The former chief councillor for Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni has pleaded guilty to numerous charges, including assault and theft, dating back over the past two years.
At the Port Alberni Law Court on Wednesday, Feb. 3, Steven Patrick Tatoosh pleaded guilty to assault, trespassing, theft and possession of stolen property.
Crown Counsel Christina Proteau described four incidents that occurred between 2019 and 2020. Proteau noted that Tatoosh has a prior criminal record, but said that it is “dated and unrelated.” He has been on curfew since January of 2020.
“From what I understand, this re-entry into the criminal justice system has occurred because of some drug use that started in 2019,” said Proteau.
The first incident came about in Aug. 2019, when Tatoosh’s common law spouse reported to police that Tatoosh had “shoved and pushed her,” said Proteau. Around this time, Tatoosh also took a medical leave from council.
In Dec. 2019, a United Cab driver reported to RCMP that he had been assaulted. Tatoosh had been “verbally aggressive” and reportedly struck the driver in the face, although the driver did not suffer any injuries from the incident, said Proteau.
Tatoosh was also charged with trespassing after he was found in a garage on Seventh Avenue back in January 2020. At this time, he was found to be in possession of stolen property belonging to two other individuals, including a credit card, a cell phone and a set of keys.
Finally, Tatoosh was recorded on CCTV footage stealing a coffee press from the Co-op gas station on Beaver Creek Road in July 2020.
Proteau and defence lawyer Michael Munro offered a joint submission for a suspended sentence of 18 months probation.
“Crown is looking at Mr. Tatoosh as someone that does not have any related convictions,” said Proteau. “Mr. Tatoosh is someone that’s been at the courthouse over the years, but not as an accused person—he’s been here supporting members of his community. His health certainly deteriorated over the course of the past year, given his drug addiction issues. He does look much healthier than when I last saw him.”
Munro said that a combination of alcohol and opioid use started a “downward spiral” for Tatoosh, but added that Tatoosh has been sober for two and a half months and is currently accessing medical care.
Judge Alexander Wolf recommended that Tatoosh pursue a Gladue report. A Gladue report is a pre-sentence report that details the unique life circumstances of an Aboriginal person charged with a criminal offence and provides recommendations for the judge to consider in terms of sentencing.
Tatoosh agreed on Wednesday to request a Gladue report. His next court appearance will be March 31, after which his sentencing date will be set.
A spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada reported that Tatoosh was removed from the position of chief councillor at Hupacasath First Nation on Dec. 29, 2020, after an order was signed by federal Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller.
The Hupacasath First Nation council is comprised of one chief and three councillors, so the vacancy did not affect council’s ability to form quorum.
Hupacasath’s next election date is April 6, 2021.
A spokesperson for Hupacasath First Nation was not able to provide comment.