A Nunavut man who spent much of his adult life in Yellowknife is heading to prison for an assault that led to the death of his cousin.
It happened on a Tuesday afternoon last fall outside the sobering shelter in downtown Yellowknife. Video surveillance from the Yellowknifer offices across the street captured the whole thing.
N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice Louis Charbonneau said the video was "chilling to watch."
It showed Victor Ugyuk punching Mark Poodlat in the head, walking away, and returning twice to assault him further. Both had been drinking.
Poodlat died two days later in hospital in Edmonton. He was 35.
'Staggering' amount of trauma
Ugyuk, now 33, was sentenced to five and a half years on Friday.
He was initially charged with murder. The charge was downgraded to manslaughter after he pleaded guilty, sparing witnesses and family from having to endure lengthy court proceedings.
In delivering her sentence Friday, Charbonneau said she was tasked with balancing the safety of the public with the restraint appropriate for an Indigenous offender who's faced his own challenges.
His story, she said, is a reminder that "the degree and level of trauma many in our communities are carrying with them every day is staggering."
Ugyuk grew up with a single mother in Taloyoak, Nunavut. He spent time living with an aunt and uncle who asked him to leave when his behaviour grew too challenging. His father, who came from a "prominent family," played no part in Ugyuk's life, though he raised children with a different woman.
Ugyuk has been largely homeless since age 14, and spent time in and out of jail for the past 15 years.
In 2012, his pregnant partner and two young children died in a house fire. Police quickly determined his partner had intentionally set the fire in a murder-suicide. Ugyuk told the author of a pre-sentencing report that many in Taloyoak blamed him, because of his past violence against her.
Ugyuk has a history of substance abuse. He's also been diagnosed with psychosis and bipolar disorder, for which he has not always taken medication.
Remorseful, but dangerous
Earlier this week, Crown prosecutor Angie Paquin argued Ugyuk should get six years. Defence lawyer Jay Bran asked for three and a half or four and a half.
Charbonneau accepted that Ugyuk did not mean to kill his cousin, and even told police that he had beaten him up before, without such drastic consequences.
"I do not doubt for a moment that he is remorseful," Charbonneau said.
But, she noted, Ugyuk has an "extensive history of violence." His most recent conviction for assault was in January of 2019. He was still on probation for that conviction at the time of the attack on his cousin.
Though Charbonneau expressed hope that Ugyuk would turn his life around, she also said he is too dangerous to be at large.
If these events are not a turning point, she said, he may hurt or even kill someone else again.
With time served, Ugyuk has four years and one month remaining on his sentence.