Tuktoyaktuk man pleads guilty to mischief after 'out of character' ATV incident

James Tedjuk pleaded guilty to one count of mischief after lighting his ATV on fire near a home in Inuvik.

James Tedjuk lit his own ATV on fire in July 2019

James Tedjuk pleaded guilty to mischief at the beginning of a Tuesday court hearing in Inuvik. (David Thurton/CBC)

A Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., man who was originally on trial for arson to his own property pleaded guilty to mischief after lighting his all-terrain vehicle on fire near an Inuvik residence in July 2019.

James Tedjuk, 27, entered his plea at the beginning of a Tuesday hearing in Inuvik.

Crown prosecutor Billi Wun said the incident seemed out of character for Tedjuk, who had no prior criminal record.

In the statement of facts, Wun said the incident happened around 1 a.m. the morning of July 20, 2019.

Tedjuk had driven from Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik to surprise his father. But when he arrived, his dad didn't seem happy to see him.

Tedjuk, who had been drinking, was upset and decided to light the ATV with lighter fluid. The ATV was near a building that belonged to a friend of Tedjuk's dad.

Two RCMP officers that were on duty noticed the fire and evacuated the building, including five from the main floor and a young boy who was on the second floor. Although nobody was hurt, Wun said there was potential for tragedy.

'Unusual' incident

Wun said that Tedjuk was very remorseful from the beginning and didn't try to hide anything.

In fact, Tedjuk's lawyer, Charles Davison, said that Tedjuk approached police at the scene asking if he was going to be arrested before they had started to investigate the fire.

He said that Tedjuk had also looked around before lighting the ATV, to make sure the flames wouldn't catch on anything.

Davison said Tedjuk was upset with his dad and had lit the ATV on fire to get his attention.

He said he has never really been in trouble before and "this action is out of character."

Justice Andrew Mahar handed Tedjuk a six-month conditional sentence to be served at his home in Tuktoyaktuk, followed by a six-month probation period along with 50 hours of community service.

When giving his sentence, Mahar said "it's unusual at this level of court that we are dealing with someone with no criminal record."

"Everything I've heard today is out of character, and it's not you," he said as he spoke to Tedjuk.