Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. man sentenced to three years for assault, breaching no-contact order

Kelly Ovayuak will spend three years behind bars for aggravated assault and breaching a no-contact order. (Robert Holden / CBC - image credit)
Kelly Ovayuak will spend three years behind bars for aggravated assault and breaching a no-contact order. (Robert Holden / CBC - image credit)

A sigh of relief could be heard from the back of the courtroom as 47-year-old Kelly Ovayuak was sentenced to three years in prison.

Ovayuak's victim, along with family and friends attended the proceedings in a Yellowknife courtroom Thursday. Ovayuak appeared by video from the Great Slave Correctional Complex.

The Tuktoyaktuk man was originally set to go to trial this week for 10 charges including kidnapping and assault, but a last-minute plea deal this week saw him face just two charges: aggravated assault and breaking a no-contact order with the victim.

Crown and defence lawyers jointly submitted that Ovayuak be sentenced to three years.

The charges stem from an April 2022 incident where Ovayuak allegedly kidnapped and assaulted a woman, before leading police on a high speed chase on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway.

The victim, a former partner of Ovayuak, suffered a broken nose, nerve damage from a forehead laceration, and severe frostbite that led to her losing nine toes.

In a victim impact statement read to the court by a family friend, she spoke of the ongoing physical pain, constant discomfort and scarring from the incident.

"I fear for the day he's released," the statement read. "I need you to believe me when I say I am not safe."

The victim's mother described Ovayuak's actions as having a "profound and far reaching" impact on the family, extending to the victim's sons who have had to to take care of their mother.

The victim's mother also ended up in the hospital due to stress from the incident.

"I fear for the safety of everyone in the community when he's released," she said.

A sister recalled the victim having to endure hundreds of agonizing dressing changes to her feet. The amputation and flesh removal has left little "padding" between the bone and skin, leaving the victim unable to stand for long periods of time.

Her injuries kept her from escorting her sons to their high school graduation.

Ovayuak has 36 prior convictions, with 14 of them being violent offences. He was given a 16-month jail sentence earlier this month for repeatedly breaching a no-contact order with the same victim while incarcerated.

Although previously accused of domestic violence against the same victim, Justice Andrew Mahar described the current offences as "by far the most serious."

Mahar said he'll strongly suggest Ovayuak be imprisoned in a federal penitentiary so he can pursue rehabilitation.

Ovayuak was given a chance to speak, and apologized to the victim and her family, saying she was a good person and wished her well.

In her statement, the victim said she's grown closer to her sisters and other family members since the incident, and has found new strength to pursue her goals.

"I will not allow it to change me at my core" she said.

"By the grace of God, I get to walk out of here."