A young man convicted of a pair of robberies and multiple assaults could spend up to 54 months in prison.

Joanasie Qumuaqtuq, 22, robbed the Circle K, formerly Mac’s Convenience store, at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Forrest Drive, at knife point on two separate occasions. Both times he wore a face covering, which, Crown Prosecutor Billi Wun said in court in Yellowknife Monday demonstrates “a certain level of planning.”

Joanasie Qumuaqtuq plead guilty to armed robbery and assaulting a peace officer. He could face 4-and-a-half years in prison. Photo provided by RCMP

The first robbery took place on Jan. 14, 2019. 

Qumuaqtuq came into the store and confronted the employee working the night shift with a kitchen knife. Qumuaqtuq told the employee that if he gave him the money, Qumuaqtuq would not hurt him. The employee gave Qumuaqtuq $100 from the register. Qumuaqtuq took the money and fled. 

The robbery lasted less than a minute and was captured on the store’s video cameras. 

Qumuaqtuq wore a blue hoodie with a red Under Armour logo. His hood was pulled over his head and scrunched over his face to conceal his identity. 

The second robbery was five months later on June 7, 2019. 

Qumuaqtuq entered the same store wearing a balaclava and yelled “I’m going to hurt someone,” Wun told the court. 

He again, went to the counter with a kitchen knife. 

The same employee happened to be working and again gave Qumuaqtuq $100 from the register. Two girls were also in the store at the time buying slushies. 

Qumuaqtuq was taken into custody on June 25, 2019.

He was also convicted of assaulting a peace officer. While in custody at the North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC), Qumuaqtuq was sitting in a communal area with correctional officer Teddy Houston. He made a request to Houston, though the court did not hear what, and when he did not like the response, he lunged at Houston. He punched the correctional officer once and tried to punch him a second time before other NSCC staff intervened. 

Under Section 725 of the Criminal Code the court may consider other outstanding charges when it is appropriate to do so. 

As such, the court also heard that Qumuaqtuq allegedly assaulted another correctional officer at NSCC when the officer requested Qumuaqtuq  remove paper that was obstructing Qumuaqtuq’s cell window. At the request, the offender came out of his cell “in an aggressive manner,” and struck the officer on the side of the head, Wun said. 

In a separate incident, Qumuaqtuq allegedly assaulted a duty psychologist when she denied his request to change his schizophrenia medication prescription.   

Wun said that this demonstrates “a pattern of violence” that pose “issues of public safety.”

Wun also notes Qumuaqtuq’s early guilty plea as a significant mitigating factor as well as his young age. Two charges of wearing a disguise while committing an offense were dropped in exchange for the plea.

“There is a need for denunciation and deterrence, but certainly rehabilitation needs to be considered. He’s very young,” Wun said. 

Defence counselor Jay Bran points to the pre-sentence report (PSR) before the court for sentencing. He said what stands out to him is when Qumuaqtuq said “why do I keep hitting people?”

Qumuaqtuq knows, Bran said, that he has problems with impulse control, particularly when he is not taking his medications “as regularly as he should be.”

“He understands that he has resorted to behaviour that is unacceptable and at times criminal.”

Bran acknowledges that the joint proposal is a “significant sentence”, especially considering Qumuaqtuq is an Indigenous offender, young, and took early responsibility for his actions.

With reintegrating after his sentence in mind, Brad said that with access to resources in custody, and as he matures, Bran said Qumuaqtuq will “have a better understanding of how his own body and brain work, and have a better handle on his impulse control.”

Justice Louise Charbonneau is expected to deliver a sentence Thursday morning.


Natalie Pressman

Natalie is a graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program. She has since held contracts working with an NGO in Vietnam and with Journalists for Human Rights in Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent...

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