KENORA, Ont. - An Ontario Provincial Police officer in Kenora facing several charges of sexual abuse involving minors in Minnesota has been denied an appeal to quash an order for his extradition to the United States to stand trial, where he could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years.
Brady John Hillis, 32, is charged with two counts of abusive sexual contact with a child under 12 and one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child under 12. He is still a member of the OPP and has been on paid suspension under the terms of the Police Services Act.
The incident is alleged to have taken place in June 2017 while Hillis was a guest at a resort on the Bois Fort Indian Reservation in Minnesota. The victims, who were seven, nine and 12 years old, were also guests at the resort and identified as Indigenous.
Security at the resort was notified of the allegations and local police were contacted. The Federal Bureau of Investigation took over the case and Hillis was released and permitted to return to Canada.
Two months after the alleged offences, the United States sought the extradition of Hillis to stand trial on federal charges, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Hillis was arrested and released from custody on recognizance.
The Minister of Justice of Canada ordered Hillis to surrender for extradition under the Extradition Act.
Counsel for Hillis submitted an application to stay the extradition proceedings arguing that it was an abuse of process, however, a judge with the Superior Court of Justice dismissed the application. The Attorney General of Canada also resisted the application on behalf of the United States, an extradition partner with Canada.
The matter was brought before a three-judge panel in the Ontario Court of Appeal to quash the surrender order for extradition by the Minister of Justice. The Ontario Court of Appeal released its reasons to dismiss the application to review the surrender decision in June, 2021.
The argument in the appeal relied largely on the differences in sentencing for the alleged offences, with the United States requiring a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years on the charge of aggravated sexual abuse on a child under 12. The equivalent charge of sexual interference under the Criminal Code of Canada could carry a sentence of between 90 days and fourteen years.
Hillis' lawyer argued that exposing a Canadian citizen to the mandatory minimum sentence in the United States would ‘shock the conscience and offend the Canadian sense of what is fair, right, and just.’
In the application to stay the extradition proceedings, counsel for Hillis argued he could also face indefinite civil commitment following the carrying out of the sentence if convicted.
Civil commitment in the US can stay an individual’s release from custody at the federal level for those who have engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation, or who suffer from a severe mental illness that makes them sexually dangerous to others.
Minnesota also has a state civil commitment procedure for individuals deemed to be sexually dangerous or identified as having a sexually psychopathic personality.
The United States Justice Department indicated to the Minister of Justice it would not pursue civil commitment of Hillis at the federal level or by the state of Minnesota.
“On the conclusion of any sentence imposed on conviction, or on an acquittal, the applicant, as a Canadian citizen, would immediately be placed in federal deportation proceedings,” Justice David Watt, one of the three Ontario Court of Appeal judges wrote in their reasons.
“Thus, the applicant would not be in state custody and his deportation would have priority over any state civil commitment proceedings. Nor would the United States object to the applicant’s transfer to Canada to serve the remainder of any sentence imposed in the United States if the Government of Canada or the applicant requests this within two years before the conclusion of any sentence imposed on him.”
According to the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision, the Minister of Justice refusing a surrender order under the Extradition Act based on the grounds that a mandatory minimum sentence in the US is greater than a minimum sentence for an equivalent charge in Canada constitutes cruel or unusual punishment under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ‘cannot prevail.’
“In our review of the reasonableness of the Minister’s surrender decision, we must also consider the restraints imposed on the Minister under international law, including under Canada’s treaty obligations,” Justice Watt wrote.
“That Canada has entered into an extradition agreement with another country demonstrates a certain level of confidence in the administration of justice in that country, even if the system may be different from ours, with different priorities and disparate punishments.”
Justice Watt goes on to say in the decision that the Minister of Justice took steps to receive assurances that no civil commitment proceedings would take place following the sentence being carried out if convicted.
“As the Minister recognized, it is well settled that, absent sentences that would invoke consequences such as torture, the death penalty, excision of limbs and the like, the sentencing regimes of other nations, despite their significant severity compared to our own, will not generally ‘shock the conscience’ of Canadians,” Watt writes.
Watt, along with Justices Janet Simmons and L.B. Roberts, agreed to dismiss the application to review the Minister’s surrender decision.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated Brady John Hillis was a former member of the OPP. He is still a member of the OPP and is on paid suspension under the terms of the Police Services Act.