A man accused of leading West Kelowna RCMP on a pursuit while driving a stolen vehicle and possessing two prohibited firearms has been granted bail — in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cody Sylvester Janvier‑Charland has been in custody pending trial since May 25, 2019, when he and his passenger, Benjamin Joseph Grandbois were arrested facing several charges including four firearms-related charges, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer and possession of stolen property over $5,000.
Driver out-maneuvered the RCMP
Janvier‑Charland and Grandbois allegedly stole a Ford F350 with Alberta plates on May 25, 2019. The vehicle was reported stolen that night and spotted soon after by an officer. The officer attempted to pull the vehicle over but instead of stopping, the truck took off at a high rate of speed, leading to significant police involvement.
Janvier-Charland allegedly managed to out-maneuver the RCMP with a series of u‑turns, swerving around roadblocks, avoiding spike belts and generally outrunning the police who were not inclined to engage in a chase.
Eventually, the truck drove down a dead-end road and became high-centred while attempting to drive through a field. The truck was swarmed by several police officers with their guns drawn, and both Janvier-Charland and Grandbois were arrested.
RCMP seized an unloaded sawed-off shotgun and a sawed-off rifle with a round in the chamber and the safety off. Ammunition was also found in the truck and on Janvier-Charland’s person. He was also carrying gloves and a balaclava and cocaine.
The truck owner claimed there were no guns or ammunition in the vehicle when it was stolen.
Granting bail a ‘close call’
Justice Gary Weatherill said Janvier-Charland is facing lengthy imprisonment if he is convicted of the charges he’s facing.
And this isn’t the first time he’s faced such charges.
At the time of his arrest, Janvier-Charland had no criminal record. He was, however, facing a series of what Justice Weatherill called “remarkably similar” charges out of Alberta, offences alleged to have occurred just a couple months before the incident in West Kelowna.
While Janvier-Charland eventually pled guilty to the Alberta charges following his arrest last May, when the West Kelowna incident happened, he was out on bail and subject to several conditions, many of which were allegedly broken.
“The Crown points to the Alberta recognizance entered into two months before these offences were alleged to have occurred, as a good indication that he has trouble complying with court orders. The inference the Crown draws is that if he is released, he will return to Alberta and will not attend the July 13, 2020 trial,” said Weatherill.
Janvier-Charland’s defence lawyer argued he should be released on several conditions, saying his release plan is strict and addresses any concerns regarding Janvier-Charland’s compliance. Those conditions include his release to the care of his mother near the Cold Lake Reserve in Alberta.
“The chief of the Cold Lake Band is aware of Mr. Janvier‑Charland’s situation and has approved his return to the reserve,” said Weatherill.
Weatherill said it was a “close call” but the COVID-19 pandemic and acceptable release plan persuaded him in favour of granting Janvier-Charland’s bail.
Once home, Janvier-Charland will be placed under a 24‑hour house arrest with very limited exceptions, including that he could only leave the house in the immediate presence of his mother and to travel to and from any employment that he would be able to secure with the permission of his bail supervisor in advance and be permitted outside his mother’s house while in her immediate presence.
COVID-19 tips the scale in favour of release
Weatherill gave his judgement on April 3, the day after a case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Okanagan Correctional Centre, where Janvier-Charland was being held.
“Of grave concern to Mr. Janvier‑Charland is a significant risk that he will contract COVID‑19 if he is not released. As mentioned, as of yesterday (April 2), one case of the disease has been confirmed among the inmate population at OCC. There are likely to be others,” said Weatherill.
Weatherill recognized the accused and other inmates are kept in confined spaces where protocols for physical distancing are far more difficult to implement, making the risk to the inmate population significantly higher than on the outside.
“It is true that there is no evidence that Mr. Janvier‑Charland has any underlying or pre‑existing physical or mental health issues that may make him more susceptible to this disease,” he added. “Indeed, at age 24, I take judicial notice that he is at a lower risk category than elderly people.”
Weatherill concluded that the COVID‑19 issue is a serious matter and a factor that must be considered in balancing whether or not to release Janvier‑Charland.
“Given the unprecedented times we are all facing with COVID‑19, and given that as of yesterday (April 2) it has infected at least one member of the OCC population, I cannot consider the issue neutral. I consider it a factor that weighs in favour of Mr. Janvier‑Charland’s release,” he said.