A judge in Prince Albert, Sask., has sentenced a man to 16 years for manslaughter in the beating death of his 13-month-old son.

Court heard Monday that Kaij Brass of Prince Albert hit his child repeatedly, resulting in the toddler’s death, hours after police showed up for a domestic call involving the boy’s parents in 2022.

The father was given about three years’ credit for the time he spent in pretrial custody.

Two officers who showed up at the family’s home in the hours before the killing were found to have neglected their duty in not checking on the child, Tanner Brass.

Court heard Kaij Brass kicked the boy’s mother, Kyla Frenchman, out of their home after a fight, causing the toddler to cry.

“His response was a natural one. As a young child, he became upset,” prosecutor Rob Parker told court.

“Rather than comfort or console, which it appears Mr. Brass says he began to do, he did not see that through to completion and instead became violent with his son.”

Officers failed to check on Tanner

A report from the Public Complaints Commission last year said Frenchman had called 911 earlier in the day to say Brass was intoxicated and had assaulted her.

The two officers spoke with Frenchman outside the home, but she didn’t want to pursue an assault investigation.

The report said the officers failed to follow the force’s intimate partner violence policy by not entering the house or attempting to check on Tanner.

Frenchman had wanted to take her child, but it was cold outside and the officers decided it would be best he stay with Brass. They then took the mother to the police station so she could have somewhere warm to sleep, as all the women’s shelters were full.

Five hours later, Brass called 911 and said he had killed his baby.

Court heard the father was frustrated with Frenchman and took it out on Tanner, but Brass did not intend to kill the boy.

Reading from the agreed statement of facts, Parker said Brass began to spank his son then repeatedly hit him on the chest and the head.

Brass went to bed, after noticing the toddler was breathing heavily and bleeding from the mouth. When the father woke up, Tanner was dead.

911 call not made in time 

A post-mortem examination determined the boy died as a result of blunt-force trauma, Parker said. He was unconscious for some time before his body shut down.

“After Mr. Brass stopped striking Tanner, he had the opportunity to not strike him again,” the prosecutor said.

He said Brass could have called 911 after noticing blood in Tanner’s mouth, but he waited until after he woke up later that day.

“Rather than take responsibility at that point in time, his choice was to ignore it, put his head in the sand and hope it will go away,” Parker said.

Brass told the judge he’s sorry for what he did.

“I want to accept responsibility for what I’ve done,” he told court.

Defence lawyer Zachary Carter told court Brass grew up in a broken family and felt disconnected from his Indigenous culture.

He has also had addiction and mental health issues, Carter said.

“He may never forgive himself and that is something he will bear with him for the rest of its life,” he said.

Parker said he reached out to Frenchman’s lawyers, and they were aware of the court proceeding. But he did not receive a victim impact statement from her.

Problems at the Prince Albert police service

Former Prince Albert Police Service chief Jonathan Bergen resigned following the release of the report into Tanner’s death.

The force has also been criticized following a string of deaths in 2021 of people in police custody.

A report by former Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht released last year offered 45 recommendations for the service, including a comprehensive policy review and a code of conduct for disciplining officers.

Knecht’s full report has not been made public.

The police service says it’s committed to making improvements.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2024.

— By Jeremy Simes in Regina

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