Programming Responses for Intimate Partner Violence

NUNAVUT

Context

IPV Legislation: Family Abuse Intervention Act, 2008

Domestic Violence Court

There is no domestic violence court in Nunavut; however, the territories’ alternate justice framework provides a somewhat similar justice-linked intervention option. A domestic violence treatment option is available in Rankin Inlet. In this area, lower risk offender may enter a guilty plea and attend the Rankin Inlet program. If the offender successfully completes the Rankin Inlet Spousal Abuse program the charge is disposed of by means of a conditional discharge which includes a period of probation.

IPV Action Plan

No current plan.

The Family Abuse Intervention Act was Nunavut Legislature’s attempt to implement legislation that allowed an alternative to formal legal proceedings to address situations of domestic violence. One aspect of this Act particularly relevant to IPV services is Community Intervention Orders. These orders require the abuser and survivor to attend traditional Inuit counselling with a specified traditional counsellor. To obtain a Community Intervention Order, a one-page form must be filled out and faxed to the offices of the Justices of the Peace. The office immediately sets up a time for an ex parte hearing, to be held over the phone. If the Justice of the Peace is satisfied, the order is granted immediately. Within five days, the order is reviewed by a judge of the Nunavut Court of Justice.

Although Nunavut’s Family Abuse Intervention Act includes many innovative attempts to address IPV, there have been numerous criticisms of the strategy and, even more importantly, of its implementation. Anti-colonial and anti-essentialist feminist theories have both been applied to understanding these critiques (Durrant 2014). As part of the implementation, the Nunavut government added supports to the legal system to better address the needs of victims of IPV. The legislation specified that family members, lawyers, RCMP officers and “prescribed persons” are permitted to apply for orders with the consent of the applicants. In addition, the government created the position of Community Justice Outreach Worker (CJOW) in every hamlet to facilitate victims’ use of the Bill and help to facilitate access to these orders.

Risk Assessment

Police services in Nunavut use the Domestic Violence Investigation Checklist (DVIC). While not a formal risk assessment tool, the DVIC assists police in ensuring that police investigations are comprehensive.

Traditional Inuit Counselling

A Community Intervention Order (CIO) may include the provision that the applicant (victim) and respondent (perpetrator) attend counselling with a traditional Inuit counsellor. Unfortunately, the “specified traditional Inuit counsellor” referred to in the act is undefined and is not a position that formally exists. There is concern that Inuit elders, who presumably are to undertake this counselling, do not have the training or support needed to counsel domestic violence victims or perpetrators. Moreover, there has apparently been some reluctance of elders to become involved in “family issues”. It is perhaps in part, for these reasons, that there have been very few Community Intervention Orders made since this Act came into force.

Rankin Inlet Spousal Abuse Program
Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre
Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

Structure

The Rankin Inlet Spousal Assault Program (RISAP) started in 2007. It is still Nunavut’s only dedicated domestic violence counselling program. This program is available pre-sentencing for offenders who have been charged with a domestic assault and have entered a guilty plea and also to offenders mandated as part of a probation order.

Treatment

The program is a mixture of traditional knowledge and more conventional counselling. The agency provides 6 one-hour sessions of individual counselling and 29, 2-hour group sessions (held twice weekly). Topics include warning signs, relationship rules, circle of violence, cycle of abuse, power and control wheel, timeout wallet card, equality wheel, decision making and dominance, and self-talk. Elders are often invited to the group counselling sessions to talk about family life, resolving disputes without violence, and to instill pride in traditional practices. Offenders accessing the program pre-sentencing return to court following program completion. The Rankin program provides a parallel program for victims of abuse and in some cases family members. They also provide couples the option of working together to resolve issues.

Accountability to Victims

Services in Nunavut are built with the assumption that both members of a couple are likely to need support. The system also recognizes that women and men will most often continue living together, in part as a result of lack of available housing alternatives. As a result, women’s shelters are less likely to be used as a way for victims to transition out of the relationship; rather, they allow victims a place of respite.

Victims of spousal abuse are also provided with counselling and support through the Rankin program. The agency engages in work to build awareness of family violence issues in the community.

Evaluation

The Family Abuse Intervention Act was evaluated by the Genesis Group and was submitted to the Nunavut legislature in 2010. From journalistic reporting, it seems that the report was quite critical; however, an online link to this report could not be found for a more thorough review.

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