Review of the Nunavut Community Justice Program: Final Report
This section of the report summarizes the findings regarding each of the four focus communities of Pangnirtung, Arviat, Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit. The information presented here derives from various sources: consultations with the respective Community Justice Committees; in the case of Rankin Inlet, consultations with the Rankin Inlet Spousal Abuse Program and the Rankin Inlet Victim Support Program; interviews with community consultees; and documentation and statistics as available. The information from the consultations and interviews is presented in this section and in the subsequent section on the summary of key informant interviews as it was given to the researcher and is not analyzed in any systematic way. Analysis follows in later sections of the report.
It is worth noting again that the four selected communities are not necessarily representative of all Nunavut communities with respect to the operation or effectiveness of the community justice program.
The Pangnirtung Community Justice Committee is considered to be one of the most effective in Nunavut. Its membership has been very stable throughout the committee's life. Currently there are eight members on the committee, of whom four are women and four are men. The majority of committee members are Elders and have been on the committee for a number of years.
Committee members, the Regional Community Justice Specialist, the RCMP Detachment Commander, and the Hamlet agree that the program's mandate and goals are being met in Pangnirtung. These respondents perceive that the Community Justice Committee is contributing significantly to crime prevention and the safety of the community through traditional means of counseling offenders and victims. From the community's perspective, articulated through the Deputy Mayor, the committee is making the community a better place and preventing problems that the Hamlet would otherwise have to face in the future.
The Pangnirtung committee accepts pre-charge referrals from police in youth and adult cases, as well as post-charge diversions from the court. IQ is a basic principle and the committee engages in traditional counseling, which involves committee members speaking to the offender and imposing conditions such as apology, restitution and community service work. Traditional counseling with youth usually involves all the committee members, while adult counseling is generally done by three or four members.
The committee also uses an approach that involves both the victim and the offender. This is usually the committee's own adaptation of family group conferencing, and the aim is reconciliation. The committee makes its decision on a case-by-case basis whether to proceed with a referral in which the victim would be involved in the process. The decision is made according to the committee's understanding of the offence and the individuals involved. Like other effective committees, the Pangnirtung committee assesses the backgrounds, personalities and present condition of the victim before making the decision to proceed. If the committee concludes for any reason that the community justice process, such as family group conferencing, would not benefit the victim or the offender, they will not accept the referral. In cases when a victim is asked but chooses not to participate, the committee may proceed with traditional counseling of the offender, as long as the victim has not indicated he/she is adverse to the diversion process altogether.
The Pangnirtung committee runs land programs for adults and youth. Generally repeat offenders are sent to a land program. It is significant to note that some offenders who previously engaged in the land program are now among the leaders of the program. The community sees this as a clear indication of the program's effectiveness. The committee has had success in getting funding from various sources such as the National Crime Prevention Strategy for its land programs and plans to continue to apply.
The local RCMP detachment has confidence in the Pangnirtung committee. The police regularly divert youth and adult cases to the committee, including common assaults and, occasionally, assaults causing bodily harm. As in all referrals, however, the victim must agree to the diversion before the police will choose this option. The detachment finds that the Pangnirtung committee is forthcoming with information on the status of referred cases.
The Committee's relationship with the Hamlet is good. The Hamlet of Pangnirtung realizes the value of the committee's work for the entire community and supports it as possible. There was a problem in the 2003-04 fiscal year in that funding did not reach the Hamlet in a timely manner and the Hamlet was obliged to pay for justice activities from its operating budget. While this proved difficult for the Hamlet, the problem was resolved and is unlikely to happen again.
The Pangnirtung committee appears to be achieving success. The committee and the RCMP agree that there is a relatively low rate of re-offending among youth and adults who have been referred to the committee. Another indicator of the strength and credibility of the committee is the fact that couples will occasionally seek counseling from committee members even before they act in such a way as to attract the attention of the police.
The Pangnirtung Community Justice Committee expressed certain needs that, if met, would assist the committee in achieving its goals. Specifically, the committee requires dedicated space for meeting and counseling, and a funding and benefits package for a full-time Community Justice Committee Coordinator.
The number of cases coming before the court in Arviat appears to have decreased significantly over the last two years. Community consultees see this as an indicator of success of the Arviat Community Justice Committee's handling of pre- and post-charge diversions.
The committee's emphasis has been on youth, although the committee would like to see more adult referrals for the less serious offences. The committee holds IQ as a fundamental principle. To date most of its counseling has been done traditionally; i.e., without the victim present (but with the victim's consent). Committee members would like more training in victim oriented processes, such as family group conferencing. Until the committee has this expertise, they will continue to do traditional counseling without the victim's involvement.
There is good cooperation between the committee and other groups and agencies in the community. The committee works closely with the school principal and one of the teachers, who are dedicated to seeing youth cases referred. Similarly, the committee works well with the RCMP detachment and the police divert cases regularly. The Arviat committee runs youth programs such as traditional sewing and igloo building, as well as crime prevention activities such as radio shows, crime prevention week, and a poster competition. These activities are all attractive from the perspective of the RCMP and the school.
As in Pangnirtung, the Hamlet of Arviat sees the benefits of the committee's work and is supportive in various ways. The Justice Committee has expressed concerns, however, about the way in which the Hamlet selects and appoints justice committee members. Specifically, the Committee perceives that the Hamlet Council occasionally appoints individuals who are related to Council members, but do not have the skills or experience that would recommend them for community justice work.
Over the next five years the Arviat committee wants to develop its land program for youth, run more family group conferences (involving the victim), add more Elders and a young person to the Committee, and take on more adult diversions (for less serious offences).
The committee indicated that its primary needs are the following: a full-time Coordinator with benefits and a higher rate of pay; higher honoraria for Committee members; more training in family group conferencing; and funds for improving its land program for youth.
Rankin Inlet also has a strong Committee with a stable membership. The Committee accepts pre-charge and post-charge diversions for adults and youth, although the focus is more on youth. Post-charge diversions are from the Nunavut Court of Justice and from Justices of the Peace. The Committee takes various referrals, including property damage, shoplifting and minor assaults. The Committee has good relations with the Crown Prosecutor and local RCMP in terms of referrals and communications. A joint meeting between the Committee, the Crown Prosecutor and the police is always held before court to discuss post-charge referrals. Communication with the designated RCMP officer responsible for community justice is ongoing regarding pre-charge referrals.
IQ is an important principle for the Rankin Inlet Committee. The Committee runs a land program for youth and works with the Rankin Inlet Friendship Centre to involve youth in the program. The Committee engages in traditional counseling, in which the victim is not involved. In the traditional counseling sessions, most or all committee members take part, as well as the Coordinator, the offender and his/her parents.
The committee also runs successful family group conferences, and has had training in this approach. Family group conferencing sessions involve 3-4 committee members, the Coordinator, the youth victim and his/her parents or supporters (for those youth who do not have parents available to participate), and the offender and his/her parents or supporters.
Over the next five years, the committee wants more training in family group conferencing as members want to involve the victim more regularly. Committee members also want to increase the number of traditional counseling sessions, and engage in cultural education for youth at risk.
The Rankin Inlet committee acknowledges that community awareness of the committee's work is not high and could be improved through community relations work and presentations to the Hamlet.
The committee indicated that its immediate needs are the following: more training in family group conferencing; a dedicated space for counseling and cultural education with youth; a full-time and adequately paid Coordinator with a benefits package.
Rankin Inlet Spousal Abuse Program
Two full-time counselors work for this program and there are 5-6 elders on the committee. The program is funded through and reports to the Friendship Centre in Rankin Inlet. Funding is from Nunavut Justice and Grants and Contributions at Justice Canada and the project is time limited as a pilot.
Both victims and abusers are counseled. Most clients are referred by the court, while some are referred by Crown Prosecutors on a post-plea basis. Currently the program is counseling ten abusers and four victims. Victims are usually the spouses of abusers referred by the court. When appropriate, the couple is counseled together. The counselors also hold group sessions for men.
Both the spousal abuse and the victim support programs (see below) are trying to build a network of referral so that individuals in need do not fall through the cracks. At this point, there is no real contact between the Spousal Abuse Program and the Community Justice Committee because the committee does not handle spouse abuse cases. As well, the Community Justice Committee is already very busy handling its own cases.
Rankin Inlet Victim Support Program
One full-time counselor works in the victim support program and there are Elders on the committee. Getting volunteers to commit time to the program is difficult, and the reason given is that most people are related in a small community like Rankin Inlet. The program is funded through and reports to the Friendship Centre in Rankin Inlet.
The counselor helps victims prepare for court, gives personal support, provides specialized counseling, and gives practical advice. The counselor currently has sixteen clients, referred by other agencies. The Counselor also builds trust relations with young women who might come to her as self-referrals.
The program is not mandated to prepare victims for family group conferencing sessions run by the Community Justice Committee. However, it is an idea that could be developed. At this point there is no real contact between the program and the Community Justice Committee.
The Iqaluit Restorative Justice Society began operations with mainly new members in November 2003. Society members are working to regain the confidence of the police after an earlier Iqaluit justice committee was perceived to have failed to provide adequate service to the community because it did not adequately involve victims. The organization was established as a society in order to seek funding independently of Nunavut Justice and Justice Canada. There are nine active members, one of whom is a youth. IQ is taken seriously by the Society.
The Society accepts pre-charge and post-charge diversion for youth and adults. Since November, the Society has had six post-charge referrals and there have been a few pre-charge referrals. The Society is hoping that the police will divert more frequently as they regain confidence in the process and the Society.
The Society agrees with the RCMP that community justice ("restorative justice" in RCMP terms) should always try to involve the victim. The emphasis, therefore, has been on mediation. The Society is affiliated with about twenty trained mediators (the community justice forum model) in Iqaluit. Some mediators are on the committee, while others are not. As well as mediation, the Society occasionally engages in Elders' panel counseling, also known as traditional counseling to other Community Justice Committees. In these instances the victim is not involved. The Society would also like to do family group conferencing, in which the victim would be involved.
The Society has established a sub-committee to design a protocol to guide its decisions as to which technique is most appropriate in any given case (i.e., family group conferencing, community justice forum, or Elders' panel), bearing in mind that the victim is not directly involved in the Elders' panel approach. When the newly hired Coordinator is trained in mediation and other aspects of community justice, and is familiar with the operations of the Society, pre-charge and post-charge diversions will be sent to him. He will then decide how each case will be handled.
Society members see mediation as containing elements of IQ. The mediator contacts the victim and the offender. Both must agree to a case being handled through the community justice process or it is sent back to the police or the Court. If the victim agrees to the community justice process but does not want to take part, then the Elders' panel deals with the offender directly.
The Society specified its current needs as the following: dedicated space for their meetings, and mediation and counseling sessions (they currently rent space in the Elders' Centre, which is unsatisfactory for both groups); more training to ensure that all Society members are qualified in the community justice forum approach and family group conferencing.
 The problem arose when the funding process between territorial and federal departments ran into difficulties and funds were not forthcoming in time for community-based operations.
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