Canadian court jails Haitian for smuggling cocaine from Guyana

A Haitian woman, who was caught transporting cocaine from Guyana to Canada in 2008, was recently sentenced to 37 months in jail in Canada.

Stephanie Remarais, 24, will also spend an additional 85 days in jail for failing to appear for a pre-sentencing report.

According to the decision by Judge J Leising, which was released on Monday, in August last year Remarais was convicted by a jury of importing cocaine into Canada. Some 824.8 grammes of cocaine were found hidden in her suitcase during an inspection by a Canadian Border Services officer at the Pearson International Airport in Toronto. The cocaine had a street value of approximately Cdn$100,000.

It was stated that she was caught on May 20, 2008 when she arrived in Canada from Guyana and the cocaine was found hidden in the bottom rails of the two pieces of luggage she had in her possession at the time.

The judge said the matter was put over to October 28, 2010 for a sentencing hearing but it was forced to be adjourned because the person preparing the pre-sentence report had difficulty setting up an interview with Remarais. A second date was set but the woman failed to show again and she was subsequently charged and pleaded guilty to failing to appear at her sentencing hearing on March 7, after surrendering to the police.

Remarais was born in Haiti but travelled to Canada to live when she was three years old and since that time she has lived in various family arrangements both in Canada and Haiti. The judge said he agreed with defence counsel that she lacked mentoring as she grew up, which resulted in her making poor life choices. To her credit, the judge said, she completed her high school education at an adult learning centre. She commenced but did not complete a travel and tourism course through Everest College.

Before sentencing the woman, the judge noted that the importation of illegal drugs is one of the most serious offences dealt with by the courts given the impact such drugs have on society. He said it is for that reason, even for first offences, that a significant period of incarceration is called for. The sentencing principle of general deterrence is of most importance, to send a message that the importation of drugs will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

The judge said while he believed a sentence of 44 months was appropriate he sentenced her to 37 months instead, noting that she was a young first time offender with a difficult childhood. However, he said she still needed to be held accountable for her attempt to take a very dangerous drug into the country.

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