mentally ill, he still belongs in an institution.

Failing that, a current photograph and notes on where he is residing would be a bare minimum so people know what they are dealing with if he crosses their path.
They've shot how many bears in Whitehorse this year? 40? One because it sat in a tree. This person is far more dangerous than any of those bears. I am not saying he should be shot, but where is the concern for all the kids and old people and everyone else while this volatile, now diagnosed schizophrenic but refuses to take medication, person with a long violent criminal history is 'discharged' with all charges dropped.

Up 21 Down 0

L.Szigey on Sep 12, 2017 at 6:56 pm

As an update for anyone continuing to read this story, M.Nehass is looking at permanent residency in a mental institution...where hopefully he can have his most serious issues addressed and treated.

Up 27 Down 1

Barb P on Sep 12, 2017 at 6:54 pm

@Politico - We did just elect a different federal MP and a new territorial govt. But we are always limited to voting for people who are actually on the slate. But why do think this is about politics?

When it comes to people facing charges, judges largely run the show. By making rulings and decisions, judges - who are separate from govt - can create change much faster than any politician can. (See the Jordan Principle)

Lawyers, in partnership with judges, are also involved in scheduling court hearings in a timely fashion and being well prepared.

It's unfortunate that after being found unfit by a judge, the review board found him fit. It allowed Nehass to routinely fire lawyers appointed for him and represent himself - a situation where Nehasses case became derailed because he managed it while in his delusional state.

I see very few "hateful comments" here. Most people are expressing their concern for public safety due to Mr. Nehass' violent past, which goes back well before questions raised about his mental health. Even more people know someone who was a victim or they are genuinely concerned about the consequences of his actions in the community.

I don't think most Yukoners wish Mr. Nehass ill. We know there are few resources for co-operative people with mental health issues, let alone for someone who has demonstrated violence and refuses medication.

Do you have an answer about how to address the mental health problems? You have a right to share your suggestions.
There are public safety issues at stake here, and the community also has the right to express their concerns.

Up 15 Down 3

ralpH on Sep 12, 2017 at 5:22 pm

@Politico - He can come live with You. Problem solved. Hatred gone and ruined lives gone. Thanks

Up 1 Down 9

good luck on Sep 12, 2017 at 5:17 pm

i hope you do well. People may never understand ... vvvv just prove all that wrong.

Up 12 Down 40

Politico on Sep 11, 2017 at 8:54 pm

It's amazing how much hatred there is in these replies but none of them suggests a solution. What do you people propose we do with him? And please don't blame the lawyers and judges. You keep electing the same old politicians who refuse to fix the system. He's one of the victims here, sad to say.

Up 22 Down 35

Jack M. on Sep 11, 2017 at 2:27 pm

I understand that the concerns about public safety. But Nehass and other similar cases - challenge our justice system. He is mentally ill and his experience in WCC exacerbated his condition. The local Crown office has completely bungled this matter - when it had a chance to deal with his illness issues, it decided to throw the book at him - now they lost in court. If the WCC was something other than a super-max institution, perhaps he could have been held responsible before he descended further into his illness. This is very worrisome. Now what do we, as a society, do with respect to this individual. Clearly he belongs in an institution and requires some form of treatment.

Up 42 Down 1

Not a good thing on Sep 11, 2017 at 2:19 pm

A mentally ill person with violent predisposition should not be released into the public, prior to being declared as not being a danger to other or himself by a panel of doctors. That is standard procedure for mentally ill patients all over Canada.

Releasing people like this is literally insane. You want an example, look at Vancouver's downtown east side. Riverview hospital closed and released people who ended up in dilapidated hotels up and down Hastings street.

This is not only immoral it's criminal. If this person commits another crime, at least we have his lawyers and the prosecutions name, to know who to sue for negligence.

Up 49 Down 4

Mr M on Sep 11, 2017 at 10:33 am

Yeah let him go so the next crime he commits is murder. Makes me sick when these type of people and the ones that stand up for them can't admit when they are wrong. Our society is going to hell in a hand basket. Lock him up for good. I for one don't mind paying extra to keep my family and others safe.

Up 46 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Sep 11, 2017 at 9:55 am

I wonder how Mr. Nehass’s next victim will fare once he is back on the streets? Nehass has cast the die for his life going forward through his previous actions of violence and indifference to the well-being of others. Yet somehow this is all about him? Too late, he had his chance and he blew it multiple times. From my perspective the courts should now be focused on how society is to be protected from this repeat violent offender.
I also believe this is a good time to talk about accountability- not Mr. Nehass’s, it's been proven he has none, but rather the accountability of our judicial system. If they let this repeat violent offender back on the street and he does attack somebody else- they should be held accountable for their poor decisions. Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux and defense lawyer Anik Morrow are named in this story so there is no hiding within the nameless bureaucracy of the legal system. Their decisions have consequences for Nehass and the community. It's time for them to stand by their decisions.

Up 45 Down 1

Bob on Sep 10, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Nehaus is dangerous .. just wait .. he'll be arrested soon again .. I know him.. he can twist anything around Sotheby's gullible will swallow it.

Up 61 Down 2

Tracy on Sep 10, 2017 at 5:20 pm

What a gong show, seems like no one can get this right, even the reporting!
His age changes, his sanity changes, whether he's taking medication, whether he's guilty, whether he'll be re-tried and whether he's going to be found 'dangerous'.

How much money have the phsychiratrists, review board, defence and crown lawyers, judges and the review board made thru the years to come up with with this level of incompetence. Only bureaucrats and the courts could get away this and still have a job.

No wonder after all this money and time the guy thinks he's entitled to be put up in a hotel down south or in Yukon. Maybe throw in a new car furnished house and a puppy?

Up 44 Down 2

BEWARE on Sep 10, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Sadly he will kill someone, also just as sad is our liberal consent based systems will not get him the help he requires nor keep the community safe. Sad day upcoming when another victim will be created.

Up 47 Down 4

Bob Ablanalp on Sep 10, 2017 at 10:48 am

I'm 74 and walk with a cane.
How long before he demands money from me in the downtown streets of Whitehorse?

Up 15 Down 45

Pete on Sep 10, 2017 at 9:55 am

Sadly, our "systems" only serve themselves; there is no potential for healing or so called justice.

Up 65 Down 5

Marcel on Sep 10, 2017 at 8:58 am

Perhaps our the media investigative team should track down and interview some of the WCC guards that had to look after this person from day one to day 2000. Mr. Nehass was the most feared individual outside and inside WCC. He tried to burn the old WCC down as well as the new. Maybe Ms. Bonneyfoy can take Mikey under her wing and begin the process of turning him into a productive member of society....good luck!

Up 60 Down 8

north_of_60 on Sep 9, 2017 at 6:13 pm

One wonders if Ms.LB would feel the same if she was the woman he assaulted at knifepoint?
If he had been quickly brought to justice for this offense, instead of becoming a pawn of the bleeding-heart SJWs, then it likely would have resulted in a much different outcome. It's obvious their goal was using Nehass to "make history as one of the most extreme systematic abuse cases in all of Canadian history." THEY are the ones guilty of abuse.

Up 61 Down 6

Tired of excuses on Sep 9, 2017 at 5:56 pm

It's completely ridiculous to play the race card ..... he was held for the safety of the public with reason ! maybe the crown failed the victim and the tax paying citizens of Yukon and Canada

Up 70 Down 4

Dave on Sep 9, 2017 at 3:40 pm

If memory serves correctly the news reports at the time stated that he was in chains and in segregation while in jail because he tried to wreck his jail cell and also the jails cafeteria area, and he also assaulted jail guards on at least one occasion giving one a bloody nose. He was in jail in the first place because he violently assaulted a woman, and he was in chains in jail because supposedly if let loose he tried to wreck everything in sight. It was also reported that he was brought naked before the camera for the on tv court interview because he would not co-operate with the process and refused to even get dressed, then played the poor me I'm naked look what they've done to me card once he was on camera.
I don't buy the Mr. Nehass is the real victim here angle for one moment, from all reports he is a extremely dangerous individual who will now be right back out on the street.

Up 80 Down 5

SJWs Fix This! on Sep 9, 2017 at 2:50 pm

It keeps flipping back and forth between sane and crazy and no one cares about the one thing that matters to Yukoners, which is, is is he still dangerous?
If it's the blame game again, why don't we READ HOW LONG HE WAS ABLE TO STAY OUT OF JAIL between crimes? His crimes have been in the news for years, 33 years old and how long have we been paying for him, since his childhood?
Agreed Original Victim, have his victims been taken care of half as well as he has?
Who phoned the cops all those times and why? Because he's dangerous and violent and commits crime wherever he goes.
It's always the same story, I was doing fine and got wrecked in jail. Then don't do the things that get the cops called! Guards don't drag people to jail, cops and judges do that. Why did the judges keep him locked up for so long?
Maybe the SJWs can take him to your home and fix him so he stops wrecking lives here. Write up and share that secret magic recipe to fix him and all the other muffins in the jail! Start teaching it in schools so we don't have more criminals. I'm tired of coddling people with our tax $$$

Up 20 Down 101

Prag Matic on Sep 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

My hope is that the current government can become creative with a Justice Department that is keeps chasing their tails. In the last few years WCC has lost is way. It has done so because corrections in the Yukon has lost its humanity. You cannot hope to rehabilitate when you put inmates in segregation.

Staff with limited training and understanding of mental health, FASD, addictions, residential schools and First Nations culture must be addressed. The BC regime that was brought up here to remedy processes have all but disappeared. Their legacy is a institution, not a healing centre as was discussed. Staff attrition has always been a problem. As a result, new Correctional officers are ill eqipped to deal with a Correctional environment. Without the capacity to understand, interact and problem solve effectively locking folks up is the solution.

What a disappointing monolith WCC has become and it had such great potential. Yukon made programming will work, FN involvement will work. Life skills based programming will work. Retaining and attracting qualified staff will work. What won't work; cultural irrelevant programming.

There is a disconnect with staff downtown and those at WCC. Working collaboratively rather adversarily might have resulted in better services allotted to Mr. Nehass. Neglect is not a rehabilitative tool, nor is ignorance.

A challenge needs to go out so what happened does not occur again. And for those that allowed it to happen; shame on you. Stop wondering when and where your next coffee break is.

Up 74 Down 4

ralpH on Sep 9, 2017 at 8:30 am

I certainly hope Justice Veale has taken into consideration, the impact of this guy wandering the streets of Whitehorse. He has no support network there, except the street itself, as I understand it. This I believe will not turn out for the best and there will be more victims and destroyed lives. Understand the points of law BUT there is also public safety concerns!

Up 103 Down 5

What About The Original Victim? on Sep 9, 2017 at 8:19 am

I wonder how the woman he assaulted at knifepoint is doing? I wonder if she received even a tenth of the attention he has gotten? Did she get sent to a facility to help her recover from her trauma? The statements from the original trial said that it was an extremely violent attack. However the legal system has managed to turn the focus of the entire episode into a story about 'poor Mr. Nehass'.

Up 54 Down 5

Kj on Sep 9, 2017 at 5:53 am

Read up until "discharged". Used to being disappointed in the legal system...oops I mean justice system, but let this man free? Someone we can all agree is a danger to everyone?

Up 9 Down 112

Linda Bonnefoy on Sep 8, 2017 at 11:04 pm

I attend each and every one of Michaels hearings and Michaels case will make history as one of the most extreme systematic abuse cases in all of Canadian history. Michael Nehass was not schizophrenic or even bi-polar when he entered the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system a very long time ago failed Michael Nehass. Michael Nehass was a traumatized man who was systematically bullied into repeated mental health assessments. Michael Nehass never beat anyone for forty minutes....there would have been at least one mark of that woman's body.....but there was not one mark. The courts concluded that the red line could have been from overheating as there was no figure print left on her by Michael.

Up 16 Down 114

Roger Ellis on Sep 8, 2017 at 6:49 pm

Im sooo glad this finally got out to the public like residential school about how indigineous FN are being treated & finally spoken out in supreme court of canada
I pray the justice system changes the laws & start working together wth FN & prove there is reconciliation

Up 40 Down 17

Kati Ramsay on Sep 8, 2017 at 6:10 pm

Do not send him back to BC why should we pay for the Yukons screw up in their judicial system

Up 24 Down 8

just wondering... on Sep 8, 2017 at 5:38 pm

if there is any chance of a more recent photo.

Up 73 Down 3

yukon56 on Sep 8, 2017 at 4:18 pm

How long till his next charge? Hopefully not murder

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.