Making the Links in Family Violence Cases: Collaboration among the Family, Child Protection and Criminal Justice Systems

Annex 4: Family violence responses by jurisdiction - Nunavut

Legislative Responses

Family/Domestic Violence Legislation

The Family Abuse Intervention Act (FAIA), which came into force March 1st, 2008, is designed and aimed to provide the residents of Nunavut with the tools to holistically intervene and to prevent abuse by focussing on the immediate need for safety, with efficient and effective processes which are consistent with cultural values. The paramount objective of this Act is to promote the safety of residents of Nunavut.

The Family Abuse Intervention Act will also be able to deal with Elder abuse, which is not often brought to light in the current criminal justice system. This civil law deals with all family members. This Act attempts to revive that sense of responsibility with all the resource people and encourages all (children, adults, and Elders) to pick up their roles again, to be gentle with each other, and to share with each other.

The Act promotes ownership of the problem; it promotes solutions and empowers the community to be confident in working with the local resources to address all the social issues that face their community.

FAIA is a civil Act that provides assistance to related people needing:

  • An Emergency Protection Order (EPO) to be safe from the immediate harm of abuse; or
  • A Community Intervention Order (CIO) to seek counselling for the development of safer, healthier relationships.

The Saillivik Program is offered by the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Health and Social Services. Services offered through the Saillivik Program are meant to protect and support victims of family violence, and provide viable responses to family violence issues. Under the Saillivik Program, social workers can help move women and children away from family violence. Depending on the family’s situation, social workers will help a family get help through the Family Abuse Intervention Act or move family members to a safe place, such as Family Violence Shelter or Community Safe Home.

Family Law Provisions Related to Family Violence

Family Law Act, SNWT 1998, c 34 – In force April 1st, 1999.

Child Protection Provisions Related to Family Violence

The Child and Family Services Act SNWT 1997, c 13, is based on guiding principles including: that all decisions or actions should be in the best interest of the child; protection of children; maintaining cultural identity; and that the family has primary responsibility, involving extended family members. The Act introduces a mandatory reporting requirement for all Nunavut residents who suspect child abuse. Abuse is defined to include emotional abuse which constitutes a child as being in need of protection. According to the Act, a person who has reason to believe that a child is in need of protective intervention shall immediately report the information on which they base their belief to a director or peace officer. Recent comprehensive reviews of the child protection system have called for significant changes in the way child protection services are provided to children, youth and families in Nunavut. The recommendations are contained in the following public reports:

  • the Final Report of the Knowledge Sharing Forum, A Review of Child Welfare Practices in Nunavut (February 2010);
  • the Social Services Review Final Report (October 2011); and
  • the Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut – 2011: Children, Youth and Family Programs and Services in Nunavut (March 2011).

The Act will be amended, taking into the account the recommendation made in the above reports.

Under the guidance of the Child and Family Services Act, community social service workers are responsible for the protection of children, youth, and their families. Notably, the Act provides the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) with the authority to investigate notifications of children in need of protection, and to take action to ensure the children’s well-being, including, if necessary, to remove them from the parental home. The Act also outlines additional services available to families where child apprehension is not (yet) necessary.

Police

Policies

RCMP National Policy – Violence in Relationships Policy (see the Annex on Canada).

The RCMP is a member of the Child Abuse Response Protocol, 2004 (see below).

Crown

Policies

Federal Prosecution Service Deskbook, Chapter 28 Spousal Violence Policy

This policy relates to spousal violence and is intended to reflect the special circumstances of Canada’s three territories. In small northern communities options available to the victims of spousal violence may be limited, for example:

  • the victim may not have access to the same types of support often found in southern Canada, such as emergency shelters or counselling services;
  • the victim may face pressure in the community not to report the crime; and
  • absolute prohibitions on contact with the alleged abuser may be unrealistic in a small isolated community.

The policy places primary responsibility for decision-making with the police and Crown counsel rather than with complainants. At all stages of the criminal process, Crown counsel shall engage in appropriate consultation with the police and the complainant to ensure that the complainant is protected, informed and supported.

The policy seeks to guide Crown counsel’s discretion, not remove it. Crown counsel must consider and apply other Deskbook policies, including the “Decision to Prosecute” (Chapter 16) and “Victims of Crime” (Chapter 29) policy while bearing in mind the strong public interest in the denunciation and deterrence of spousal violence.

The policy has specific considerations on bail (28.4). Crown counsel should require from police sufficient information to determine whether releasing the alleged offender from custody would be an unreasonable risk to the safety of the complainant. In some instances if the offender is not detained, the complainant and her children will be forced to leave the family home. Where the court is satisfied that the offender could be released, some restrictions will ordinarily be necessary both to ensure the security of the complainant and preserve the integrity of the prosecution. The policy sets out suggested restrictions. Where the accused is released from custody, reasonable efforts should be made to provide a copy of the release terms to the complainant as soon as practicable.

Chapter 30 of the PPSC Deskbook deals with Parental Child Abduction. The intent of the guidelines is to assist in the uniform application of ss. 282 and 283 of the Criminal Code. They are directed to police and Crown counsel to advise when and how charges may be laid.

The prosecution service is a member of the Child Abuse Response Protocol, 2004 (see below).

Child Protection

Protocols

Child Abuse Response Protocol, 2004 – the signatories are: Government of Nunavut – Health and Social Services, Education and Justice, Justice Canada (who represented the Public Prosecution in 2004), and RCMP V Division. This agreement is based on principle that successful investigations into reports of child abuse require collaborative action by the agencies responsible for the health, education, protection and support of children at risk. The protocol covers all stages of child abuse investigation including: receiving reports; interview process; laying of charges; court process; and roles and responsibilities of RCMP, Family and Children’s Services and the Crown.

Service-Based Responses

Victim Services

Crown Witness Coordinators (CWC) – Public Prosecution Service Canada: The CWC program is unique to Canada’s three northern territories – Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. CWCs typically liaise and share information with Crown prosecutors, locate victims and witnesses involved in court cases, prepare victims and witnesses for court, support and accompany victims and witnesses during their court process and, when appropriate, refer them to supportive community services.

The Victims of Crime Act of Nunavut establishes the Victims Assistance Fund and provides for the appointment of a Victims Assistance Committee. The Victims Assistance Fund is a special purpose fund maintained with revenue from victim fine surcharges. The Victims Assistance Fund does not provide direct financial compensation to individuals but it supports community-based projects and activities that provide services and assistance to victims of crime through:

  • Training geared toward sensitizing and informing community resources workers as to the needs and circumstances of victims of crime;
  • Direct Services that assist victims through crisis response, personal support, follow-up assistance, victim information and systems referral;
  • Public awareness and information on the rights and responsibilities of victims, available services, the criminal justice system and its procedures and any issues relating to victims of crime; or
  • Research into and the distribution of information about services to victims and the needs and concerns of victims.

The disbursements are made according to proposals submitted by the applicant who wishes to carry out projects in their community regarding victims of crime. These types of programs do not exist in Nunavut.

In 2011, the Federal Minister of Justice announced funding of $1.3 million over five years to benefit and assist the Government of Nunavut in advancing victims services and access to justice for victims of crime in Nunavut. The funding is to assist families of victims of homicide and victims of other serious crimes to attend court hearings.

Shelters

  • The Department of Health and Social Services (HSS), from the Social Services side, runs the Family Violence Prevention Program which includes shelter provisions to women and their children fleeing violence and social services support to clients who are victims of family violence.
  • Through the Department’s Saillivik Policy, HSS provides funding to family violence shelters in a number of communities in the Territory. Currently there are four shelters which are operational in Nunavut, these are in: Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Kugluktuk, and Cambridge Bay. Qimaavik in Iqaluit is the largest family violence shelter facility in Nunavut with a 21 bed capacity and 24/7 service. The shelter houses women from other communities, who are either referred through social service workers, justice workers or by self-referral.
  • Under its Family Violence Prevention program, HSS also runs the Community Safe Home program, recruiting and funding safe homes in communities where women and their children who are victims of violence can temporarily stay, thereby minimizing the disruption to their lives. Currently six communities are participating in the safe home program. The Department’s aim is to establish at least one safe home in each community.
  • The Nunavut Housing Corporation (NHC) Homeless Shelter Policy aims to assist communities in identifying specific homelessness issues and developing appropriate responses and initiatives. The policy stipulates that NHC may donate one housing unit to every community for use as a temporary or emergency homeless shelter, with the community developing a business plan for the resources and the funds to operate the shelter.

Programs for Children Exposed to Family Violence

  • Under the Department of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs (EIA), the Social Advocacy Office is the lead in creating an independent Child and Youth Representative to ensure that Nunavut’s children and youth are being adequately served by government. The goal is to have a fully operational Child and Youth Representative established by 2014.
  • The RCMP is responsible for the Aboriginal Shield Program (ASP) which has taken place in Nunavut. The goal of this program is to help Aboriginal youth make healthy and informed choices when it comes to drugs and alcohol. This program also includes information on social challenges and how to deal with such challenges.
  • The Mianiqsijit Project in Baker Lake offers the following services: counselling services and services to children and youth, awareness raising at schools, and counselling to those affected by family violence. Other available services include advocacy, counselling, court accompaniment, crisis/distress line, safety planning/risk assessment, self-help support groups, and services for seniors, victim impact statements, and victim and witness preparation.

Abusive Partner Programs

The Rankin Inlet Spousal Abuse Program gives couples the option of working together to resolve issues, and it offers support specifically to men. Most clients are referred by the court, while some are referred by Crown prosecutors on a post-plea basis. Victims are usually the spouses of abusers referred by the court. When appropriate, the couple is counselled together. The counsellors also hold group sessions for men.

Parent Education/Information

The Department of Health and Social Services runs health promotion programs which are directly or more indirectly linked to family violence prevention. Many of these community-oriented programs that focus on family health and wellness are funded by the federal government, with funds being administered by the Department. Examples include and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) initiative, the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP), the Brighter Futures Program and nutrition and parenting program.

Other Services

  • The Department of Justice funds the Isumaqsungittut youth centre which is a community-based service located in Iqaluit and offers a variety of services for young offenders, including life skills, anti-reoffending and reintegration programs and alcohol and drug abuse programs. There is a psychologist on staff and offenders have access to a community wellness counsellor.
  • The Baffin Correction Centre is currently running a number of programs developed to meet the needs of offenders, including programs that explore alternatives to violence, promote Inuit cultural activities and provide offenders counselling from local Elders. Their current priority is to develop programs and activities for the remand population, which outnumbers those sentenced. A few of the programs offered are: the Tuqqaavik Program, the Inuit Cultural Skills Program, and the Katak program. The Tuqqaavik Program focuses on areas of skills development, parenting and grief and loss. The Inuit Cultural Skills Program focuses on teaching and developing both traditional and current hunting skills while developing self-esteem and knowledge about traditional culture. The Katak program provides individual programming for offenders based on their mental health issues and needs.
  • The Department of Health and Social Services’ Mental Health and Addictions services offer diagnosis and treatment for Nunavummiut with anger or violent behaviour issues. In addition, the community, regional and out-of-territory mental health services address drug, alcohol or gambling addictions, and a wide array of mental health disorders. The programs, services, resources and personnel are selected and delivered in a culturally appropriate manner.
  • The Cambridge Bay Wellness Centre which includes a shelter for women who are victims of family violence, also offers wellness programs which can be accessed by individuals within the community. It offers services to both victims and perpetrators; the majority of clients are court ordered to take programs.
  • The Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council advocates for the equality and well-being of women in Nunavut. The council identified four main priorities for 2011-2012, including violence against women, family wellness, women and justice, and women in leadership.

Court-Based Responses

Domestic Violence Court

Domestic Violence Treatment Option: There are no domestic violence courts or integrated domestic violence courts in Nunavut. There is a court-based abusive partner program operating in one community in Nunavut. It has been in operation for in excess of ten years. The Rankin Inlet Spousal Abuse Program allows any person who has been charged with a minor spousal assault to be referred to the program by the court following the entry of a guilty plea but before sentencing happens. The program includes 6 one-hour sessions of individual counselling and 29 two hour group sessions held twice weekly. The program lasts 15-17 weeks. Upon successful completion of the program, the court is requested to dispose of the criminal charge by means of the imposition of a conditional discharge including the imposition of a probation order with a condition that the offender keep the peace and be of good behaviour towards the victim. Signatories include the Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre, Public Prosecution Service of Canada and Legal Services Board of Nunavut.

Tools/Processes to Ensure Safety

Structured Risk Assessment Tools

Both the RCMP and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada Crown Witness Coordinators use Risk Assessment Tools/Checklists when dealing with reports of domestic violence and dealing with witnesses/victims of domestic assault.

Coordinating Mechanisms

Information Sharing Protocols

Access to Privacy and Information Protection Act (ATIPP). The ATIPP Act provides members of the public with a legal right to access to information held by public bodies including government departments and offices but also provides limited exceptions to the right of access of certain records.

Coordinating Committees

Within the Government of Nunavut, there are interdepartmental Working Groups, in order to improve coordination/collaboration/information sharing.

The Government of Nunavut has a Quality of Life Committee which is a Deputy Minister led committee focussing on social policy issues, and through formal memorandums of understanding between departments.

New Initiatives (Non-Justice)

Nunavut Child and Youth Representative: this position has not been filled yet. The Child and Youth representative would help individual children and youth who have concerns about services provided to them by the Government of Nunavut (GN) and certain agencies. The Representative would also review actions, programs, policies and services of government and agencies that affect children and youth. A representative would not have the power to order the government to take action, but they could advise and make recommendations to the government. These would usually be in the form of public reports. In this way, the office has some similarities to that of an Ombudsman. Children and youth could contact the Representative for help if they feel their interests or views are not being considered, or if they have a concern about services offered to children and youth. Adults could also contact the Representative with concerns about children or youth.

Key Reports

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