Understanding Family Violence and Sexual Assault in the Territories, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples

3. Findings

3. Findings

3.1 Demographic Characteristics of Accused

This section examines the demographic characteristics of the accused themselves. It includes data on their age, marital status, and living arrangements at the time of the incident.

Statistics Canada reports that Aboriginal people comprise a large proportion of the population in the territories: 85% of Nunavut, 51% of NWT, and 23% of the Yukon are First Nations, Métis or Inuit.[5] However, Aboriginal people are over-represented in the criminal justice system in the territories, as is the case in Canada overall.[6] Almost all (93%) of the territorial accused were First Nations, Métis or Inuit.

Most of the accused were male. Ninety-eight percent of the 556 individuals accused of a sexual assault offence were male, as were 87% of the 918 individuals accused of a family violence offence. While only a minority of those accused of a family violence offence were female, the highest proportion of female accused was in the Yukon at 15%; followed by 14% in the NWT, and 10% in Nunavut.

The average age and the median age of those accused of either type of offence were early to mid thirties. However, as indicated in Tables 1 and 2 below, ages ranged widely. The greatest range was in Nunavut where those accused of a sexual assault were as young as 13 and as old as 85.

Table 1: Ages of those accused of sexual assault offences, by territory
Nunavut NWT Yukon
Youngest age of accused of sexual assault 13 14 14
Oldest age of accused of sexual assault 85 71 72
Average age of accused of sexual assault 32 32 35
Median age of accused of sexual assault 31 31 34

Table 2: Ages of those accused of family violence offences, by territory
Nunavut NWT Yukon
Youngest age accused of family violence 16 19 18
Oldest age of accused of family violence 72 75 63
Average age of accused of family violence 32 34 35
Median age of accused of family violence 32 33 34

While 39% of those accused of a sexual assault at the time of the incident were married, a smaller proportion, just under a quarter (23%), were living with their spouse or common-law partner (8%) and children or step-children (15%) at the time of the incident. Eighteen percent were living with their parents or other relative, which reflects the young ages of some of the accused. Six percent were homeless or with no fixed address.

Table 3: Living arrangements of those accused of a sexual assault
Living arrangements of accused Frequency Percent
With spouse or common-law partner and children or step-children 82 15%
With parents 74 13%
With spouse or common-law partner, no children 39 8%
Alone 38 7%
With other relatives 29 5%
With children or step-children only 7 1%
With friends 8 1%
Homeless (transient or no fixed address) 22 4%
Other 30 6%
Unknown 227 40%
Total 556 100%

The same pattern holds for family violence. While the large majority of those accused of a family violence offence (92%) were married at the time of the offence, 71% were living with their spouse or common-law partner and/or children or stepchildren. One percent were homeless at the time of the incident.

Table 4: Living arrangements of those accused of a family violence offence
Living arrangements Frequency Percent
With spouse or common-law partner and children or step-children 386 42%
With spouse or common-law partner 264 29%
Alone 48 5%
With parents 25 3%
With children or step-children only 10 1%
With other relatives 11 1%
With friends 5 < 1%
Homeless (transient or no fixed address) 9 1%
Other 19 2%
Unknown 141 15%
Total 918 100%

The remainder of this section tracks the data as the accused moved through the criminal justice process, beginning with the offences of sexual assault.

3.2. Sexual Assault Offences

Alcohol or drugs were part of a substantial number of sexual assault incidents. Approximately half (52%) of those accused of a sexual assault charge were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the offence. NWT had the highest proportion (63%), followed by Yukon (59%); and Nunavut (40%). In addition, almost half (43%) of the victims of the sexual assault were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The majority of those accused of a sexual assault offence were charged with two offences, on average, at the time of the current incident. However, the number of charges was as high as six in both NWT and Yukon, and up to 16 in Nunavut. The majority (84%) of the most serious charges across the territories was sexual assault level 1; sexual interference was the offence with the second largest number of charges at 12%.

Table 5: Most serious sexual assault charge by territory
Nunavut % NWT % Yukon % Total %
Sexual assault 1 85% 85% 81% 84%
Sexual interference 11% 10% 16% 12%
Sexual assault 2 4% 4% 3% 4%
Sexual assault 3 < 1% < 1% 0% < 1%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100%

As noted in Table 6 below, overall, 13% of all individuals accused of a sexual assault offence were found not guilty. Half, 50%, were found guilty; however, findings of guilt varied by territory. In Nunavut, 63% were found guilty, compared to 55% in the Yukon and 32% in NWT. The large majority (79%) of the accused found guilty were found guilty of the original charge. A quarter of the sample (24%) had all charges stayed or withdrawn. Reasons for stays or withdrawals varied; these included, but were not limited to, insufficient evidence or the victim refused to charge.

Table 6: Most serious decision for sexual assault charge, by territory
Nunavut % NWT % Yukon % Total %
Guilty 63 32 55 50
Not guilty 11 14 13 13
Stay/withdrawn 20 29 24 24
Other/not recorded 7 25 8 14

Over half (58% ) of all those convicted of a sexual assault charge were sentenced to custody. In comparison to the other territories, NWT had a lower rate of conviction (32%) but a substantially higher rate of custodial sentences (86%) once convicted.

Table 7: Most serious sentences of sexual assault offenders, by territory
Nunavut NWT Yukon Total
Custody 48% 86% 52% 58%
Conditionalsentence 23% 6% 19% 18%
Probation 26% 8% 26% 22%
Other 3% 0% 3% 2%

Sentence lengths for sexual assault offences varied across the territories as well. Details of the sentence lengths of convictions are provided in Tables 8 and 9 below. These details include the minimum, maximum, and median sentence length, as well as data on fines and restitution. In the Yukon, sentences were shorter in comparison to the other territories. Its maximum sentence for sexual assault offences was 36 months (three years), in comparison to 73 months (just over 6 years) in NWT, and 79 months (6 ½ years) in Nunavut.

Table 8: Sentencing Quantum: length of most serious sentences, sexual assault offences, by territory
Sentences Minimum Number of months Maximum Number of months Median Number of months
Nunavut Custody < 1 79 9
Porbation < 1 36 12
NWT Custody < 1 73 10
Probation 6 24 12
Yukon Custody 1 36 6
Probation 3 37 18

Table 9: Sentencing Quantum: maximum fine amounts, sexual assault offences, by territories
Fine/restitution Minimum Fine Amount Maximum Fine Amount Median Fine Amount
Nunavut $200 $1,000 $500
NWT 50 500 50
Yukon 50 100 100

3.3. Family Violence Offences

Alcohol or drugs were part of the incidents of family violence as well. In family violence offences, 69% were committed while the accused was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This includes approximately three-quarters of the accused in both Yukon (76%) and NWT (73%). This was the case for just over half (56%) of those accused in Nunavut. In addition, just over half (54%) of the victims of a family violence assault were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the assault.

In cases of family violence, while the average and median number of charges at the time of the incident was two, the number of charges was as high as 12 in both Nunavut and NWT and 11 in the Yukon. Assault level 1 was the most serious charge in the majority of cases (74%), followed by assault level 2 (22%). As Table 10 indicates below, there was consistency in levels of seriousness across all three territories.

Table 10: Most serious family violence charge, by territory
Nunavut NWT Yukon Total
Assault level 1 74% 77% 71% 74%
Assault level 2 20% 20% 26% 22%
Assault level 3 4% 3% 1% 2%
Criminal harassment or uttering threats 2% < 1% 2% 2%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100%

Overall, only 7% of those accused of a family violence offence were found not guilty. This includes 3% in Nunavut, 7% in the Yukon, and 10% in NWT. Fifty-seven percent were found guilty, and 22% of all cases were stayed. The overall rates of convictions varied widely by territory, as reported in Table 11 below. While the conviction rate in NWT was 34%, in the Yukon it was 58%, and in Nunavut 80%. The large majority (82%) of those found guilty across the territories were convicted of the original most serious family violence charge.

Table 11: Most serious decision for family violence charges, by territory
Nunavut % NWT % Yukon % Total %
Guilty 80 34 58 57
Not guilty 3 10 7 7
Stay/withdrawn 14 20 29 22
Other/not recorded 2 36 6 14

Half (51%) of the family violence accused found guilty were sentenced to custody, including 68% in NWT, 50% in Nunavut, and 44% in the Yukon. NWT again had a lower rate of conviction (34%), but a higher rate of incarceration (68%) once convicted.

Table 12: Most serious sentences for family violence offenders by territory
Nunavut NWT Yukon Total
Custody 50% 68% 44% 51%
Conditional sentence 21% 0% 17% 15%
Probation 26% 19% 38% 30%
Other 3% 13% 2% 4%

Details of the sentence lengths of family violence convictions are provided in Tables 13 and 14 below. As can be seen in these data, median sentences are short (two months) and are consistent across the territories. However, while the longest length of sentences for incarceration was similar in both Nunavut (60 months) and the Yukon (61 months), at approximately one year, the longest sentence for incarceration in NWT was considerably lower (16 months) at just under a year and a half.

Table 13: Sentencing Quantum: length of most serious sentences, family violence offences, by territories
Minimum Number of months Maximum Number of months Median Number of months
Nunavut Custody < 1 60 2
Probation 6 24 12
NWT Custody <1 16 2
Probation 6 24 12
Yukon Custody <1 61 2
Probation 1 37 12

Table 14: Sentencing Quantum: maximum fines amounts, family violence offences, by territories
Fine/restitution Minimum Fine Amount Maximum Fine Amount Median Fine Amount
Nunavut $50 $1,000 $200
NWT $50 $1,091 $500
Yukon $35 $1,673 $50

3.4. Conditional Sentences for Both Types of Offences

Eighteen percent of those convicted of sexual assault were given a conditional sentence as were 15% of those accused of a family violence offence. Conditional sentences included a wide range of mandatory conditions, with offenders typically receiving more than one. Almost all conditional sentences included keeping the peace and remaining within the jurisdiction of the court. Conditional sentences also included conditions to aid in changing behaviour specific to offences as well. As reported in Table 15 below, for both family violence and sexual assault offenders, the most common conditions were that they must attend counselling, such as anger management or for addictions, and they must abstain from any intoxicating substances, including alcohol. Approximately half were mandated to undergo a psychological assessment.

Table 15: Conditions attached to conditional sentences, by offence type
Sexual assault Family Violence
Must attend counselling, such as anger or addictions management 73% 86%
Must abstain absolutely from intoxicating substances, including alcohol 71% 75%
Must not approach victim or must have no contact with victim 61% 69%
Must undergo assessment, such as psychological assessment 46% 56%
Must undertake community service 53% 37%
Must undergo treatment 30% 49%
Must not be alone with children 21% 0%
Must not possess a firearm 0% 23%
Must meet with Community Justice Committee 11% 9%
Must pay restitution 0% 11%

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