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Arson in Tuk leaves home 'uninhabitable'
Man destroyed woman's belongings, including traditional food

Kirsten Fenn
Northern News Services
Monday, January 23, 2017

A Tuktoyaktuk woman who lost her belongings and a safe place to sleep at night when a relative lit her apartment on fire in August says her residence is now "uninhabitable."

According to a victim impact statement read in Supreme Court in Yellowknife on Jan. 13, the woman said she has lost her home and that housing in the community is already limited.

"It will take them some time to recover," Justice Shannon Smallwood said as she prepared to sentence the man responsible for the arson.

As first reported in the Jan. 16 edition of News/North, Edwin Joseph Avik, 33, was handed two years less a day in jail for the incident. He will also serve time for uttering threats, breaching court orders and assault. He pleaded guilty to the crimes on Nov. 14.

In a pre-sentence report prepared for the court, the woman said she had been living in the apartment for five years before it was destroyed.

She kept a number of traditional foods such as geese, caribou and fish in her freezer, but "lost everything" in the fire, she said.

On the night of Aug. 3, RCMP arrived at the woman's home after receiving a call that Avik was there and acting "erratically," according to an agreed statement of facts read in court.

He had been on a drinking binge and was pretending to shoot people around the community.

When RCMP arrived to the home at 10:35 p.m., Avik began yelling, threatening to "blow them away."

As they called for backup, Avik began tossing knives, furniture and clothing out the apartment window, where he was seen holding a knife as he continued to threaten the police.

At one point he told them he wanted to be shot, according to the statement of facts.

Eventually community members started to gather outside, with some blocking the road outside the building until the fire department could arrive.

Avik had lit the apartment curtains on fire, sending everything inside the unit up in flames.

The fire department fought the blaze from outside as RCMP attempted to enter the building to arrest Avik, where they found a fridge blocking the door.

They at one point tried unsuccessfully to taiser him before eventually arresting him and bringing him to the local health centre.

Avik continued to hurl threats and insults. He swore at nurses and police, telling them he'd shoot them and kick them in the face.

He is also guilty of forcing his arm against a person's throat that day.

Avik told the court he wanted to apologize for his actions and the trauma he caused.

Although his words can't change what happened, he has learned not to take his actions out on others, he said.

"I'm sorry that you have to sit there and judge me," Avik told Justice Smallwood. "No one should have to do that."

Smallwood said last week the man has 50 previous convictions and has spent most of his adult life in custody.

She also acknowledged he has a traumatic history involving sexual abuse and struggles with drug and alcohol abuse.

She told him she hopes he takes the chance to change, as the alternative is to spend his life in and out of jail.

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