A Canadian soldier will be sentenced June 7 in the killing of a young aboriginal gay man in Manitoba that some are calling a case of gay panic.

According to testimony heard at the preliminary enquiry in April 2011, as reported in the Brandon Sun, Jason Ouimet  strangled 21-year-old Duane Lacquette to death on Jan 16, 2010, while the two were alone together in Lacquette's house. Ouimet, a gunner at a Canadian Forces base near Brandon, claims that he acted in self-defence after Lacquette came on to him.

The soldier was originally charged with second-degree murder but avoided a trial earlier this spring by pleading guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Alyssa Desrochers, who was a friend of Lacquette's, doubts the killer's claims. "I think Jason was down for [sex]," she speculates, "then when he wasn't drunk anymore he killed Duane in the heat of the moment."

On the night of the killing, the two men met in a Brandon bar. Eventually, they went to Lacquette's house with three young women. Ouimet expressed an interest in one of the women but passed out. The three women left and, when Ouimet came to, he claims that Lacquette was trying to have sex with him.

Ouimet, a muscular boxing champion, put the 5-foot-7, 165-pound Lacquette into a UFC-style chokehold, strangled him and stomped on his neck. He left the house without calling police and was arrested for the killing three weeks later.

The soldier has been out on bail ever since and continues to serve in the Canadian military. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter on a joint recommendation from his lawyers and the Crown lawyer prosecuting the case.

"The Crown accepted a plea to manslaughter based on provocation,” Crown counsel Jim Ross told the Brandon Sun. “Mr Ouimet's account is entirely consistent with all of the evidence in the case.”

Desrochers is angry that Ouimet will probably serve only a few years in jail after seeing his charge reduced to manslaughter. "If Duane had been a white girl, Jason would be getting so much more thrown at him," she says. "He'd get 20 years at least."

Stefon Irvine, a gay student at Brandon University who serves as the student union's LGBT commissioner, agrees. "If you flipped the shoes and put this into a heterosexual context, it would have been handled [by police and courts] in a totally different way," he says.

During the preliminary hearing, Ouimet's lawyers tried to make a case that Lacquette had a history of picking up straight guys. Irvine feels that's the equivalent of saying it's okay to rape a woman because "she was asking for it.”

Desrochers worked with Lacquette at a hotel restaurant and partied often with him. She remembers her friend as "always smiling and happy, always ready to go." Lacquette was out to everyone he met, including Ouimet. "He was very open about being gay," Desrochers says. "To him it was never an issue."

Lacquette's final post on Facebook was "Just dance . . . it'll be okay." He remains extremely popular on the social media site. A tribute group that was set up in his honour has more than 1,300 fans. Lacquette's friends and family members continue to post comments about him almost every day.

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