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HomeNewsSon of ex-BC Liberal MLA avoids jail, sentenced to house arrest for sex crime

Son of ex-BC Liberal MLA avoids jail, sentenced to house arrest for sex crime

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Bob Mackin

The son of former BC Liberal MLA Judi Tyabji will not go to jail for sexual interference of a person under 16.   

Instead, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled June 4 in Powell River that Kasimir Tyabji-Sandana, 36, must spend the next two years, less a day, under house arrest. 

Crown prosecutor Jeffrey Young had asked Justice Peter Edelmann for a four-to-five year jail sentence. Defence lawyer David Tarnow successfully sought the house arrest sentence.

Kasimir Tyabji-Sandana (left) and Judi Tyabji (Instagram)

A jury convicted Tyabji-Sandana last October of the 2016 crime. When he was 28, he had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. The jury found him not guilty of a second count, invitation to sexual touching of a person under 16. 

Edelmann agreed with Tarnow that Tyabji-Sandana should not be incarcerated because his biological father is Indigenous. 

“There’s no suggestion the accused is a danger to anyone, so he need not be isolated in order to protect the public,” Edelmann said in his oral judgment. “By convicting him, society has already stigmatized him as a person who has committed a serious offence and has denounced his offence.”

Edelmann said the stigma and impact of the charges and conviction have been significant for Tyabji-Sandana, because he is a member of a prominent family in a small community. 

“The fact that the charges became known at the law school, he was ostracized,” he said. “There’s little question his conviction will present a significant impediment to any career he might wish to pursue.”

Tyabji-Sandana must remain at his residence 24 hours a day, every day, except with written permission from a conditional sentence supervisor for “employment or other compelling reasons” or for a medical emergency. Other conditions include: no direct or indirect contact with the victim; remain in B.C.; keep the peace, be of good behaviour and appear in front of a judge when requested; provide DNA samples for the national sex offenders’ registry; and no possession of a firearm for 10 years.

“I hope that we won’t be seeing you before the court, in that part of the courtroom,” Edelmann said to Tyabji-Sandana, a reference to his pursuit of a career in law. 

The judge also addressed the victim, who told the court on June 3 how she suffered through shame and embarrassment and feared that she would be blamed if she spoke up. 

“I know that this has been a very difficult process,” he said. 

“In terms of how these processes can take place in a different way are part of discussions that are ongoing, it is something that does need to change in the future.” 

Edelmann said he took into account pre-sentencing reports that claimed Tyabji-Sandana had suffered intergenerational trauma, poverty and disconnection from his Indigenous roots. The report said that his maternal grandfather was Metis-Cree and his paternal grandmother a Metis woman who became an alcoholic after suffering physical and sexual abuse in an Indian residential school. Tyabji-Sandana’s biological father was not involved in his childhood. 

The pre-sentencing reports also said he was bullied in school and turned to alcohol abuse as a 14-year-old. In 2021, he had attended a residential recovery facility for 45 days, had incidents of suicidal ideation and, on at least one occasion, attempted to take his own life by overdosing. 

Earlier on June 4, Young made a last-ditch effort for a jail sentence. He told Edelmann that Tyabji-Sandana had committed the sexual offence in Powell River while living under stringent conditions set by an Alberta judge stemming from a 2015 arrest in Calgary. 

A Canada Border Services agent in Vancouver intercepted a package that was addressed to Tyabji-Sandana and contained 122 grams of acetyl fentanyl, worth an estimated $348,000. He pleaded guilty in 2018 to attempting to possess a controlled substance and was sentenced to eight months of house arrest and eight months under curfew. 

Tyabji-Sandana made a brief statement of remorse to the court, telling Edelmann that he would “endeavour to be better. Whatever I can do your honour, whatever I can do.”

“There are no winners in this circumstance,” Tyabji-Sandana said. “Sorry, I thought I had more articulate words to say, but at the end of the day I want it to be made right, I want her to live her best life and I am so profoundly sorry for the man-child that I once was to have operated in a wanton, selfish and reckless fashion.”

The jury heard last October that Tyabji-Sandana met a 14-year-old girl when she and a fellow high school student volunteered on Saturdays at Tyabji and stepfather Gordon Wilson’s sheep farm beginning in January 2016. They offered their time in order to collect credits toward high school graduation. The friendship progressed into a sexual relationship later that year. However, Tyabji-Sandana admitted in court that he never asked her age. Similarly, Tyabji and ex-BC Liberal leader Wilson, who are no longer married, testified that they did not know her age, despite being concerned for legal liability if a young worker suffered an injury on the farm. They said they assumed the girl was a senior high school student. 

In the 1991 B.C. election, Wilson became Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA, led the BC Liberal Party to opposition status and appointed Okanagan East MLA Tyabji as house leader. After their affair was revealed, Wilson was eventually replaced as party leader in 1993 by Gordon Campbell. Wilson and Tyabji married the following year and attempted multiple political comebacks. 

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