Former Nunavik cop jailed 18 months for sexual assault

Joe Willie Saunders, 25, gets 18-month sentence for sex assault on fellow KRPF member


UPDATED: A former officer with the Kativik Regional Police Force is now serving out an 18-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting another KRPF member.

Joe Willie Saunders, 25, of Kuujjuaq, first accused of sexual assault causing bodily harm, pleaded guilty in February 2012 to the lesser charge of sexual assault, in connection with incidents that court documents say took place Feb. 5 and Feb. 6, 2010 in Kuujjuaq.

Quebec judge Renée Lemoyne sentenced Saunders on Aug. 24 to 18 months in jail.

She also declared him as a sex offender and required him to submit DNA samples, which will be included in the national registry of sex offenders.

The National Sex Offender Registry provides rapid access by police to information about convicted sex offenders. Through this registry, an officer is able to request a search for registered sex offenders living in a given area.

Saunders will remain on this list for 20 years.

The court also imposed a 10-year firearms prohibition on Saunders.

The complainant, a fellow police officer at the time of the sexual assault, addressed the court Aug. 24, presenting a victim impact statement on the circumstances around the sexual assault and its lasting effects on her.

After working the day shift at the Kuujjuaq station, she said she attended a house party with almost all her fellow officers to celebrate the end of the holiday season.

At about 10 p.m. on Feb. 5, the two officers on duty that night stopped by the party to say hello. They drove the woman home to the police transit. One of those officers on duty was Saunders.

Several hours later Saunders returned to the police transit residence, which was unlocked.

Once inside, the woman said he sexually assaulted her in her room. Saunders then left the residence and returned to duty.

The woman, who admitted to being intoxicated, woke up during the assault. She then reported the incident to KRPF deputy chief Tristan Greene and also reported the incident to KRPF management.

Sûreté du Québec provincial police then took over the investigation from the KRPF and arrested Saunders.

Over the course of this investigation, DNA evidence was found and matched to Saunders to confirm the assault.

Saunders was charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm. He was later released and given conditions pending resolution of the case in court.

After three months, the KRPF placed Saunders on administrative duty, pending the result of court proceedings, which wrapped up Aug. 24 with his sentencing.

After sentencing, the victim and Saunders ended up flying to Montreal aboard the same aircraft.

The victim, who has filed a grievance with the union, told Nunatsiaq News she has not worked or received any pay or benefits from the KRPF or the Kativik Regional Government since reporting the incident in 2010.

At the recent meeting of the KRG council in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik’s police chief Aileen MacKinnon fended off complaints about cops’ behaviour in their communities.

Although many recent incidents involving members of KRPF were mentioned by regional councillors, the sexual assault conviction of Saunders was not discussed.

But MacKinnon did say that a tougher code of ethics is being drafted for the police force.

The KRPF said in a Sept. 27 statement that, “prior to his conviction and sentencing, Joe Willie Saunders was dealt with as provided for under the law, the KRPF code of discipline and the collective agreement. Specifically, he was suspended immediately following the event and brought back on administrative duties after three months. Mr. Saunders is no longer a member of the KRPF.”

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