Man to be sentenced for grave tampering

Bobby Suwarak’s deafness poses comprehension problems


A man accused of desecrating graves in Baker Lake has pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in the Nunavut Court of Justice next month.

Bobby Suwarak, 40, was arrested this past September on two counts of indecently interfering with human remains after two graves in Baker Lake were tampered with in June, 2010, causing outrage in the community.

Suwarak, who is deaf, appeared in court Jan. 11 with the aid of a court-appointed interpreter.

He’ll be sentenced Feb. 22. Past criminal charges against him have been stayed because at the time, he had no known language with which to communicate with court officials.

In court Jan. 11, Suwarak appeared to comprehend his interpreter. He tapped the side of his head and nodded when asked if he understood the date for his sentencing hearing.

Suwarak’s lawyer, Mandy Sammurtok, told court he has been able to communicate with the sign language interpreter and also with the help of a cousin.

But she said he might still have trouble comprehending certain legal principles. “He may not have in his vocabulary the word ‘choice,’” nor does he appear to comprehend what a pre-sentence report is, Sammurtok said.

The maximum penalty for indecently interfering with human remains is five years in prison. In an interview, prosecutor John Solski said the Crown would seek jail time for Suwarak.

“He [Suwarak] is capable of providing instructions to defence council…. He’s fit to stand trial,” Solski said, adding he has not yet spoken with defence counsel about sentencing submissions.

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