Review of the Nunavut Community Justice Program: Final Report

8. Summary of Findings


8.1 Funding Levels and Allocations

Community Justice Committees and other community consultees consistently cited inadequate funding as a serious issue. The Committees would like increased funding for a variety of program and administrative possibilities. The most commonly expressed needs are the following:

  • dedicated space for office work and meetings, including confidential counseling and mediation sessions;
  • land and cultural programs;
  • higher honoraria for committee members. Currently Committee members and chairpersons receive $50 per meeting and $75 per meeting, respectively;
  • full-time, competitive salaries with benefits for Coordinators (Coordinators are currently on part-time casual status with no benefits and a relatively low hourly wage);
  • more training for committee members, especially in mediation, family group conferencing and the YCJA;
  • more training for Coordinators in mediation, family group counseling, the YCJA, financial management and accountability, reporting, and planning and priority setting.

A significant question regarding funding levels is simply this: Are the available funds adequate to realize the full potential of the Community Justice Program? The major source of funding for the Community Justice Committees - the combined Nunavut Justice and AJS funding - averages about $29,500 per community in fiscal year 2004-05. Given the realities of high living and travel costs in Nunavut, Committees are challenged to develop and maintain programs such as land programs for youth, and to engage in ongoing training for Committee members and Coordinators. Thus, activities are sometimes limited to traditional counseling undertaken in the community, which requires no training and costs relatively little.

On the other hand, while additional resources might help to start new activities such as land programs, it would appear that not all Committees have the capacity and the stability to take on more than they are presently doing. Some committees are exceptions to this characterization. Pangnirtung, for example, is capable not only of running a successful land program but also of finding additional funds for that purpose. Most committees do not appear to have that level of capacity in either regard.

Nunavut Justice currently makes its yearly funding allocations to communities essentially on a per capita basis. An advantage to this approach is that it respects the equality of the communities and recognizes the potential of all communities to be equally effective in using the funds. A disadvantage is that the per capita approach does not allow for differences among communities with respect to the funds they can actually utilize. These differences may be due to varying degrees of committee capacity, or to some other reason. The reallocation of $8,000 in 2003-04 funds from Qikiqtarjuaq to Pangnirtung is a case in point.

8.2 Capacity Issues

During the course of the research for this review, community consultees working in different parts of the system and at different levels expressed concerns about the ability of others in the system to manage three important sets of tasks: 1) money management and accounting, 2) reporting, and 3) planning and priority setting. There may be a significant capacity issue with respect to these functions. In particular, it appears that many Coordinators do not have the capacity to perform some of their most important duties efficiently and effectively. It is then left to the Specialists to do the work, or at least to invest significant amounts of time assisting the Coordinators.

It is reasonable to assume that the Specialists will be assisting both Coordinators and Committee members build capacity in their respective areas of responsibility during a developmental period. However, as one Specialist describes it, the developmental period does not end in most communities. The normal model of community development involves a learning curve and then a leveling out as the group and the individuals settle into their jobs. In the case of Community Justice Committees and Coordinators, however, the graph appears as a wave - learning curves leading to peaks, and then falling again into troughs. The main reason for this appears to be a problem with sustainability. Many communities experience high turnover rates among Committee members and Coordinators. Each time this happens, the Specialist must once again begin the training process. This is particularly challenging as the Specialists have limited travel budgets to visit and spend time with the various committees in their regions. Specialists normally visit their communities once, or at most twice, per year.

The most commonly cited reason for the apparent inability of many Coordinators is rooted in the lack of attractiveness of the job. Community consultees consistently agreed that it is difficult for Community Justice Committees to attract and retain people with the education, experience, inherent skills, and motivation to do the Coordinator job effectively. Informants said that this is due to the fact that the job is a part-time casual position with relatively low pay and no benefits. Informants also say that there is inadequate funding to fully train the Coordinators. It should be noted that some Coordinators perform their duties effectively and are satisfied with their wages and a part-time job.

It is questionable whether the Coordinators' jobs warrant full-time status. While this may be appropriate for the Coordinators of some particularly active committees such as in Pangnirtung or Cape Dorset, a part-time Coordinator would be sufficient in most cases. It is difficult to know precisely what is expected of Coordinators because in most cases they do not have job descriptions and have never had their duties clearly explained to them by their Committees. One of the Specialists has made the effort to draft a generic job description for Coordinators. It is presently being reviewed by the other Specialists and may be taken to Committees with a view to having them accept and implement it.

The key finding here is that some personnel in the Community Justice Program may not have the capacity to carry out their jobs completely and effectively. The problem may lie in a need for more training, or in some other area. The Nunavut Department of Justice may decide to look into this problem in order to identify specific needs and solutions for improvement. Without performance standards and regular personnel evaluation and feedback, however, this may prove to be a difficult task.

8.3 Committee Membership and Sustainability

Specialists, Coordinators and other community consultees noted often that the process by which volunteers are appointed to Community Justice Committees can be problematic. As it tends to operate now, interested volunteers submit their names to Hamlet administrators who, in turn, submit the names to the Hamlet Council. In several communities (for example, Arviat) the Hamlet advertises for volunteers on posters in the community. Volunteers are subjected to a criminal record check before being accepted by Council and their names sent to the Nunavut Minister of Justice for appointment.

Problems with the appointments process may simply be inherent in small communities. The relatively few people who are interested or able to volunteer are often busy with numerous community activities. The result is that most Community Justice Committees are usually short of members and are willing to accept almost anyone who volunteers. This sometimes leads to committee members who may not have the skills or the proper motivation to work effectively on community justice issues.

Two other problems are related to the first. New committee members are often persuaded by family members to apply and join. In itself this is not necessarily problematic. However, it can present difficulties if the family members (a) carry their domestic disagreements to the committee table, or (b) act together to deal with a case in an inappropriate way because the client in question is also a family member. Community consultees advise that such situations are not unusual. The second related problem is that individuals who join the Community Justice Committee for the wrong reasons - whether responding to a family member on the Committee or for some other inappropriate motivation - often fail to pull their weight on the Committee, or leave the Committee altogether soon after joining. Again, this is problematic for the Specialists who are constantly trying, with scarce resources, to bring the Committees up to certain levels of efficiency and effectiveness.

The Specialist for the Kivalliq Region has developed sets of guidelines referring to committee membership, the role of the committee Chair, the hiring of Coordinators, and conflict of interest. The guidelines may be adopted by Hamlets and Community Justice Committees in the Kivalliq. The draft guidelines have been shared with the other Specialists and may be more widely adopted if seen as acceptable. With respect to Committee membership, the draft guidelines propose that each community would have a three-person selection committee comprising one member of the Community Justice Committee, one member of Hamlet Council, and one respected community person to be selected jointly by the Committee and the Hamlet. It remains to be seen if the proposed guidelines will be adopted in the Kivalliq and elsewhere.

8.4 Training

Most committees have benefited from having some members and, in some cases, Coordinators trained in family group conferencing and/or the community justice forum approach. Generally this training is done by a trainer with the RCMP. Some committee members and Coordinators have also had information sessions on the YCJA. Specialists usually take part in training sessions.

Training may be one of the most important aspects of the program and is frequently requested by Community Justice Committee members, Coordinators and Specialists (especially the newer Specialists). However, it is difficult to provide training on a regular basis, primarily because of the high costs associated with travel. A training session, even on a regional basis and for a select few participants from the region's communities is very costly - costly enough, in fact, that special funding is required in most cases (for example, from the Justice Canada Grants and Contributions fund).

The fact of infrequent training sessions has significant implications. First, with high turnover rates among the members and Coordinators of some committees, the result is that many do not receive the training they require to do their jobs as effectively as they should. This refers to committee members' abilities to carry on effective family group conferencing or to make decisions regarding youth justice according to the YCJA, but it also refers to the ability of Coordinators to carry out their administration and coordination duties effectively. Second, the fact of infrequent training opportunities can negatively affect the decision of talented individuals in their decision to apply for the position of Coordinator.

The Specialists and other Nunavut Justice officials view training sessions as an important developmental aspect of community justice. While this study did not assess the cost-benefits of training in any detailed manner, it appears from the views provided by Community Justice Committee members, Coordinators, Specialists, and other community consultees that training is essential to the effective operation of the program and is an area that warrants increased investment. This applies to both Committee members and Coordinators. Training may represent the single most important component of the program in which to invest additional funds.

8.5 Planning and Monitoring

It appears that the Community Justice Committees and Coordinators do not actively engage in planning their future goals and strategies. The Specialists recently held a five-year planning session among themselves. While this is good, Committees and Coordinators should also engage in planning. It would be difficult to do this jointly among committees because of high travel costs; however, an important goal may be for each committee to engage in planning each year. The Specialists could do this when visiting their communities. These kinds of sessions would also help to educate the Coordinators in planning and management techniques.

It is also important for Nunavut Justice to develop outcome measures. This is acknowledged by senior management in the Department. Without some guideposts by which to assess quality and measure success, it is difficult to know how the program is working, and how to identify and solve problems.

8.6 The Diversion Process

Community Justice Committees handle various types of diversions and take various approaches in doing so. Committees take both pre-charge referrals from the police and post-charge referrals from the Court. They handle both youth and adult cases of varying levels of seriousness. Significantly, the YCJA has stressed community based programming for youth, a fact that should mean even more diversions to the Committees.

It is difficult to get a clear picture of the numbers of diversions in most communities. It is therefore also difficult to see diversions broken down by age, gender, type of offence, disposition, the method of handling the case, and whether the victim was involved. Generally, it appears that Coordinators do not record this kind of information. This may be one of the most serious gaps in their work.

The period April 1, 2003 to September 30, 2003 is typical of community justice activity. The mid-year report for that period was produced for the Nunavut Justice - AJS funding agreement by Nunavut Justice Headquarters on the basis of information provided by the Specialists. The Specialists, in turn, rely on the Coordinators for timely information. For the four focus communities selected for this study, the report provides the following information with respect to alternative measures and diversions:

18 referrals, all of which were for minor offences; youth and adult referrals.

Rankin Inlet:
18 referrals, of which seven were incomplete by September 30, 2003; youth and adult offenders referred by RCMP and the Court. The committee does traditional counseling, asks for apologies, and assigns community service.

Pangnirtung [20] :
pre-charge diversion - one male youth, three male adults; post-charge diversion - none. The Pangnirtung Committee applies traditional counseling, community service, restitution, apology, curfew, land program, and family group counseling for couples in cases of spousal assault. The committee deals with the following types of offences: break and enter, property damage, mischief, theft, minor consumption, traffic violations, careless sue of firearms, uttering threat, assault, minor relational assault.

the Iqaluit Restorative Justice Society was not activated until November 2003.

Fortunately, the deficiencies in information collection may be remedied in the near future. Committees have started to use the Nunavut Community Justice Agreement Form (see Appendix 5). Parts of the document are completed by the RCMP or the Crown Prosecutor, and the Justice Committee, respectively. Basic data on a case is provided by the RCMP or the Crown Prosecutor and the committee indicates whether the diversion was completed or not, and (if completed) what was done. The offender also signs the document, acknowledging responsibility for the offence.

When completing the Nunavut Community Justice Agreement Form on behalf of their Committees, it will be important for Coordinators to include notes on the process. Detailed notes on each diversion, including information on victim involvement, would assist committees, Coordinators and Specialists in fine tuning program elements. These ideas are specified below in the Recommendations section.

The new Protocol Agreement (see Appendix 4) between Community Justice Committees, the local RCMP detachment, the Crown Prosecutors' Office, and Nunavut Justice will also clarify responsibilities and expectations, and will thus help committee-RCMP-Crown Prosecutor relations run more smoothly. The Protocol has been signed by some Community Justice Committees (in some cases, with modifications). In other communities, such as Iqaluit, the Committee was still reviewing the draft at the time of report writing. The consensus is that the draft Protocol is a good document and that it can be signed with little or no amendment.

The extent to which police and the Court divert cases to Committees depends on several factors. First, the Committee must have the capacity to handle referrals effectively. Second, the Committee must have the confidence of the police and the Crown Prosecutor that it can handle the case in such a way that its efforts will have a positive effect on the offender, the victim and the community.

Crown Prosecutors are generally supportive of post-charge diversion. They often meet with Community Justice Committees and Coordinators when they arrive in communities for Court. A meeting prior to Court, usually during the evening before Court sits the next day, establishes an agreement between the Crown Prosecutor and the Committee as to which cases it would be appropriate to refer. Again, however, the Crown Prosecutor must have confidence in the Committee's ability to handle the cases properly. The level of Crown Prosecutor confidence is reflected in the number of post-charge diversions that are made in a community.

At a logistical level, Crown Prosecutors have expressed concern that they are not informed as to the status of a diversion. They need to know this so that when an offender's name appears on the docket a second time for the same offence, the Crown Prosecutor will know how to respond. A protocol is currently being devised to handle this problem. It will be important for Coordinators to update the status of a case and to provide the information to the Crown Prosecutor in a timely manner.

Police also need a high degree of confidence in a Committee before they will divert cases. Confidence levels vary significantly across Nunavut. Generally, in those communities with a strong Community Justice Committee - for example, in Pangnirtung, Rankin Inlet and Arviat - the Detachment Commanders are willing to refer cases regardless of the approach deemed appropriate by the Committee for individual cases.

In three of the four focus communities for this study, victim involvement in the community justice process does not appear to be an issue that would influence a detachment officer's decision to divert. However, there is a concern at "V" Division Headquarters that some Committees are not practicing "restorative justice" because restorative justice, by RCMP definition, must involve the victim. Many committees do try to involve the victim as often as possible. It appears that the stronger Committees very much like family group conferencing or the community justice forum approach. In cases when the victim is not involved in the counseling process, it is because he/she has declined to take an active part in the process but has not disallowed community justice from taking place with respect to his/her case. Usually Committees will proceed to counsel the offender in these instances (traditional counseling).

The RCMP definition of "restorative justice" and the related policy implications for the Nunavut Community Justice Program is a significant issue that may lead to serious problems for the program and the work of Community Justice Committees.

[20] The South Baffin region is characterized by the most complete statistics of all the regions. However, while the South Baffin statistics indicate the number of referrals by pre-charge and post-charge, and by youth and adult, they do not indicate specific age, type of offence, the committee's disposition, the method of handling the case, and whether the victim was involved. While Pangnirtung numbers appear low for the period of April to September 2003, numbers were higher from October 2003 to March 2004.

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