A former Captain with the Port Hope Air Cadet Squadron was sentenced to 20-months in jail after pleading guilty to sexual exploitation in Superior Court on Monday, October 19, 2020.
Former Captain Michael Pellerin-Huffman who was 30-years-old at the time of the offence. The victim was a 16-years-old Cadet who cannot be named due to a publication ban.
The sentencing hearing took place over Zoom on Monday.
Appearing in the virtual court on Monday was Crown was JulieAnn Barrett, Justice Jill Cameron and Defense counsel Kiran Grewal.
Pellerin-Huffman was a part time member of the Port Hope Air Cadet Squadron was charged after Port Hope Police commenced an investigation concerning a complaint. The complaint centred on an inappropriate relationship between this member and a female associated with the organization, spending time together outside of Air Cadet activities. Port Hope Police began the investigation on May 29 resulting in the arrest on June 4, 2019.
Pellerin-Huffman, was charged with sexual exploitation and sexual assault and plead guilty to sexual exploitation.
The Crown was seeking a sentence of 18-months to two years in jail along with two years probation.
“We know the primary principles in this case must be denunciation and deterrence,” said Barrett.
“This court must condemn this conduct in the clearest terms.”
“The defendant was in a clear position of authority and trust.”
The Crown said mitigating factors were that Pellerin-Huffman plead guilty and has no criminal record, but said the victim was a “vulnerable young woman at a very vulnerable age figuring out who she is and who she will be in the world.”
“She should have been safe at Cadets. She should have been safe with the defendant – she was not.”
“He exploited her trust. He exploited the trust of her family and violated her in a terrible way for his own sexual purposes.”
“These were repeated incidents that occurred more than once over a period of time.”
The defence was seeking a jail-term of one year.
“His intentions were always to take responsibility for this,” said Grewal.
Pellerin-Huffman has been on bail with no surety and no breaches stated Grewal.
“He’s taken responsibility since day one.”
“This has impacted the victim, her family, but it has also affected Mr. Pellerin-Huffman, his family, his respect in the community.”
Grewal read a statement to the court from Pellerin-Huffman stating,
“When I was approached for help (by the victim) I knew at the time I should have said no. My desire to answer a call for help was my motivation behind allowing things to proceed further and nothing else. It was neither my area of expertise nor appropriate for me to do so. I fully recognize this and this was only the beginning of very bad decisions. Regardless of my motivation it does not change the impact of my actions, much less justify them. I failed in my duty and retribution is absolutely appropriate. Some have said on social media that I should be locked away for life, castrated or even deserve death. I cannot disagree with any of suggestions. Not a day goes by that I don’t struggle with that and I have starred death in the face at least a dozen times as a result. I am however thankful that I was not successful for my daughters sake. My family, my daughter and my ability to provide for them is all that I have and the reason I fight to keep going since my detention in hospital. I am afraid. I am afraid mostly the consequences of my actions is going to result in my families diffusion. That being said, I totally recognize that these consequences I am facing and its impact of those consequences will have on my family is 100% my responsibility as well. I recognize that today it is not about me or what I want. I don’t care what happens to me. I’m prepared to accept whatever it is your Honour decides. I just hope that there is a way to pay my debt to all the parties involved while minimizing the impact on my family. I know it won’t change anything, but I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologize to all involved. I am sure I will not be forgiven. I certainly have not been able to forgive myself.”
Justice Cameron stated to Pellerin-Huffman that it was a “increased awkwardness to the process having to do everything by audio or video.”
“It’s not really helpful to anyone, but it’s the best option we have at this point.”
Pellerin-Huffman plead guilty to the offence of touching for a sexual purpose – a young person for being in a position of trust or authority towards that young person. Specifically a person who is 16 to 18 years less a day.
“Mr. Pellerin-Huffman was a Commanding Officer in the Cadet unit that (the victim) was part of. He was clearly in a position of trust and authority towards her. The onus is on him according to section 153 to ensure that there is no boundary crossed.
“In March of 2019 the (victim) had a personal crisis drawing both of them closer together which became a factor leading to a physically intimate relationship which lasted about a month.
Despite her many achievements, abilities and self confidence at that time. (The victim) was also a person who was young and vulnerable. She was entitled to rely on those adult around her to protect her and assist her navigating her difficulties. There has been a guilty plea in this case. And it is a significant mitigation because it endorses (the victims) reality and saves her from the hardships of testifying and all that goes with it in participating with a trial process.
The offence goes back to May 2019. Mr. Pellerin-Huffman was arrested and released in June 2019 and a plea of guilty was forecast as of late 2019. There has been some delay in the process due to period of time Mr. Pellerin-Huffman experienced mental health crisis and was hospitalized and of course we were all dealing with delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions it created for court proceedings.”
Justice Cameron said a pre-sentence report related his accountability to the offense and remorse.
“His words today do so even more. They do demonstrate an acceptance of responsibility.” “Greater insight into the harm done then is revealed in the pre-sentence report and a willingness to be accountable.
The pre-sentence report did raise something of a concern for this court. That Mr. Pellerin-Huffman was not open to counselling at this time. That position may have changed or may change in the near future. Clearly counselling is warranted given Mr. Pellerin-Huffman’s own mental health crisis and the need to come to grips with his behaviour and his state of mind which resulted in this very serious offence.”
Justice Cameron said Pellerin-Huffman was suspended, disciplined and discharged from the military.
“As an adult, especially one in a position of trust it was Mr. Pellerin-Huffman’s duty and obligation to desist from any intimate relationship with the victim. He was aware of her personal crisis and hence her vulnerability. To say that he was in love with her at the time was an attempt to rationalize his behaviour, but is no excuse at all and certainly no mitigation. Clearly his conduct requires punishment by incarceration. Lesser forms of sentence in my view are not appropriate.”
“Denunciation and deterrence are primary considerations.”
“In my view in this case where we have a young woman in so many ways was so capable and displayed as mature she was still a child and deserved the respect from the adults in her life, particularly people in positions of trust.”
Pellerin-Huffman received a sentence of 20-months in custody plus two-years probation, along with a DNA order.
Pellerin-Huffman will appear in Cobourg Court on October 26, 2020 in Courtroom 3 at 9:30 a.m. to have the sentence of 20-months imposed.
Mother of the victim – Victim Impact Statement
I am (the victim’s) mother.
Which means I’ve looked into her sweet face since she was born. In that moment I imagined so many things. Wonderful things that her life may bring. As she grew, I began to worry. As all mothers do. About the usual things. Friendship drama, boys, her age – all the common mother worries.
Not once did I imagine this situation. Picture a mother sending her child into a wholesome community based organization which emphasizes integrity, morals, team spirit and community involvement.
An organization closely affiliated with the men and women who serve this Country and fought for our freedom.
I felt safe that both she and I could trust the people charged with her care to have her best interests at heart.
That trust and belief was ripped away.
Now everytime I leave a child in the care of another person outside of my family, my heart pounds. I’m anxious. I sit in my car feeling nauseous. I’m not fit to drive in those moments so I just cry in the parking lot. I cry (for my daughter). Her self of self and dignity that was stripped away. Her bedroom walls once filled with awards she worked for, the pictures of good times from Cadets – those walls are bare now.
As all of those awards and achievements are tarnished for her. I cry with fear (for my other children).
What if this happens to them. What if my new anxiety stifles them or they miss out on experiences because I am to anxious to let them go.
I cry (for my daughters) Aunts and grandmother who she withdrew from because she was ashamed and was afraid of questions.
I cry for any other family with a child knows the pain of sexual assault. No family should have to go through this.
Lastly I cry for myself. No mother should have to watch their child fight like (she) has. I have watched her lose herself, lose her friends, lose her self respect, lose every bit of the person she was all due to the actions of Michael Pellerin-Huffman.
A person we trusted. A person who was representing some of our finest Canadians. Our soldiers and veterans.
But, she has fought. She has slowly come back to us. It has taken over a year, but she is fighting for herself. No person, especially not a child should have to fight this fight. For the rest of my life I will be unable to fully trust another adult be alone with my children.
I will be anxious and afraid when I leave them with a caregiver for an activity.
Any sentence you had out today will not bring back my trust in people, or my daughters sense of self. But it is bringing us hope that you will never be put in a position to commit these crimes again.
Victim’s Impact Statement read by Crown
Here I am again. I have to live through this again. It has taken me weeks of scratch notes and a journal to even try and begin to write this.
Did you hear that – because yes, I did say weeks.
I keep procrastinating the statement because living all this hurts and I do not want to thing about any of it.
I do not want to think about the fact that someone who took advantage of me while I was at one of my lowest points in life.
I should not have too. No one should. I lost what seemed life everything.
And everytime I start to find myself again this comes up trying to pull me back down.
The summer of 2019 was the worst period of time in my life. Due to all of this I lost my best friends, my other friends and my relationship with my family.
But most of all I lost myself.
My mental health became really bad along with my physical health. I could not sleep or eat properly. I was working 40 or more hours a week to distract myself.
I was stripped of every ounce of self confidence and self respect I had for myself.
I couldn’t let anyone in my space.
If someone got to close to me or touched me I’d jump.
I ended up resorting to solutions that were not good for me because I believed there was nothing left.
To this day I still struggle with that.
I have a hard time trusting people that I should really be able to trust.
Like my teachers, my counsellors and my cadet officers.
Who am I to trust now?
So I guess my most pressing question now is, who are you to think that any of that was ok?