An inmate who played a central role in the June 20, 2018 Baffin Correctional Centre (BCC) riot that cost taxpayers close to $1.9 million has been sentenced to 33 months in prison.
Gary Arnaquq, 38, held an “extremely high level of responsibility” for the incident, according to judge Paul Bychok’s April 24 decision. Arnaquq was found guilty of participating in a riot and causing property damage to BCC’s Charlie Unit in excess of $5,000.
Arnaquq’s prison time for some of his previous offences would have been served as of Oct. 23, 2019. However, his participation in the riot kept him at BCC awaiting conclusion of his subsequent court proceedings, which is known as remand time. Normally, an offender is given 1.5 days credit for each day in remand. In Arnaquq’s case, Bychok only credited him an equal number of days to the 172 days served in remand because Arnaquq refused to attend court at least eight times, creating legal delays.
The day of the riot saw prison guards twice respond to Charlie Unit inmates trying to dig holes through their cell walls in an effort to smuggle drugs into the prison. At around 9:40 p.m., corrections officers attempted to enter dorm two, where they suspected inmates were attempting to dig a hole in the wall for a third time.
Arnaquq positioned his body against the door to prevent the guards from entering the dorm. Ignoring orders to disperse, he began shouting for other inmates to join in, hollering: “There’s only a couple of them, they can’t take us,” and “Let’s get ’em.”
More inmates came down the hall and the situation grew increasingly confrontational.
Arnaquq started yelling, “Get the guards! Get the guards!”
The prison staff retreated and locked the entryways. They watched a full-blown riot ensue involving up to 27 inmates. The rampage continued until 6 a.m. the following morning.
Amid the smashing and banging, one guard said he heard Arnaquq shout, “Let’s burn the building down.”
When it was all over, “the rioters had left Charlie Unit completely uninhabitable,” Bychok’s decision reads. Indeed, dozens of BCC inmates consequently had to be moved to penal facilities in the south.
Bychok noted that Arnaquq, who has 56 prior convictions including 12 for violent offences, professed to be a changed man. The offender has three children, including a one-year-old daughter born while he was in prison and whom he’s never held.
“He has started directed Bible study and Jesus has touched his heart. He stated he has stopped using drugs and is ‘trying to get out of violence,’” the judge wrote in his decision. “He stated he is finally ‘free’ of the devil and those earlier influences which ‘ruined my life.’ Unfortunately, he continued by trying to
minimize his role in the riot.”
It was actually Arnaquq’s second time being sentenced for involvement in a riot.
“This court must send a clear message to all inmates that prison riots will not be tolerated and will
result in strong penalties on conviction,” the judge stated.
“I must also consider how Mr. Arnaquq’s actions are to be measured against the principles of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. Mr. Arnaquq failed to observe Inuuqatigiitsiarniq – respecting others,
relationships and caring for people. And, he did so in the most serious of circumstances.
“Mr. Arnaquq’s deliberate actions threatened the lives and safety of everyone in the facility on 20 June, 2018… I have already highlighted the staggering post-riot repair costs, and its drain on Nunavut’s scarce financial resources. In a very real sense, Mr. Arnaquq hurt all Nunavummiut.”