Editor’s note: This story contains details that some readers may find disturbing.
A Nunavut judge has disallowed a Crown prosecutor’s recommended 10-month sentence and instead imposed the maximum 18 months of jail time in a case involving a “brutal” sexual assault that left the victim with fractured ribs in addition to mental trauma.
Justice Paul Bychok also issued a stern written rebuke to Crown prosecutor Alina Seagal for proposing a lighter sentence for the repeat offender from Kugluktuk. Her rationale was that he hadn’t been convicted since 2013. However, Joe Algiak, 56, has a criminal record showing two prior convictions of sexual assault, 12 other assault-related convictions, two convictions for impaired driving, one offence for careless storage of a firearm and nine convictions for breaching court orders.
“The Crown sentence recommendation in Mr. Algiak’s case only reinforces the perception that our justice system fails to provide justice to Inuit female victims of sexual violence,” stated Bychok. “Mr. Algiak committed a brutal sexual assault. If this case did not merit imposition of the maximum summary penalty, I cannot imagine what other case might … I am certain that reasonable and informed Nunavummiut would conclude as I did that the Crown sentencing recommendation here was unhinged.”
Algiak’s latest sexual assault charge came on June 6, 2020. He pleaded not guilty, but was convicted at trial in February.
The facts of the case revealed that the woman he sexually assaulted was drinking vodka with her cousin while housesitting for a friend in Kugluktuk. After her cousin left, Algiak, while intoxicated, entered the house uninvited.
He told her, “I want you. I really want to be with you.”
She said no. He started pushing her and grabbing her, including touching her genitals and breasts while she repeated, “No.”
He began to pull her pants down. She started moving away and tried to push him in the other direction. He pushed her even harder, causing her ribs to hurt, and then threw her onto the floor. He eventually succeeded in removing her pants and penetrated her vaginally with each hand.
The assault only stopped when the victim told him, “I’m going to get my nephews to hurt you for hurting me and doing this to me.”
Moments later, Mr. Algiak “took off.”
For the next two weeks, the victim could not lie down and had to sleep sitting up due to the pain from two of her ribs being fractured during the assault.
Bychok noted that he informed the Crown prosecutor that her recommended 10-month jail sentence for Algiak “placed too much emphasis on the gap in his record and that it fell well below the sentencing range for this type of brutal sexual assault.”
After the court took a break during sentencing, Seagal said she had spoken with senior counsel in Yellowknife and said, “It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to change the Crown’s position at this time.”
A father of five, Algiak has been on disability for four years after working as a heavy equipment operator in the mines for close to 30 years.
Defence lawyer William McDiarmid urged the court not to impose a “crippling” sentence.
“I think it would be damaging to Mr. Algiak’s long-term rehabilitative prospects if he were to be hammered too harshly on sentence on the basis of his criminal past,” McDiarmid said.
In his March 19 reasons for judgment, Bychok again expressed his opposition to a light sentence.
“This was not a case where the Crown negotiated an extremely lenient joint submission in exchange for a guilty plea sparing the victim having to testify in public. I convicted Algiak after trial, and the Crown failed to justify its sentencing recommendation even after I gave counsel a further opportunity to do so,” the judge stated, adding that the offender should have been facing a more serious charge of assault causing bodily harm. “The Crown recommendation failed to account for the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence in Nunavut. While not an aggravating factor, the frequency or prevalence of crime in a community is a relevant factor at sentencing.”
Algiak’s stint in jail will be followed by 18 months of probation.