The Nunavut Court of Justice - Formative Evaluation

2. Methodology

2. Methodology

2.1. Introduction

The evaluation involved four major data collection approaches and corresponding data sources:

These approaches and data sources were important in that each provided a particular type of information which contributed to an overall understanding of the Court and allowed the evaluation issues to be addressed. Both quantitative data (case file reviews) and qualitative information were required to assess the actual administrative functioning of the NCJ (the process issues) as well as the degree to which the Court has been successful in providing equal access to justice for communities in a culturally meaningful way (the innovation issues).

2.2. Key Informant Interviews

Representatives of the following groups were interviewed:

The number of respondents in each category depended on two factors. First, respondents were interviewed primarily according to their availability. For example, of the nine Crown prosecutors working in the Justice Canada office in Iqaluit, six were available for interview during the course of the evaluation; therefore, these six individuals were interviewed. The second factor affecting respondent selection was the extent of travel permitted by the scope of the contract to meet with individuals (e.g., JPs) in communities. Travel was restricted to four communities, including Iqaluit.

2.3. Community Meetings

On-site key informant interviews and community meetings were held by the evaluators in Iqaluit, Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq in the South Baffin region and Rankin Inlet in the Kivalliq region. The community visits provided the opportunity to meet key informants, including local JPs and members of Community Justice Committees. General community meetings provided an opportunity for residents to attend an open session which was advertised in the community beforehand. Both the key informant interviews and the general community meetings provided the evaluators with the views of Nunavummiut on the effectiveness of the NCJ at the community level and the extent to which it meets community needs.

2.4. Court File Reviews

2.4.1. File Selection - Criminal

The Court's criminal files are maintained in computerized format from January 2001. While criminal files prior to that date are filed according to conviction date, files from January 2001 onward are filed from the date of the start of the case for the Court (new information sworn). File review therefore began with files from January 2001. Files were reviewed manually. They were selected from the months of January, April, July and October for each year. These months were chosen to account for possible seasonal variation in Court activity. A sample rate of 10 percent was maintained for each month. In total, 425 adult criminal case files were reviewed.

Relatively few youth criminal files exist and therefore the sample size was small. In all, 28 youth criminal files were reviewed for the years 2001 to 2005 (based on a 10 percent sample). The small number of youth criminal files is a function of the consistent application of alternative measures for youth, whereby police are diverting most youth cases to Community Justice Committees without laying a charge. In the absence of a formal charge, a Court file is not opened.

Every tenth criminal file was selected for review, beginning with the first file opened for the month. Each file was followed through to its conclusion at the Court. It is important to note that the NCJ does not operate a case management system, which would track cases – with dates – in a single file through to completion of the justice process. Therefore, "completion" of an NCJ file occurs when a case is disposed of by the Court, not necessarily when follow-up measures such as probation are completed.

2.4.2. File Selection – Family

Family case files are included in the civil file management system in the Court office. Family files are defined according to the statutes relating to family matters. The relevant statutes are the Divorce Act, the Family Law Act, the Children's Law Act, the Maintenance Enforcement Act, and the Child and Family Services Act. According to Court Services data, approximately 40 percent of the Court's family law caseload concerns child welfare matters.

Civil files (including family) are computerized from January 2003, while files prior to that date are kept in manual format. Family files were reviewed back to January 2001. As with criminal files, family files were selected for the following months each year: January, April, July and October. A sample rate of 20 percent (every fifth file) was maintained for family files for each of January, April, July and October from 2001 to 2005.

While it was originally intended to sample civil (non-family) files for review, this was not possible due to problems of timing and availability. Findings and conclusions regarding the handling of civil applications by the NCJ are based primarily on key informant interviews. It can be noted, however, that the number of civil and family applications combined has risen from 431 in 2002 to over 700 in 2005.[1]

2.4.3. Administrative Files

Administrative data were provided to the evaluator by senior Court staff according to the indicators and information requirements specified in the evaluation matrix, e.g., circuit Court schedules. The data are maintained in various formats.

In certain instances, administrative data came from sources other than the Court. RCMP "V" Division in Iqaluit provided information on charging rates and the Nunavut Department of Justice provided information on incarceration rates and diversions to Community Justice Committees.

2.5. Limitations of the Evaluation

The limited geographic scope of the evaluation was a shortcoming. (Rankin Inlet in Kivalliq and three communities, including Iqaluit, in South Baffin were included. No communities in North Baffin or Kitikmeot were visited.) There is variation across Nunavut in terms of socio-economic conditions and community capacity, particularly regarding community justice. It was not possible to get community input regarding the effectiveness of circuit Court in all regions, and therefore not possible to conclude if there is variation in views on this topic. Coverage of all four regions through visits to one and preferably more communities in each of the four regions would have strengthened the coverage of local JPs, Community Justice Committees and other community residents.

Consistent dating of Nunavut case files began in 2001. Therefore, detailed file review began with 2001 files and each year is subsequently compared.[2] Ideally, files would have been reviewed in detail back to 1999 or earlier.

Finally, the study was lacking in the fact that civil (non-family) files were not reviewed in detail for the period 2001 to 2005.