Acquitted woman to sue GN for wrongful dismissal
Correctional centre head fired after assault accusations
A Kugluktuk woman plans to launch a wrongful dismissal suit against the Government of Nunavut, following her acquittal in February of this year on a charge of assault causing bodily harm.
Helen Larocque, former director of the Illuvut correctional healing centre, lost her job after she and her sister were accused of entering the home of Pauline Bolt and assaulting the woman.
Bolt told the court that on the morning of July 3, 2005, the two sisters woke her up in her home, dragged her off the living room couch, repeatedly punched her in the face and pushed a 27-inch television off a table and on to her.
Bolt, a sister-in-law of Larocque and Pigalak, was treated in the Kugluktuk Health Centre and later medevaced to Stanton Hospital in Yellowknife, where she spent the next five days recovering from injuries that included a ruptured eardrum and bruised chest and hip.
But details of her testimony didn’t match other evidence heard in court, while alcohol-induced blackouts left other holes in her story.
Justice Robert Kilpatrick said there was enough evidence to convict Larocque of aiding and abetting her sister, who pleaded guilty to assault.
But he said that evidence could not be considered dependable — creating reasonable doubt, and leading him to find Larocque not guilty.
“This is the criminal standard I must apply. I can’t be guessing. There are limits to what a judge can do in arriving at a decision. I was not there. But on the basis of the evidence before me, I can only say that it would be dangerous on my part to convict on the strength of the complainant’s evidence,” Kilpatrick said.
“Given the inconsistencies of the evidence, the gaps in her recollection, I cannot say that I am satisfied on the issue of credibility.”
The trouble started on the evening of July 2 when Bolt found her spouse, the brother of Laroque and Pigalak, sleeping with another woman, Bolt told the court.
Enraged, she brawled with the other woman, then went to the house of Laroque’s and Pigalak’s father later that evening and threw rocks through the window.
Then she returned home with her friends and continued drinking before falling asleep in the early morning.
Then the two sisters arrived, joined by Leila Uttak.
According to Bolt, they arrived on ATVs, wearing helmets. Bolt said the women pulled her off the couch by her shirt, shouted at her, punched and slapped her, then, while Pigalak held her down, Laroque tipped the television onto Bolt’s side.
Pigalak later told the court she did punch Bolt in the face, but said Laroque was not involved in the attack.
Bolt acknowledged that she has gaps in her memory caused by the vodka and rum she drank the previous evening. When she arrived in Yellowknife, her blood-alcohol level was 210 milligrams — well over the legal limit.
Uttak and Pigalak each told the court stories that were different than Bolt’s, beginning with their riding to Bolt’s home inside Laroque’s white pickup truck, rather than on ATVs. Both maintained the television was never pushed onto Bolt.
No television lay on the floor when police arrived. Bolt told the court she picked it up before police arrived.
Bolt first mentioned the fallen television to a doctor in Yellowknife. The statement Bolt made to police said that a television landed on her head, which she later changed to landing on her hip.
Another inconsistency in the police statement given by Bolt stated that she awoke naked, rather than dressed, as she told the court.
It remains unclear whether some of Bolt’s injuries, such as the ruptured eardrum, arouse from fighting earlier the previous evening, and from previous injuries.
Laroque’s sister, Rita Pigalak, pleaded guilty to assaulting Bolt. She is serving a conditional sentence of six months.
During cross-examination at Laroque’s trial, Crown lawyer Michael Jones asked Pigalak if she was taking the fall to save her sister’s reputation and job.
“No, I’m not trying to cover up (for) Helen at all. I believe that God always want us to tell the truth, and we’re telling the truth,” Pigalak replied.
Larocque has retained the services of Steven Cooper of Ahlstrom Wright Oliver & Cooper, an Edmonton-based law firm, to sue the GN for wrongful dismissal.
“The GN must understand that its actions are governed by law and due process,” Cooper said in a press release.
“Care must be taken before drastic decisions are made including one to dismiss a senior employee, which not only impacts on the employee’s bank account but also their reputation. Bank accounts can be refilled; reputations not so easily.”