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Justice
Tłı̨chǫ

Whatì man to be sentenced for fourth serious sexual assault


Warning: This report contains details of sexual assaults, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.

On Canada Day in 2019, a young woman from a small community in Nunavut – described as a vulnerable person by authorities – was in Yellowknife on a medical trip.

Walking near Franklin Avenue toward her accommodation, she was approached by a stranger who said his name was Frank. 

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“He offered to walk her home,” Crown prosecutor Morgan Fane told a Supreme Court sentencing hearing on Monday.

Instead, Frankie James Eyakfwo dragged her into an alley between 50 and 51 Street and raped her. 

It was the fourth such sexual assault the Whatì man had committed. The 31-year-old’s criminal record began with a conviction for sexual assault and sexual interference against a girl as a youth.

At the time of the 2019 attack, Eyakfwo had just been released from the North Slave Correctional Complex after being imprisoned for the rape of a Fort Smith woman as she slept in October 2015. He had started a period of supervised probation.

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The only reason Eyakfwo was ever charged for the 2015 crime was the presence of his DNA in the national crime databank following an earlier crime. 

On Monday, the court heard DNA is again what led to his identification and arrest for the 2019 rape.

He was arrested on June 23, 2020, in Whatì and has been in custody since. He has pleaded guilty.

Prosecutor Fane said the woman involved “was significantly relieved” to be told Eyakfwo had been arrested and remaining in custody.

“She describes that she no longer has to be scared going outside,” he said, “in Nunavut as well as the Northwest Territories.”

While sentencing Eyakfwo for his 2015 offence in Fort Smith, Justice Shannon Smallwood characterized him as being “an untreated sex offender” with “major intellectual deficits” who “continues to lack insight into his offending.”

Smallwood was not sure whether programming for Eyakfwo at Yellowknife’s jail “could realistically offer him any significant benefit in terms of sex offender or violence prevention programming.”

However, the judge said she was constrained by sentencing principles and had to provide the usual credit multiplier for his lengthy period of pre-trial custody. For the 2015 offence, he received a total of 30 months minus 21 months’ remand credit at the North Slave Correctional Complex, to be followed by 18 months of probation.

“I am concerned that the sentence that I am about to impose is not sufficient to permit Mr Eyakfwo to complete any programs designed to address his offending, at least not to take them in a meaningful way, if that is even possible,” she said.

Smallwood suggested at the time a more appropriate setting for Eyakfwo would be the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatchewan.

‘Missed opportunity’ for intervention

Several years later, that same centre remains the hope for him.

Prosecutor Fane and defence lawyer Jessi Casebeer this week submitted a joint sentencing recommendation of two and a half years in addition to Eyakfwo’s pre-trial custody.

That would place him in the hands of the Correctional Service of Canada.

“It is hoped that the federal sentence we are asking be imposed … will allow Mr Eyakfwo to attend the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatchewan, or some other appropriate correctional programming,” said Fane, who noted Eyakfwo suffers from what he termed “brain atrophy” either due to the use of alcohol by his mother during pregnancy or because he contracted meningitis as an infant.

Eyakfwo’s background was described as being troubling, growing up in a violent household with alcohol abuse present. Eyakfwo was abused and exposed to inappropriate sexual materials.

Eyakfwo “experiences difficulty linking thoughts, impulses, urges, or deeds as he does not foresee the consequences of his foolhardy actions,” said Fane.

His parents obstructed the intervention of social services, even when Eyakfwo was deemed a threat to others in the community. He was kicked out of school permanently in Grade 7.

In her earlier sentencing of Eyakfwo, Justice Smallwood criticized the child protection system for failing to intervene.

“It is not clear why social services did not take action at the time, even though the family was not cooperating or agreeing,” the judge said. 

“In hindsight, it definitely seems like a missed opportunity. Mr Eyakfwo, from what has been described and what I have read, needed help, and other children and members of the community, for their safety, needed Mr Eyakfwo to receive some form of treatment.

“Unfortunately, that did not occur.”

Chief Justice Louise Charbonneau will deliver Eyakfwo’s latest sentence on Wednesday morning.

She indicated she will go along with the joint sentencing recommendation but said: “If there is a fifth serious sexual assault, the court is not going to have much choice in what it can do.”

The prosecutor noted that despite DNA evidence, the Crown’s case would have been difficult to prove. He did note Eyakfwo is “on the precipice” of earning a long-term or dangerous offender application.

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