Review of the Nunavut Community Justice Program: Final Report

2. Methodological Overview


2.1 Methodology

Research was conducted in four communities, namely, Pangnirtung, Rankin Inlet, Arviat and Iqaluit. While communities in the South Baffin (Iqaluit and Pangnirtung) and the Kivalliq (Rankin Inlet and Arviat) were visited, Community Justice Committees in the North Baffin and the Kitikmeot Region were not visited. The primary rationale for the selection of these communities was the need to balance effective coverage within the time allowed. As it happens, communities that are comparatively inexpensive to reach from Iqaluit are also ones that tend to be the most active and are the ones that are achieving success in their programming. Thus, limited opportunity to travel has meant that coverage of communities has been somewhat biased in favour of those with relatively strong Community Justice Committees. While information on committees experiencing problems (for example, problems concerning membership on Community Justice Committees) was obtained from the Community Justice Specialists and from other sources and is discussed in this report, the failure to consult directly with these Committees represents a limitation in the review and the report. Regional variation is a factor that should be considered in future consultations and analysis.

Data for this research were gathered through semi-structured one-on-one interviews as well as a number of group interviews with key community members and criminal justice professionals. Both in-person and telephone interviews were conducted with individuals while all group interviews (consultations)[4] were conducted in person.

Group interviews were held with the following: Arviat Community Justice Committee; Iqaluit Restorative Justice Society; Pangnirtung Community Justice Committee; Rankin Inlet Community Justice Committee; Rankin Inlet Victim Support Program; Rankin Inlet Spousal Abuse Program. The latter two groups were interviewed together.

Meetings were held at the convenience of the committees and programs concerned. In the case of the Community Justice Committees, the Chair was always present, as was the Community Justice Coordinator, and as many committee members as possible. The interviews were semi-structured and were based on a schedule[5] prepared by the researcher. The same schedule was employed for every Community Justice Committee session. A schedule prepared in advance was also used in the semi-structured interview session with the two Rankin Inlet programs.

James Arreak, Research Associate and Inuktitut speaker was present at all group interviews with the exception of Arviat. Mr. Arreak assisted by asking additional questions and by interpreting if required. Coordinators also interpreted when required and if they were able.

In the case of some members of some Community Justice Committees, the preference was to speak in Inuktitut at the group interviews. In those situations, either or both James Arreak and the Community Justice Coordinator interpreted the questions and the responses for the committee members and the principal researcher. All other interviews were conducted in English.

A total of 34 interviews with key community members and criminal justice professionals were conducted in-person (22), by phone (8), or both (4). The list of people consulted is included in Appendix 3. The methodological approaches utilized in the research for this review are summarized in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Methodological approaches utilized in this review
Participant Method of data collection Location
Nunavut Justice officials Interviews Iqaluit and other Nunavut communities
Justice Canada officials Interviews Ottawa and Iqaluit
Community consultees working directly with the justice system e.g., Community Justice Committee Coordinators, Community Justice Specialists, RCMP officers, etc. Interviews All four focus communities, i.e., Pangnirtung, Rankin Inlet, Arviat and Iqaluit;
Community consultees not working directly with the formal justice system e.g., Hamlet officials Interviews All four focus communities, i.e., Pangnirtung, Rankin Inlet, Arviat and Iqaluit
Community Justice Committees Group consultations All four focus communities, i.e., Pangnirtung, Rankin Inlet, Arviat and Iqaluit
Other relevant program committees; i.e., the Rankin Inlet Spousal Abuse Program, and the Rankin Inlet Victim Support Program. Group consultations Rankin Inlet

In addition, a review of documentation provided by the federal and territorial departments (see Appendix 2) and a review of available statistical data were undertaken.

While the report focuses on the four selected communities: Pangnirtung, Rankin Inlet, Arviat and Iqaluit, throughout the report are references to a Nunavut-wide perspective. The primary information base for the wider analysis is community consultee interviews and documentation provided by federal and territorial governments. All interviews were open-ended and focused on what the interviewee felt was important for discussion.

The Community Justice Program was discussed with Community Justice Committees in the context of the particular community. Similarly, many key community consultee interviews at the community level were conducted with reference to the community of the participant. In the case of certain other key participants, such as Community Justice Specialists, the Chief Judge, the Nunavut Deputy Minister of Justice, the Justice of the Peace Coordinator, and RCMP members at Headquarters, the discussion referred to the Program in general.

2.2 Limitations to the Review

As mentioned above, neither the Community Justice Committees nor other community members in the North Baffin and the Kitikmeot Region were visited. Regional variation is a factor and therefore, the findings of this review are partial and reflect most closely only those communities visited[6].

A further limitation concerns the lack of available data on diversions. The review was to have assessed diversions according to frequency, type of offence, age and gender of participants, involvement of the victim, approach used by the Community Justice Committee, and outcome. Generally speaking, this information, including basic data on the frequency of diversions, is not maintained in a systematic way at the community level[7]. It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, to provide a quantitative analysis of diversions. The unavailability of relevant data is viewed as a deficiency and is raised in subsequent sections of this report.

Finally, the concept and application of IQ deserves further field research in order to more fully understand the dynamics of community justice in Nunavut. IQ is a unique and significant approach to justice programming. It is, however, a complex view of the world that is difficult to define in substantive terms. The efforts by the Government of Nunavut are themselves a "work in progress." IQ is mentioned throughout this report because it is often referenced by justice officials and others working in the communities. Elders themselves generally do not refer to IQ, but it can be assumed that they simply practice it. It is important to understand in detail what the Elders mean when they practice IQ. What is the basis for their reasoning? What are their goals? Why do they do what they do? How have traditional approaches been modified to fit with contemporary realities? These questions require significantly more research than included in the scope of this review.

It should be noted that the Nunavut Community Justice Program is both achieving successes and continuing to meet challenges. The tendency for any program review is to emphasize the problems, and this report is no exception. However, it is important to realize that the Nunavut program is addressing crime and its related problems in ways that are unique and culturally sensitive. For example, elders speaking to youth and Community Justice Committees that are comprised of elders and members of the community. There have been innovative accomplishments and successes throughout Nunavut, including increasing numbers of Community Justice Committee members who are familiar with a variety of counseling and mediation techniques. Federal and territorial funding support is contributing to these successes.

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