Review of the Nunavut Community Justice Program: Final Report

4. Structure and Operations of the Program


This section of the report outlines both the structure of the program and its various elements, as well as the operation of those elements and how they are intended to work together.

4.1 Structure of the Community Justice Program

The chart below indicates the structural elements of Nunavut Justice that are concerned with community justice.

Nunavut Justice - Community Justice Division

  • Deputy Minister
    • Director, Corrections and Community Justice
      • Assistant Director, Community Justice
        • Regional Community Justice Specialist - Kivalliq
        • Regional Community Justice Specialist - Kitikmeot
        • Regional Community Justice Specialist - North Baffin
        • Regional Community Justice Specialist - South Baffin
        • Regional Community Justice Specialist - Iqaluit

Each of the Regional Community Justice Specialists[10] is responsible for the Community Justice Committees in her region[11]. The regional community alignment is as follows:

  • Kivalliq Region
    • Arviat
    • Baker Lake
    • Chesterfield Inlet
    • Coral Harbour
    • Rankin Inlet
    • Repulse Bay
    • Whale Cove
  • Kitikmeot Region
    • Cambridge Bay
    • Gjoa Haven
    • Kugaaruk
    • Kugluktuk
    • Taloyoak
  • North Baffin
    • Arctic Bay
    • Grise Fiord
    • Hall Beach
    • Igloolik
    • Pond Inlet
    • Resolute Bay
  • South Baffin[12]
    • Cape Dorset
    • Clyde River
    • Kimmirut
    • Pangnirtung
    • Qikiqtarjuaq
    • Sanikiluaq
  • Iqaluit
    • Iqaluit

4.2 Roles and Reporting Relationships

In terms of reporting relationships, each of the Specialists reports to the Assistant Director, Community Justice. Except for twice yearly status reports, the Community Justice Coordinators[13] do not report to the Specialists, but to their own Community Justice Committees. Each committee has a chairperson selected by committee members. There does not appear to be a time limit on the Chairperson's tenure.

Regional Community Justice Specialists

The Specialists' primary role is to facilitate the work of the committees and the Coordinators through a variety of functions, including training, program planning, and liaising between Nunavut Justice and the communities and between federal programs and the communities. The Specialists' work with federal programs is essentially for purposes of securing funds. The Specialists also assist the Coordinators and their committees with administrative duties such as bookkeeping, as required.

More specifically, the Specialist job description identifies the following areas of responsibility[14]:

  • Liaises and assists various community, regional and governmental officials and groups in relation to adult and youth community based justice programming.
  • Provides guidance, consultation and assistance to [Nunavut] Department of Justice staff in the development and implementation of community-based justice programs and services to adult and young offenders.
  • Provides guidance and assistance to contractors and [Nunavut] Department of Justice staff in relation to the provision of contracted services.
  • Provides guidance, supervision and training to one or more Community Justice Workers or Community Justice Worker trainees.
  • Monitors and evaluates community-based justice programs and open custody services to ensure effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Provides service proposals and assists in financial forecasting.
  • Provides assistance in other departmental program areas as requested by the Assistant Director, Community Justice.

Community Justice Coordinators

The Coordinators generally do not have job descriptions. However, a draft job description was prepared by one of the Specialists and was circulating at the time of writing of this report. It identifies the following tasks to take place either in direct relation to committee meetings or between meetings:

  • Arrange meeting place and time.
  • Take minutes and interpret when necessary.
  • Type minutes and send to members as well as Community Justice Specialist in English, Inuktitut or both languages.
  • Work with chairperson and Community Justice Specialist on things that have to be done between meetings.
  • Work with the Hamlet on any work that needs to be done (invoices for honorariums, purchase orders for committee expenses).
  • Support and facilitate diversion work as agreed to by the committee and the person referred through diversion.
  • Work with RCMP to make sure all the paper work is done for diversions.
  • Work with chairperson to make sure that everything is prepared so that the committee can do its work.
  • Possibly - Write up funding proposals for committee.
  • Possibly - Supervise project staff for committee.

The role and capacity of the Coordinators is discussed at greater length later in this report under section 6.3 below.

Committee Chairpersons

A draft job description for committee Chairpersons has also been circulated to committees. It identifies the following responsibilities:

  • Make sure meetings are called regularly and the work of the committee is done (work with coordinator on this).
  • Work with the Community Justice Specialist on concerns of the committee.
  • Sign invoices for the committee.
  • Chair meetings.

Community Justice Committees

The membership of Community Justice Committees changes often in many communities (see the section on Committee Membership and Sustainability, below). In very general terms, however, it is reasonable to say that the majority of committee members are Elders, and that membership includes both men and women (with women in the majority). Some committees, such as Arviat and Iqaluit, are moving toward appointing a regular youth member.

There is no document that clearly identifies responsibilities for Community Justice Committees and each committee decides on its tasks, approaches, and levels of involvement in the justice system. Essentially the role of the committees is to provide a culturally appropriate alternative to those aspects of the formal justice system that involve the laying of a charge, a trial and sentencing. The primary means by which committees achieve this goal is by accepting referrals from the RCMP (pre-charge diversions) and from the Court (post-charge diversions). In defining its position on referral acceptance, each committee makes its own determination as to the following factors:

  • which type of referral to accept - whether pre-charge, post-charge or both;
  • the number of referrals to accept;
  • the type of offence for which referrals will be accepted - considered factors include youth or adult, the nature of the crime (e.g., property damage or personal), and the seriousness of the offence;
  • the approach the committee will take to handle any given referral.

There is significant variation among committees with respect to their decisions about accepting referrals; for example, some committees accept only youth property referrals, while others may accept referrals concerning assaults between adults. While committee positions regarding referrals may vary, there appears to be some commonality regarding the criteria committees apply in their decision-making.[15] The most common criteria applied by committees in making decisions on specific referrals appear to be the following:

  • the caseload already facing the committee;
  • the committee's perception of its ability to handle a particular type of case - some committees, for example, do not feel qualified to handle cases of interpersonal violence, particularly among adults;
  • the extent of training taken by committee members in methods such as family group conferencing;
  • the willingness of the victim to participate in the community justice process (in the case of youth, also the willingness of parents or supporters to participate);
  • the committee's perception of the offender as a good candidate for community justice - is community justice likely to succeed with the individual being referred?

The resulting variation among communities means that a relatively small number, such as Pangnirtung and Cape Dorset, accept referrals of relatively serious cases. The local detachment of the RCMP in Pangnirtung, for example, will refer adult assault cases and, on rare occasions, cases of assault causing bodily harm. Other committees, however, may choose to limit their work to cases involving youth property offences.

4.3 Types of Intervention

There are four main approaches which may be employed by committees for dealing with referrals: traditional counseling; land and other cultural programs; family group conferencing; and community justice forum (mediation). Committees vary according to which type of intervention they may choose.

Traditional Counseling

Traditional counseling is the approach most closely associated with IQ and perhaps the approach that comes most naturally to the Elders on the committees. Generally, traditional counseling is employed when a victim gives consent to the community justice process proceeding but chooses not to take part directly. Elders on the committee (the number varies) will then sit with the offender and talk to him/her. This approach is not intended to be confrontational or accusatory, but a supportive experience whereby the offender receives advice from experienced Elders. It is also true that an offender may first be reprimanded by the Elders for the crime he/she has committed and more generally for his/her lifestyle. The offender is almost always given a set of conditions to fulfill as part of the traditional counseling process. Conditions vary according to the individual's circumstances and whether he/she is a youth or an adult; however, they typically include an apology to the victim, restitution for property damage, and community service work (e.g., shoveling snow for elders).

Land Programs

Land programs are run by Community Justice Committees in some communities, such as Pangnirtung and Rankin Inlet. Land programs may involve youth or adults and may take place in summer or winter. Such programs usually involve a small group of male offenders spending varying lengths of time (from a few days to a few weeks) on the land pursuing traditional activities such as camping, hunting and equipment making. These activities take place under the guidance of one or more experienced hunters who are often also Elders. The approach involves placing the offender in an environment where he is removed from the stresses of family and community life, where he is challenged and is given the opportunity to rise to the challenge, and where he can learn traditional skills and cultural values. While Nunavut land programs have not been evaluated, Pangnirtung committee members have expressed the view that they are very effective in rehabilitating offenders, particularly youth. Land programs require funds in order to operate, however, and few committees have the capacity to develop the plans and proposals required for funding support. This point is addressed later in the report.

While land programs involve males, female offenders have fewer opportunities. Some Community Justice Committees (e.g., Arviat and Pangnirtung) organize Elder-led cultural programs such as traditional sewing classes for young women in trouble with the law. Sewing classes appear to be fairly infrequent, however, in spite of the view that they can be effective in rehabilitation.

Family Group Conferencing

Family group conferencing is an approach developed and taught throughout Canada by the RCMP. Many members of Community Justice Committees in Nunavut have attended training sessions. Among those who have had the training, the consensus is that family group conferencing is an effective way to handle community justice referrals in which both the offender and the victim participate. Committee members in the communities visited for this review consistently said that they wanted either initial or further training in family group conferencing. Family group conferencing is generally employed in youth cases. It involves a relatively small group, typically consisting of the offender and an adult supporter (often a parent), the victim and an adult supporter, and between one and three members of the Community Justice Committee. The victim must consent to the process in order for it to proceed.

The committee members work to facilitate an understanding between the offender and the victim, in part so that the offender genuinely comes to apologize to the victim and the victim can think of forgiving the offender. Committee members may encourage the offender to improve his/her behaviour. As well, agreement is reached among all parties as to a reasonable sanction for the offender. This often involves an apology to the victim, restitution (in cases of property damage), and community service work. The latter often involves working for the Hamlet and is to be monitored by the Coordinator.

Community Justice Forum

The community justice forum approach focuses on mediation. It is taught by the RCMP, although it has not been widely taught or used in Nunavut yet. Like family group conferencing, this approach involves the offender and the victim, and can proceed only with the victim's consent. A trained mediator runs the session and aims to achieve agreement and reconciliation between the offender and the victim. In Nunavut the community justice forum approach to mediation has been regularly applied only in Iqaluit. Since November 2003, with the start-up of the Iqaluit Restorative Justice Society, it has been used in the context of the Community Justice Program. The Iqaluit Society can call on about twenty trained mediators in the city, some of whom are members of the Society.

4.4 The Role of the Victim

Community Justice Committees, sometimes through their Coordinators, invite victims to participate in the community justice process in both pre-charge and post-charge diversions. The RCMP and Crown Prosecutors will also often confirm with the victim that he/she is amendable to the referral and the community justice process proceeding. In some cases, the victim may agree to the diversion taking place but will choose not to take part in the process. In such cases, the committee usually makes the decision to accept the referral and engage in traditional counseling with the offender.

Section 8.3 of the Diversion Protocol and Agreement (Appendix 4) states that "the safety and interests of the victim will be the first priority in the decision to divert matters." However, the question of victim involvement is somewhat problematic in Nunavut. It appears that the RCMP may be in the process of adopting a strict policy position that will not allow referrals in cases where the victim is not a participant in the community justice process, regardless of whether he/she approves of the process but chooses not to participate directly. This issue is discussed further in later sections of the report.

Several other questions arise regarding the role of the victim. For example:

  • What is the extent of victim involvement in the community justice process? (While this question is within the scope of the review, reliable data were not available.)
  • What is the level of victim satisfaction with the community justice process, whether the victim participates directly or not? What are the reasons for satisfaction of dissatisfaction? Does this vary according to whether the victim is a youth or an adult, male or female?
  • What does IQ say about the role of the victim and victim support?
  • Are there additional ways that victims could be supported in their communities?
  • What additional training or resources are needed to give greater support to victims, while still respecting IQ?

While many of these questions are beyond the scope of this review, they are significant and should be addressed through further research in the communities.

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