Inuit Women and the Nunavut Justice System

5. Family Law

All family law matters are dealt with by the Nunavut Court of Justice.[93] It is anticipated that JPs may be encouraged to hear matters regarding interim custody, support and temporary orders related to child protection.

The use of the courts to resolve family law matters is limited in Nunavut. In 1996, a total of 66 family-related cases from Nunavut were processed by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.[94] As of 1992, only ten women in Nunavut, outside of Iqaluit, were registered with the Maintenance Enforcement Program for child support orders.[95] Prior to April 1, most family law matters were cases which the lower court would hear. With the unified court structure, it is anticipated that JPs will be encouraged to take on more responsibilities formerly falling within the purview of the Territorial Court.

Among Inuit women, there is lack of awareness of the legal remedies available to those involved in family law disputes. This stems, in part, from the severely restricted access to legal aid as discussed earlier.

The role of the community in family law matters is much less prominent than in criminal law matters. The community-based justice initiatives introduced prior to April 1, 1999 focused entirely upon criminal law. This absence of community-based family law initiatives may be attributed to the criminal law focus of the government. Reforming the criminal justice system appears to have overshadowed any reform initiatives in family law and civil matters. This is most evident in the work done by a Ministerial working group on family law reform established by the Territorial Government in 1988. A discussion of the findings of this working group and the legislative amendments resulting from their recommendations is provided in Appendix #3.

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