Peter Jr. Tooktoo receives 30 years for triple manslaughter in 2008

Whapmagoostui community members witnessed the end of a tragic chapter in their Nation’s history this month, as the final sentencing in the death of Minnie Natachequan and her two sons was delivered by Quebec Superior Court Judge François Huot on June 18 at the community’s courthouse.

People from the community and Kuujjuarpik flocked to the long-awaited hearing, which was the final step in a court procession that lasted five years. In 2008, 40-year-old Peter Jr. Tooktoo was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Natachequan and their two sons, six-year-old Dawson and eight-year-old Peter after local police found them stabbed to death on August 22 of that year. Tooktoo was eventually found guilty on three counts of the lesser charge of manslaughter due a number of factors, including his extreme level of intoxication at the time of his crime.

About 60 people attended the proceedings in the small courtroom, overseen by a dozen police officers due to the sensitive nature of the case. Each audience member underwent a security check for potentially dangerous items before entering the courtroom.

The Natachequan family entered the courtroom last, led by Matthew, father and grandfather to the deceased. With tears being shed throughout the room, the emotional nature of their procession made it clear that the effects of this horrendous, alcohol-fueled crime will be felt in the community for years to come. Tooktoo wept openly in the prisoner’s box, clutching a photo of Minnie and their sons.

All parties involved in the case made statements, with court proceedings being held in English, Cree and Inuktitut.

“Nothing will make things easier as I will always miss my daughter and grandchildren,” an emotional Matthew Natachequan told the court in Cree, adding that what happened was the will of God and something that was beyond his family’s power. Judge Huot offered his deepest condolences for the sorrow and despair of everyone involved.

Shedding tears throughout the procession, Tooktoo made a statement apologizing to those he harmed, adding that he wished he had never blacked out.

Finally, the sentence was delivered. Found guilty on three counts of manslaughter, Peter Jr. Tooktoo was sentenced to 10 years for each count, to be served consecutively. However, Judge Huot found that each day of the five years that Tooktoo had already served would be considered as two days towards his total sentence, making his effective prison term 20 years.

Whapmagoostui Chief Stanley George said that he hopes the sentencing will bring about some sense of closure for the community.

“The community has waited five years for the conclusion to this case, and despite our different opinions on the sentencing, this is an opportunity for us to find some kind of closure,” said George. Although the Chief acknowledged that he, like many others in the community, questions whether justice has truly been served, he hopes that the nature of this alcohol-fueled crime will bring about some form of positive change.

“Every day we’re still in shock,” said George. “People are still asking themselves how this could have happened in our community and how could it have been stopped.”

Tooktoo had a history of violence against women and alcoholism at the time of the murders, having already been convicted of several other crimes including assault. George says the connections between alcohol and violence in the area must be addressed.

“I’m very surprised and disappointed that some community members still applaud the existence of the two drinking establishments here when we know that a huge majority of the criminal, health and social problems are alcohol related,”  said George. “Everyone in the community has to stand up against violence against women and children, so that this terrible sort of crime can never happen again.”