Review of the Nunavut Community Justice Program: Final Report

9. CONCLUSION

Conclusions are based on the research findings above. They are organized according to the three major questions that formed the basis for the terms of the project. However, when reading the conclusions the reader should bear in mind the limitations of the review as described earlier in the report, particularly the limitations with respect to the number of communities visited by the researcher.

Is the Community Justice Program meeting its mandate and objectives as currently established?

The lack of data at this time makes it difficult to come to a definitive conclusion. However, generally, it appears that the Community Justice Program is, at least in part, meeting its current mandate and objectives. Significant progress has been made by many Community Justice Committees in terms of handling referrals of youth and adult cases from the RCMP and the court. It also appears that many of the Committees have the respect of their communities, Hamlet Councils, and other professionals in the community. Further, it appears that the most effective of the Community Justice Committees may be having an impact on re-offending in their communities. It is also possible that the work of some committees may even be reducing first offences, although this would be difficult to confirm in the scope of this review.

There are some concerns, however.

Community Justice Coordinators

In some cases, the Coordinator position appears to be a weak link in the process. This is a problem, in part, because in some communities qualified individuals are not attracted to the job. There is general agreement that this is primarily due to the fact that the Coordinators are underpaid and that the jobs are only part-time. There is also inadequate funding to train the Coordinators properly. Until this problem is addressed and all Coordinators are able to perform their tasks effectively, the Regional Community Justice Specialists will continue to carry much of the burden of running the administrative aspects of the program.

Justice Committee Membership

The process for selecting and appointing members of the Community Justice Committees requires refinement and standardization to ensure that the most appropriate community members are on the Committees. This matter is currently being addressed by the Specialists as they review the membership criteria proposed by the Specialist for the Kivalliq Region.

The Role of Hamlets

While many of the Hamlets cooperate efficiently with the program, in some cases there may be a problem with the allocation of program funds. As well, some Hamlets are slow to provide the required financial statements regarding the program budget for the community.

Infrastructure

In many cases Community Justice Committees still do not have adequate, dedicated space where the Committee can hold meetings, engage in counseling or mediation, or where the Coordinator can work. This is a serious issue, especially in view of the sensitive nature of the committees' work and the need for maintaining confidentiality.

Victim Involvement

There are concerns about the relationship between the Community Justice Program and the policy directives of the RCMP. At the national and divisional RCMP Headquarters, restorative justice is defined as involving the victim in every case. Community Justice Committees, on the other hand, involve the victim when the victim agrees to participate and may otherwise counsel only the offender as long as the victim agrees. The Committees, which often comprise mostly Elders, have been given the mandate to engage in community based justice according to Inuit ways. Traditionally, the victim was not involved in the process in many instances. This is a complex question and the explanation would require focused research beyond the scope of this review.

The difference between the emerging official RCMP view and the approach of the Community Justice Committees is a potentially serious issue. To date, it appears that detachment commanders are setting the pre-charge referral policy in their communities. In many cases, this means that the police are diverting cases even though they know the victim may not be directly involved. In other communities, the RCMP may not be referring cases for this reason. It has been and may still be an issue in Iqaluit, for example. If Divisional Headquarters decides to force the issue, it may mean that detachment commanders will be required to stop pre-charge diversions.

Reporting

In some communities the reporting relationship between the Committee, on one hand, and the RCMP and Crown Prosecutor, on the other hand, is not as effective as it should be. The police and the Crown Prosecutor always need to be apprised of the status of referrals as they are dealt with by the Committees. This may not be a serious problem as the reporting relationship works well in many communities and could easily be improved in the others.

Planning

The Specialists recently engaged in a five-year planning exercise. However, committees and Coordinators have not been involved in planning exercises with respect to their own communities. It is the belief of Committees and community consultees that yearly planning by the Committees would assist the program.

Outcome Measures and Monitoring

Outcome measures and effective monitoring procedures have not been put in place for the program. The implementation of the Nunavut Community Justice Agreement Form should help in terms of providing timely data on each case as it proceeds, as long as the Coordinators provide the information needed to monitor individual cases and, by extension, the program as a whole.

Do the mandate and structure of the Community Justice Program reflect the Program's current and future needs?

Generally the mandate and structure of the program are adequate to meet Nunavut's community justice needs. While there are some concerns regarding program operations and funding, the major concern may be the one about the differences between the RCMP and the Community Justice Committees in terms of their definitions of restorative justice or community justice. The question becomes one of whether the Committees are authorized to proceed in ways that they define according to Inuit traditions. Specifically, the issue is whether victims must always be actively involved in the process.

Does the Community Justice Program provide effective alternatives to the formal justice system?

The consensus view is that the Community Justice Program is providing an effective alternative to the formal justice system. Further, community consultees in all categories agree that the program is improving as time passes. It should be said that, while some specific concerns were raised in both the consultations and the key community member interviews, there is general agreement that the program is performing a valuable function and that it holds potential for even greater positive impacts in the communities.

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