Mark Rendell
Mark Rendell

‘Violent Offender’ Arrested: Behind the Keyuajuk Warning

Arrested for a breach of release conditions, Jonah Keyuajuk was the subject of a rare public warning and seldom-used legal tool.
Prior to Friday’s arrest, Jonah Keyuayuk was not facing criminal charges, but has a long and documented history of violence

The ‘violent sexual offender’ who the RCMP warned the public about yesterday was back off the streets today, at least temporarily.

Jonah Keyuajuk, 44, originally from Pangnirtung, was arrested in downtown Yellowknife early Friday morning for breaching release conditions ordered by the territorial court on Thursday. This comes less than 24 hours after the RCMP sent out a rare public interest disclosure, describing Keyuajuk’s appearance and warning that he posed “a risk of significant harm to the public.”

Charges from the morning’s arrest are still pending and RCMP spokesperson Const. Elenore Sturko could not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding the arrest, due to rules governing public interest disclosures. It seems likely, however, that Keyuajuk was arrested for breaching the condition ordering him to stay at his residence from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.

Keyuajuk was due to appear in court later on Friday, when it was to be decided whether to release him or keep him in remand while he awaits a hearing. At press time, EDGE had not yet learned the outcome of that decision.

Odd circumstances

Prior to Friday morning’s arrest, Keyuajuk was not technically facing a criminal charge – an odd circumstance, considering he was arrested several days ago, given bail conditions and made the subject of a very public warning from the RCMP.

The unusual situation stems from a seldom-used legal tool, called a section 810.2 information, whereby “any person who fears on reasonable grounds that another person will commit a serious personal injury offence” can ask a judge to put that other person on a recognizance, forcing them to obey bail-like conditions for up to two years, even though they haven’t committed a crime. Once the information is laid, with the signed approval of the territory’s attorney general, a judge can issue a warrant for the person’s arrest and oblige them to attend a hearing to determine whether the demand for recognizance is reasonable.

In Keyuajuk’s case, an RCMP officer, Const. Tina Acreman, laid the information asking the judge to place him on recognizance. However, we won’t learn what evidence led her to believe he’s likely to seriously injure someone until her affidavit is unsealed at the section 810.2 hearing, set to take place on Sept. 17. The evidence could have come from Corrections Services, an individual’s complaint, or any number of other sources.

A long and violent history

Jonah Keyuajuk, 44

Whatever the evidence proves to be, there’s no doubt Keyuajuk has a long and documented history of violence.

Most recently, in 2007 he was sentenced to five years in prison (less 13 months for pretrial time served) for three serious assaults that took place the previous year. The first saw him punch his common-law partner unconscious and break her jaw while staying at the Super 8 Motel in Yellowknife. He disappeared following the attack but was arrested several months later. Ten days after being released on bail, he assaulted two other people in a tent near Niven Lake, beating a woman in the face while she was trying to sleep and attacking a man with a metal pipe.

“In my view, [the injuries he inflicted] are not at the minor end of the scale of what constitutes in law, bodily harm,” said Justice L. A. Charbonneau at the sentencing. “I consider them to be at the higher end of what constitutes bodily harm but still falls short of the legal definition of wounding.”

“It seems surprising, at first blush at least, that despite his criminal record, despite the history of breaches and his recent release from serving his last sentence, and the existence of a probation order, that the authorities chose to give Mr. Keyuajuk a promise to appear and have him give an undertaking to a peace officer when that June arrest warrant was finally executed. Mr. Keyuajuk had not been found for over four months, he appeared to have a limited connection to Yellowknife, he had a bad record and he was facing a serious charge for an assault on his spouse.”

Prior to these assaults, Keyuajuk had spent time behind bars for assault and sexual assault. Most seriously, he was sentenced to seven years in prison in 1997 for aggravated sexual assault.

The RCMP undoubtedly had this history in mind when deciding to pursue a section 810.2 information – likewise when making the decision to send out a public interest disclosure. The decision to warn the public about someone before they commit a crime is not taken lightly, explained Sturko. A committee made up of representatives from the RCMP, Corrections Services, the Department of Justice and the Public Prosecutor’s Service must conclude, “the public’s interests clearly outweigh the person’s privacy,” said Sturko. 

There’s only been one other public interest disclosure in the last 12 months, when the RCMP warned the public about 27-year-old Travis Cassaway, who had been convicted of sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon.