Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut August 18, 2017 - 8:00 am

Nunavut school worker charged with obstructing justice in sex assault case

Woman described as "teacher" counselled underage sexual assault victim into signing fabricated letters, Crown alleges

STEVE DUCHARME
A woman described as a
A woman described as a "teacher" from Igloolik, above, is facing two charges of obstructing justice and fabricating evidence to get an underage victim of sexual assault to write a letter asking authorities to drop charges against her alleged attacker. Charlie Qrunnut was nonetheless convicted in the assault in 2015. Carolyn Tapardjuk is expected to be tried on those two charges in Igloolik in November but her lawyer is challenging the evidence against her. (FILE PHOTO)

An Igloolik woman has challenged evidence filed against her alleging that she persuaded the underaged victim of a sexual assault to sign fabricated statements that would have helped the man accused of assaulting the underaged victim.

Carolyn Tapardjuk is charged with one count of obstructing the course of justice in a judicial proceeding, and another count of fabricating written evidence—evidence that was used during the sexual assault trial of Charlie Qrunnut in April 2015.

“This is a young teacher… who is facing potentially jail if she is convicted of this,” Tarpardjuk’s lawyer, Patrick Bruce, told Justice Neil Sharkey at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit Aug. 14.

Bruce told the court that Tapardjuk is challenging the admission of evidence, collected by the Igloolik RCMP, which he says was improperly taken from Tapardjuk because she did not have access to a lawyer.

Tapardjuk also believes she was pressured into committing the alleged obstruction offences, Bruce argued in court.

According to a summary of the allegations provided in open court by the Crown, Tapardjuk was asked by Qrunnut—who at the time was in custody awaiting a trial—to convince his student victim, studying at the school where Tapardjuk worked, to sign letters requesting the charges against Qrunnut be dropped.

The school was not identified but Qrunnut’s sexual assault trial took place in Igloolik, according to the charges filed against Tapardjuk.

The allegations against Tapardjuk have yet to be proven in court.

Crown lawyer Christian Lyons said his office characterized the act as, “a clear attempt by Ms. Tapardjuk to interfere with the justice system in a fairly shocking way, in having someone who actually works at a school to go and pressure a student to withdraw a sexual assault charge against someone in custody.”

“The allegation is that [Qrunnut] contacted Ms. Tapardjuk, who worked at the school, and asked her to go and get the young person, the complainant, to sign the documents saying that they made it up and that they wanted the charges dropped and that was actually not the wishes of the young person,” Lyons said.

“But [the victim] signed the documents anyways at the behest of Ms. Tapardjuk, who is essentially working in concert with [Qrunnut] who is accused of sexually assaulting the young person.”

Qrunnut was later convicted of sexual assault, lawyers told Sharkey.

Sharkey adjourned the obstruction matter against Tapardjuk on Aug. 14 to allow lawyers time to discuss amongst themselves the next course of action.

That’s because Tapardjuk’s Charter of Rights application challenging the RCMP evidence may interfere with a jury trial date already scheduled for Nov. 24 in Igloolik.

“Normally we don’t set a trial until we figure that out,” Sharkey said, regarding the late entry of Tapardjuk’s charter application.

The evidence would likely have to be analyzed in a separate voir dire hearing to determine its admissibility prior to trial, he explained.

Tapardjuk was not present in the courtroom during the day’s proceedings in Iqaluit.

Sharkey requested that the lawyers provide an update during next month’s assignment court docket in Iqaluit, Sept. 11.

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