A Chilliwack man who was given a five-year sentence for stabbing another man has had his sentence reduced to four years on appeal. The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that David Johnathan Michael Kehoe’s Indigenous heritage and “difficult upbringing” weren’t weighed properly when Supreme Court Justice Alan Ross handed down his sentence in November of 2021.
Kehoe was found guilty of the Aug. 24, 2018 stabbing in the parking lot of a Garrison Village apartment complex. The victim and two other men were playing loud music on a Bluetooth speaker shortly before midnight. Kehoe threw eggs at them from his balcony, then went outside to confront them. After some pushing and shoving, the three men left.
Kehoe went back to his apartment, put on a hoodie and grabbed a kitchen knife and followed them along Vedder Road. Two of the men crossed the road to get away from him. The victim, who was slightly intoxicated, turned to face Kehoe and was stabbed once in the chest and once in the side. He was taken to hospital with several injuries, and without surgery he would have died.
Ross characterized the attack as “without provocation or threat,” saying the victim “posed no threat.”
After stabbing the victim, Kehoe moved toward the other men, and one of them was able to hit him on the head with a taser baton. At that point Kehoe picked up their Bluetooth speaker and ran away.
Before sentencing, a Gladue report was produced to help Ross determine whether Kehoe’s Indigenous roots played a role in the crime, and he found it did not. Kehoe was raised by his mother, who is Indigenous, and stepfather who is non-Indigenous. Crown prosecutor Grant Lindsey suggested the negative experiences from his youth weren’t connected in any way to his Indigenous heritage or the legacy of residential schools, but rather to his stepfather’s lifestyle and connections to the drug trade.
Lindsey noted that Kehoe wasn’t aware of the Indigenous heritage on his mother’s side until shortly before sentencing.
“I consider the nexus between Mr. Kehoe’s Indigenous status and this offence to be limited,” Ross said in his decision.
But three justices from the Court of Appeal said Ross made a mistake.
“Disconnection is one of the very harms associated with Canada’s colonial history and assimilationist policies that Gladue seeks to address,” wrote Justices Harvey Groberman, John Hunter and Leonard Marchand.
The justices suggested that if not for policies designed to disconnect Indigenous people from their communities, cultures and supports, Kehoe’s outcome may have been much better.
Without those policies, “the appellant stood a much better chance of being raised in a stable and functional environment where his heritage was celebrated and where he would develop pro-social and community-oriented values. Accordingly, the appellant’s moral blameworthiness was significantly reduced.”
Kehoe has a criminal record for several break-and-enters in Surrey from a decade ago. He was also convicted of publication of an intimate image without consent in 2020 for which he received a conditional sentence. And he is facing a trial for a domestic assault in March.
At the time of his original five year (1,825-day) sentence, Kehoe was credited with 260 days in custody, leaving 1,565 to serve. The reduced sentence knocks off 365 days and Kehoe has already been behind bars for 672 days, leaving 788 to go. He is eligible for statutory release after two-thirds of his sentence is served, which would see him freed in late October.