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January 23, 2001

Repeat sex offender is a kind man, wife tells court

Ewanchuk appeal: 'I will continue to love and support him,' Melissa Yong writes

James Cudmore
National Post

John Ulan, National Post
Steven Ewanchuk, outside his Edmonton home with one of his children, in 1999.

John Ulan, National Post
Melissa Yong

EDMONTON - The common-law wife of Steven Ewanchuk, a man convicted of sex assault in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, says her husband is "a kind, gentle and compassionate individual" with a "deep understanding about life."

Melissa Yong is in her early 20s and has two children with Ewanchuk, 51. She said in an affidavit supporting her husband's appeal of his one-year jail sentence that he was a "wonderful and dedicated father" and that she loves him unconditionally.

"Over the past four years he has been quite open with me regarding his past and we have frequently communicated and shared a lot with each other," she wrote.

Ms. Yong said that she first met her husband in 1996 when he was renovating her family's kitchen. She was in her late teens at the time.

In the summer of 1994, Ewanchuk lured a 17-year-old girl into his mobile workshop and made repeated sexual advances despite her pleas for him to stop. In 1999, he was found guilty of sexual assault after the Supreme Court overturned two lower court acquittals.

In the controversial and precedent-setting decision, the court clarified the law surrounding sexual assault, giving legal force to the notion that "No Means No" by eliminating the defence of implied consent.

"I am very proud of the way he has handled these past few years and how he managed to survive emotionally knowing what he was facing," Ms. Yong wrote of her husband.

Ewanchuk's case was then returned to the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, which imposed a sentence of one year in jail to be served at the Spy Hill Correctional Centre in Calgary.

In his written sentence, Mr. Justice John Moore said that due to Ewanchuk's public notoriety and the transient nature of his carpentry business, a conditional sentence to be served at home would be inappropriate.

"If Ewanchuk had a conditional sentence, the general public would recognize Ewanchuk in many places and at all hours of the day and night," Judge Moore wrote. "It would not look like house arrest."

In documents filed with the Court of Appeal of Alberta, Ewanchuk argued Judge Moore erred in law when he made the ruling because Ewanchuk was well-known, he could not serve his time in the community.

Ewanchuk then asked for and received leave to appeal. He is now on bail pending a hearing of that appeal.

In addition to Ms. Yong's expression of support, Ewanchuk's appeal arguments also included affidavits written by a daughter from a previous relationship, Ms. Yong's parents, a church leader and others.

Ms. Yong, in her appeal to the court, said she and Ewanchuk, a six-time sex offender, attend church regularly and that she believes their faith is getting them through this ordeal.

"I will continue to love and support him in any and every way I can," Ms. Yong wrote, "whether it is through open communication, prayer, understanding and/or loving him unconditionally."

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