Yellowknife robber with mental illness faces 4.5 years in prison

Last modified: September 1, 2020 at 10:39am

A man who robbed the same Yellowknife convenience store three times – then later assaulted jail guards and a psychologist – wants help for his illness, the NWT Supreme Court heard on Monday.

Joanasie Qumuaqtuq, 22, is accused of assaulting a peace officer at the city’s North Slave Correctional Complex and two counts of robbery.

In exchange for his guilty pleas, two counts of wearing a disguise during those robberies were dropped.


The plea deal also saw the Crown withdraw separate charges related to assaulting a guard and the jail psychologist, though the charges can be considered by the sentencing judge.

Those charges will not appear on Qumuaqtuq’s criminal record.

“He wants to get better. He wants to get be able to deal with things in his brain – these ideas and these voices … that he hears from time to time,” defence lawyer Jay Bran told Monday’s sentencing hearing.

“He tells me, ‘I don’t know why I do these things, I just do it, I can’t stop myself sometimes.’”


Qumuaqtuq knows he acts better when on his medication, but has trouble remembering to take it as prescribed, said Bran.

The court heard Qumuaqtuq has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. 

“He knows, when he is ultimately released, he is going to have some challenges and he’s going to have to work hard to learn those … simple tasks of having a schedule and following through with it,” Bran said.

Asked to speak on his own behalf, Qumuaqtuq stood and softly said: “I’m sorry. I understand I have to pay my debt to society.”


Circle K targeted

Crown prosecutor Billi Wun told the court that on January 14, 2019, a clerk was working alone at the convenience store on Forrest Drive now known as Circle K.

At 4:13am, Qumuaqtuq entered the store and went behind the counter. His head covered with a hoodie, he brandished a large kitchen knife and demanded money.

He was given $100 and then fled. The incident was captured on a security camera.

On June 7, 2019, the same clerk was working alone when Qumuaqtuq – his face covered with a balaclava – entered the store and yelled, “I am going to hurt someone,” according to the prosecutor.

Qumuaqtuq confronted the clerk behind the counter, demanded cash and was again given $100. He grabbed some cigarettes before leaving the store.

RCMP issued a request for public assistance and received two tips identifying him. Qumuaqtuq had confided to one of the tipsters that he committed the robberies.

At the time of the robberies, Qumuaqtuq was on an 18-month probation order issued in May 2018 to keep the peace and be on good behaviour.

On November 4, 2019, Qumuaqtuq was at the jail talking with a correctional officer. He made a request of the guard “and did not like the response,” said Wun.

“He got up and lunged [at the guard] and punched him once in the face with his fist,” said the prosecutor. “He punched and missed a second time.”

He was restrained by several officers and need to be pepper sprayed.

While Qumuaqtuq was being restrained, the prosecutor alleged he said: “I hope I got you good … I’m going to [expletive] kill you. I’m going to start with your kids.”

He was said to have headbutted a guard during the struggle, causing minor injuries.

‘Significant misbehaviour’

Little was said about Qumuaqtuq’s upbringing, except that he is Indigenous and experienced “a very sympathetic upbringing.”

Prosecutor Wun told the court Qumuaqtuq has a criminal record with related convictions of violence, and in 2017 robbed the same convenience store when it was known as Mac’s.

Qumuaqtuq faces a recommended 4.5-year sentence. He has spent 404 days in remand custody, which would normally equate to 606 days’ credit during sentencing.

Charbonneau, though, said she may not grant Qumuaqtuq the normal 1.5-times multiplier for days served in pre-trial custody as his behaviour behind bars has not been good.

“It’s always been the case that significant misbehaviour … is something that the court can consider in deciding how much credit [will be applied],” she said.

Bran argued that Qumuaqtuq has received “special handling” with restrictions placed both on his movement in the North Slave Correctional Complex and the time he can spend outside his cell.

Charbonneau reserved her sentencing decision until Thursday morning.