It was a remarkable gesture of forgiveness that almost didn't happen.
A 22-year-old man awaiting sentencing for manslaughter was about to be led out of a courtroom Friday when the mother of the man he killed stood up and asked Judge Brian Corrin if she could hug him.
Corrin adjourned court for several minutes to consider the request, which he described as unprecedented.
"I have never encountered this request in all my nearly 22 years on the bench," Corrin said.
Corrin agreed to the request, opposed by Crown attorney Tim Chudy, after confirming Curtis Beardy was comfortable receiving an embrace from Cathy Rae, the mother of Bobby Rae, whom Beardy fatally stabbed in 2007.
Beardy is a nephew of Cathy Rae. Flanked by sheriff's officers and separated by the waist high-wall of the prisoner's box, the two hugged and whispered to each other for several seconds before Rae kissed Beardy's forehead and he was taken out of court.
"I said I forgive him, that I love him, and told him to listen to his supervisor and not to do anything wrong," Rae said outside court.
Rae's son Bobby Rae, 30, died from a single stab wound to the heart following a confrontation at a house party on Garden Hill First Nation on Dec. 20, 2007. Rae said her son would have wanted his parents to forgive Beardy and "not hold any grudges."
"If we don't follow that path, there will be so much hate," she said.
Peter Rae, Cathy's husband, said forgiveness is part of their culture.
"It's how we were brought up," Peter said. "We learned that from our parents, from our community, learned to forgive."
Court heard Beardy and Rae had both been drinking "super juice," an extremely potent home brew common on many ostensibly dry reserves, when Beardy walked into the house party and saw Rae knocking Beardy's mother to the floor. During a confrontation, Beardy grabbed a screwdriver and stabbed Rae once in the chest, puncturing his heart.
Beardy had no prior criminal record, despite an upbringing in a community rife with poverty and substance abuse, said defence lawyer John Corona.
Corona blamed super juice for the "tragic and senseless" killing.
"Super juice is a scourge," Corona said. "It's not the same as drinking regular alcohol, in my submission. It makes people do things they wouldn't otherwise do. It has a stupefying effect."
The Crown is seeking a prison sentence of five to seven years, the defence a sentence of three years.
Corrin reserved his decision and adjourned the case to Nov. 20 to set a sentencing date.