A National Survey of Youth Justice Committees in Canada
- 4.3 Nunavut
In Nunavut, there are a total of 25 designated YJCs, one of which was inactive at the time of the study. The research team was able to contact six of these YJCs directly. Attempts to contact other YJCs in the region by either telephone or fax were unsuccessful. However, additional information was obtained from four regional justice specialists who oversee other YJCs in Nunavut.
Like the Northwest Territories, YJCs in Nunavut are also called Community Justice Committees (CJCs). Most CJCs contacted did not limit their activities to considering the appropriate measures in individual cases of youthful offending; they also have authority to work with adult offenders through a protocol agreement signed by the RCMP and the territorial and federal governments.
The number of volunteer members on the CJCs ranged from a low of five to a high of nine volunteer members, with a median between seven and nine. In most cases, these members did not have prior professional experience working in the youth justice system or related field. Most CJCs included Elders with “lifetime traditional experience”.
CJC members receive an honorarium for each meeting attended, with members receiving $50 for each meeting and committee chairs receiving $75 for each meeting. Chairs must work closely with CJC coordinators and also do some liaison work with community organizations and the RCMP. CJC members are usually appointed by the Hamlet (municipal government) in each community, are regarded as respected community members, have not been involved in criminal activities, and are intended to represent a cross-section of the community, including Elders, youth, men and women. Members must submit to a criminal record check. In some communities, committees consist primarily of Elders. Attempts are being made to recruit younger committee members (in their 20s), who can better “relate to today's problems” and youth. No other significant gaps in the CJC membership were noted.
In most CJCs in Nunavut, Regional Community Justice Coordinators/Specialists, who are employees of the territorial Justice Department, play an advisory role, guide the activities of CJCs, and act as resource personnel to committee members. Among those CJCs for which information was obtained, none have a Board of Directors or advisory committee who guide their activities. Hamlets are accountable for the resources allotted to CJCs, although it is the responsibility of each CJC to set its own budget, with assistance from Regional Community Justice Specialists.
Four of the six CJCs named the local Hamlet as their host agency. For the others, the territorial government was the host agency, in the sense that it provided extensive support to the CJCs and in-kind assistance in the form of office space, or administrative assistance to CJCs.
All CJCs have a paid position to assist with the activities of the volunteer members. Among the six CJCs for which detailed information was available, four had a full-time coordinator and two a part-time (20 hours weekly) coordinator. The functions of coordinators include the following: perform administrative work; schedule meetings; take messages and interpret when necessary; liaise with the Hamlet, CJC members, RCMP, and Community Justice Specialists; support and encourage CJCs; prepare funding proposals and payroll; supervise diversion; and coordinate various community programs. Coordinator positions are funded through contributions from the Nunavut government. In some communities, there is matching federal government funding.
CJCs indicated that volunteers must undergo training before assuming their duties. This training is generally organized by the Community Justice Specialists, is roughly three days in duration, and tends to focus on the roles and responsibilities of the committee, issues of accountability, and Family Group Conferencing. Representatives from the Department of Justice Canada provide training.
The need for additional training in Family Group Conferencing was also noted. In a few of the CJCs, it was noted that only some committee members actually participated in this training.
The territorial government sets aside a total of $680,000 in order to support the 25 communities across the territory in their CJC work. The amount of funds given to individual CJCs varies, with most CJCs receiving between $10,000 and $34,000 from the territorial government. The amount of funding to each CJC depends on the size and need of the community. Some CJCs have also received matched funding from the Aboriginal Justice Strategy. A few committees have applied for additional funding from the National Crime Prevention program sponsored by the federal government. In addition, most CJCs receive in-kind assistance from a host agency, community group, or a government agency, typically in the form of office space, administrative support and office supplies. Hamlets, in at least one CJC, receive an administration fee to provide insurance, audits, and office space to the CJC.
Among the six CJCs for which detailed information was available, the range of annual funding varied from a low of $11,000 to a high of $65,000, with median funding of $30,000.
Most CJCs play the central role of considering the appropriate measures in individual cases of youthful offending. In most CJCs, the majority of cases are referred by police before charges are laid. These referrals are made after charges are laid but before any court finding of youth responsibility (these referrals may come from Crown attorneys or Justices of the Peace. Typically, these are not serious offences most often involving theft under $5000 (shoplifting), break and enter, and mischief. Nearly half of the CJCs contacted indicated that they felt the majority of cases they dealt with were somewhat serious. Most of those remaining indicated that they felt the cases were either not very serious or not serious at all.
The number of cases referred annually to the six CJCs contacted varied considerably from a low of one to a high of 60, with a median of “15 to 18”. The differences were thought to be the result of the different size of communities, as well as the level of support for the program from RCMP officers. The number of CJC members who comprise the panels that decide cases varies from community to community. In some, the whole membership attends, while in others, half of the membership attends, while in others a panel of three members conducts the meeting.
Victims are asked how the offence affected them, but in many communities, victims are not invited to participate in the meeting. In any event, some CJCs indicated that victims rarely attend meetings. CJCs with training in Family Group Conferencing were more likely to invite victims to diversion meetings. Training in Family Group Conferencing and workshops on working with victims have been proposed as ways to increase victim involvement at hearings. Resistance to Family Group Conferences in some CJCs was noted, and is described under the heading “Issues”.
A meeting is held prior to the diversion with CJC members, at which time the committee decides whether to accept a case, what they might say to the youth, and what measures they may recommend. The youth, victim and their supporters attend the second (diversion) meeting. Typically, the paid coordinator does not participate in these decisions although in some CJCs, the coordinator will attend the diversion hearing, take notes and fill out the required paperwork. The coordinator in some CJCs will oversee the completion of measures determined at the diversion meeting.
CJCs in Nunavut generally - with variations particular to each individual CJC - carry out the following roles or functions: (1) crime prevention such as helping to plan and implement crime prevention activities in the community like on-land programs, recreation programs, summer jobs programs and Al Teen; (2) advice to the court on sentencing matters; (3) diversion; and (4) counselling and supervision of offenders. According to the Regional Community Justice Specialist in the Kivalliq region, community crime prevention and alternative diversion are the two main roles played by CJCs.
It is difficult to generalize about additional roles, based on information from only six CJCs. Given the minimal involvement of victims in the CJC process, only two CJCs indicated that they mediate between or reconcile youthful offenders and victims. An interest in encouraging victim participation was expressed. Two CJCs indicated that they facilitate family group conferencing, meeting with youth, their families and community members in order to work out the best answers to youth crime.
Four CJCs assist youth in completing community service and other conditions of alternative measures. Three CJCs noted that they or the coordinator try to find volunteer placements or may refer youth to a local agency that may assist the youth in this regard, but that little paid work is available in the communities. One CJC indicated that they have made efforts to help youth make school related adjustments (e.g. encourage youth to attend school at the diversion meeting), but the lack of tutoring assistance in the community was also noted by at least one CJC.
Four CJCs or their coordinator assist youth in finding other help in the community when appropriate, including counselling, treatment, recreational programs, etc. Four also indicated that they play a role in teaching youth about their Aboriginal culture and traditions. Responsibility for following up on youth falls to the coordinator or another paid worker who reports back to the committee (three out of six CJCs).
Some concerns were raised regarding the sustainability of the CJCs, as well as the implications of the YCJA.
- In some communities, the criteria set out by the territorial Department of Justice for recruiting and selecting members have not been followed. Some appointments to the CJC have been made on the basis of the financial needs of applicants who would receive honorariums for participating. In some communities, a concern over Hamlets and members recruiting family members on to committees was raised;
- Turnover, or difficulties in sustaining involvement of volunteers, was also noted in some communities;
- The high turnover of paid coordinators was also a significant concern in some communities, and was viewed to be due mainly to the low-paying and part-time nature of the coordinator position (some communities reported losing coordinators every six months). While some growth has been observed in the program, the loss of key players (coordinators, CJC Chairs, RCMP detachments supportive of the program), has sometimes set the program back affecting the number of referrals to the program;
- In some communities, the low number of referrals has resulted in some members losing interest in the program, as well as requisite skills;
- The need for increased and ongoing funding was a significant issue. In particular, increased funding was needed to keep local coordinators, who currently receive $15 per hour;
- Insufficient community resources (e.g., CSO placements and recreational programs) were noted in some communities.
Despite these sustainability issues, all of those interviewed believed the CJC is sustainable.
Few concerns were raised regarding the YCJA. Among those with some awareness of the act, it was not expected to have much of an impact on the functioning of committees, particularly since the RCMP has already been using informal diversionary methods for years. Most individuals interviewed did not feel that they had sufficient knowledge of the act to comment on its potential impact on CJCs.
- Eligible Offences
- Some interest was expressed regarding having CJCs deal with some cases of family violence, particularly in cases involving young couples. One respondent said including such cases would be a good idea given the significant number of 16- to 20-year-olds in some communities starting families and experiencing domestic conflict.
- Program Philosophy
- There was strong support for healing approaches to justice to restore community harmony disrupted by disorderly behaviour (a restorative justice approach). According to some, this cannot be achieved by focussing solely on the victim-offender relationship. Rather, a more holistic approach was encouraged. Placing some of the responsibility for crime prevention in the community, re-creating an indigenous response to youth crime and taking back local authority over justice issues were also noted.
- Police Involvement
- The number of referrals in most communities relies heavily on RCMP involvement and investment in the program, as well as their physical presence in the community. When the working relationship between RCMP detachments, CJC coordinators and committee members is strong, referrals tend to increase, due to the mutual trust developed between key players. One respondent noted that when the program is poorly run by the paid coordinator, RCMP are less likely to refer cases to the CJC. However, these relationships have not been stable in some communities given the high turnover in paid coordinators, as well as the limited (two-year) terms that RCMP officers are assigned to communities in Nunavut. The success of the program was thus seen to be, at least in part, contingent on RCMP support. Some indicated that some RCMP officers have been supportive of the process, while others have not.
- Cultural /Language Related Issues
- At some sites, tension was noted between victim-offender mediation and traditional Aboriginal justice approaches. One individual remarked that an emphasis on victim-offender mediation diverts attention from a more traditional, holistic approach to justice that seeks to restore harmony within the community. Some viewed the victim-offender focus as too narrow. Further, it was reported that there is a need to involve younger committee members as in some cases the committee is comprised entirely of Elders. The concern was expressed that some of these committees, while holding a great deal of wisdom, may be out of touch with contemporary youth issues and that members sometimes “ do not think creatively ” at diversion hearings. In addition, some Elders' interest in playing a disciplinary role with youth was seen as diminishing the capacity of committees to engage in mediation or “ family group conferencing ”. Language and cultural barriers were also noted between Inuit and non-Inuit CJC members, as well as between RCMP detachments and some CJC members. In such cases, interpreters have been called to meetings to improve communication.
- Date modified: