Wade Kapakatoak, whose shocking sexual assault of a woman behind Yellowknife’s Capitol Theatre last year raised questions about the RCMP’s treatment of assault victims, was sentenced to two years less a day last week.
In May 2017, Kapakatoak, 25, sexually assaulted a highly-intoxicated, and, at times, unconscious woman in an alley behind the downtown theatre.
Kapakatoak was arrested by responding RCMP officers soon after the attack.
But so was the victim.
The revelation she was arrested under the Liquor Act, instead of being taken to the hospital for a medical examination, didn’t go unnoticed by Judge Garth Malakoe, who convicted Kapakatoak – after changing his plea to guilty – in August.
“I am unable to imagine circumstances which would justify this type of treatment of a victim of sexual assault,” stated Malakoe in a written decision.
“It appears the victim was not treated with the dignity and compassion that she or any victim of sexual assault deserves,” the judge wrote.
After Malakoe called on police to explain the “egregious” move, Yellowknife RCMP G Division opened a review into the handling of the sexual assault.
On Thursday, following Kapakatoak’s sentencing, Yellowknife RCMP said none of the involved officers faced discipline as a result of the review. The force defended using cells when other options aren’t available and vowed to work towards reducing the re-traumatization of victims.
During Kapakatoak’s sentencing hearing, his lawyer, Thomas Boyd, asked Malakoe not to further punish his client due to any “malfeasance” on the part of the RCMP. Boyd and Crown prosecutor Blair MacPherson both called for two years less a day – a sentence Malakoe accepted.
In recommending the sentence, plus probation, MacPherson revisited the “shocking” and “extremely serious” sexual assault, including the aggravating factors of the offence.
The “prolonged nature of the attack,” MacPherson said, was aggravating.
“Kapakatoak was relentless in his pursuit of sexual gratification. He’s opportunistic and predatory in his actions,” said MacPherson.
So too, he said, was the fact the victim was heavily intoxicated. She was in a vulnerable state. The victim passed out, but that didn’t deter Kapakatoak, said MacPherson.
“He saw her as an object to be used at his own will. It was an attack on her body, but also an attack on her sexual integrity,” he said.
Following the sexual assault, the victim couldn’t be located to testify – and she didn’t. Malakoe stated if the victim was avoided giving testimony as a result of her encounter with Yellowknife RCMP, then “her treatment by the police has affected the judicial process.”
The victim was not in court Thursday and did not submit a victim impact statement.
MacPherson said such an assault could have left her living with fear, embarrassment and a lack of trust.
Boyd urged the court to consider his client’s significant Gladue factors.
He said Kapakatoak lost his language and culture after relocating to Yellowknife, where he fell into addiction and homelessness.
Despite Malakoe’s highlighting of “troubling remarks” made by the offender in a pre-sentence report – about blaming alcohol and the victim rather than himself – Boyd said there are plenty of other entries that indicate his client’s remorse and insight into behaviour.
In handing down his sentence, Malakoe called Kapakatoak’s crime a “dehumanizing” breach of sexual autonomy and integrity that will likely leave the victim with lasting psychological and emotional wounds.
The vulnerability of the victim at the time of the attack, he said, means Kapakatoak has a high level of moral blameworthiness. The victim was taken advantage of while unconscious – a type of sexual assault Malakoe said is all too prevalent in the territory. He espoused the words of Justice Louise Charbonneau, who called sexual assaults on sleeping or passed out women and girls an “epidemic” in NWT.
Kapakatoak, who hung his head as he sat in court, declined to speak before being sentenced.
Following his release, Kapakatoak must register as a sex offender for the next 20 years, is barred from owning weapons for 10 years. and must submit a sample of his DNA.
With credit for time served prior to sentencing – a total of 333 days – Kapakatoak will spend just over a year behind bars.