RCMP ‘need to have more compassion for women,’ says victim of horrific attack

A plea agreement allowed Kelly Ovayuak to lose eight of 10 charges for an additional three years behind bars

Christine Cardinal surrounded by family outside Stanton Territorial Hospital in 2023. (Photo courtesy Billie Lennie/Facebook)

“Christine is not going to be another statistic. Another Indigenous woman that doesn’t matter. Her story, her truth, her life matters, she is valued.”

  • Billie Lennie, older sister of Christine Cardinal.

An Inuvik mom, now living with disfiguring injuries after being left for dead by her intimate partner on a remote highway, says the entire justice system has let her down to some degree.

Her attacker and former partner Kelly Mackenzie Ovayuak took advantage of a plea agreement to drop eight of his original ten charges and was sentenced Thursday in NWT Supreme Court in Yellowknife to an additional three years in federal prison.

Christine Cardinal endured unspeakable pain for months in and out of hospital in Yellowknife and Inuvik after the nightmare on April 2, 2022 in the Beaufort Delta.

Court heard that RCMP responded three times to complaints about Ovayuak on that day in April 2022, but let the career criminal go, despite his record of 36 prior convictions, including 14 for violent offences.

He was on court orders to stay away from his former intimate partner.

Surrounded by family and friends, Christine spoke with CKLB Radio on the courthouse sidewalk about the need for more training for police and better communications from the Crown’s office.

“They need to have more training, they need to have more compassion for women in general. I have to take care of my family like, I’m the only one that takes care of my family. Are they going to take care of my kids? No, no, they’re not.

“You know, they do their thing. They check in, they clock out, and they’re done. And they don’t they don’t see the lasting impacts of when they brush something off.

CKLB asked Christine if she had been part of the plea agreement process.

“I wasn’t. I was made known that morning out there, right. Just before. I didn’t even think that was … I forgot that was an option … the lawyers agreed or whatever … I had to just accept whatever they did.

“I appreciate what they did. I appreciate all of that. But maybe just a little bit more communication, hey, heads up, this could happen. Or this could happen.

“This whole time I’ve been mentally preparing for this day, or this week. And that took a lot of energy away from other things, because I just really focused on okay, like, let’s just get through this. And a little bit more. Like, I know, they did fight for me.

“But … it was a surprise. It is a disappointment, that some are dropped, but I’m satisfied with the three years away. And I really hope that he really does get help. And that he really does change.”

During the sentencing hearing, several victim impact statements were read into the record.

This as Ovayuak watched from a video link with North Slave Correctional Complex, as he refused to appear in person.

The 47-year-old subsistence hunter originally faced 10 charges including kidnapping, failing to stop for police and impaired driving,

But a plea agreement saw him convicted by Justice Andrew Mahar of aggravated assault and breaching a no-contact order with a victim.

Christine’s 79-year-old mother stated: “I am deeply worried about everyone’s safety once Kelly is released. As long as he remains in the community, we will never feel secure. His alarming history fills me with fear for my daughter’s life. Despite the police taking Kelly into custody three times that night of the accident, he kept being released and returned to harm her.”

Her oldest sister, Billie Lennie, choked back tears as she read her statement:

“This should not be another Indigenous case of domestic violence. This is my sister. This is our story. And it needs to be heard and given the recognition. And the sentence needs to reflect the severity of the situation.

“In this day and age, why can we not protect our woman, I would like to witness or at least share that I’m here to see change and fight for how powerless we feel, after we stand up here and tell our story. And for it to be shared on the news each time. This is our life.”

Court earlier this week heard Ovayuak attacked Christine while driving her truck on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway

He fractured her nose and left a cut near her eyebrow.

But when she fled her attacker some 80 kilometers outside Inuvik in –30 C weather with no shoes on, she was forced to return to the vehicle.

Ovayuak then led police on a high-speed chase, with officers resorting to using spikes to deflate his tires and make an arrest.

Ovayuak was originally accused of breaking into an Inuvik home on April 2, 2022, assaulting a man, and then kidnapping and assaulting Christine.

He faced 10 charges, including kidnapping, aggravated assault, break and enter, failing to stop for police and impaired driving.

Ovayuak’s week-long trial that was scheduled to begin Monday instead turned into a sentencing hearing.

A residential school survivor with a “very difficult upbringing,” Ovayuak sat with his arms folded and was seen yawning during the legal proceedings Thursday.

When offered a chance to speak for himself by Justice Mahar, he apologized to Christine and her family.

Christine Cardinal made this post in summer 2023, more than one year after she was left for dead on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway. (Photo courtesy Christine Cardinal/Facebook)

Earlier this month, Ovayuak was sentenced to 16 months in jail for repeatedly contacting Christine while he was in jail awaiting trial and forbidden from contacting her.

After she was able to return home, Christine initially was forced to crawl on her floor or be carried around and tended to by her children or family members.

The one-time “natural athlete” enjoyed snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, but now will live the rest of her life without most of her toes and lingering injuries to her hand and face.

In her victim impact statement, Christine stated the two years of trauma has had devastating impacts on her well being.

“I find it incomprehensible that the offender who had suffered no physical pain, could not be here with the comfort of a drive over from his cell to this courtroom, to face in person, his day in court and for this sentencing.

“But the truth is, I’m not doing this for the offender. I’m doing this for myself. I’m doing this for my daughters, for my children. I’m doing this for all victims of domestic violence, my indigenous sisters to show that we matter, our lives matter. I will not be silenced.”

Justice Mahar said the total sentence for aggravated assault and breaching a no-contact order is 57 months, less 25 months pre-trial custody credit, for 36 months remaining.

A DNA sample was ordered, a no-contact order for Christine and her family while in prison or on parole, and a modified firearms ban exception.

That’s where the regional firearms officer will be asked to look at programming completed and his sobriety level before issuing an exemption for actual hunting use.


About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: james.oconnor@cklbradio.com.