Report: Nunavut family abuse law “failing”
Most people don’t want “counselling” from elders
(updated and revised March 16)
:Adopted about three years ago to meet the goal of promoting “the safety of Nunavummiut,” Nunavut’s Family Abuse Intervention Act has “not been very successful” in the territory, says an evaluation report on the act.
And, given the high level of domestic violence in Nunavut, the act isn’t not working and it’s even “at odds with those who believe in the more traditional way of handling domestic disputes.”
The evaluation, which the Genesis Group, a consulting firm, signed off on Feb. 4, 2o10, was not tabled in the Nunavut legislature, where the report was never discussed, until March 10, 2011.
But the evaluation is clear in its judgment of the act — it’s “failing,” the report said.
The act is supposed to offer more protection to victims of family abuse and to deal with abuse more quickly and efficiently.
To do this, the act calls for emergency protection orders and community intervention orders, which are supposed to involve local employees known as “community justice outreach workers.”
The emergency protection order allows police to bar an alleged abuser from the family home, give an applicant possession of the family home and children, and prevent an abusive spouse from contacting the family.
And the order may also be used to give a couple a “calming period” of three days, where no contact between a spouse and an abuser is allowed.
A community intervention order, also offered under the act, requires both spouses to attend traditional counselling with an elder.
Other orders require the alleged abuser to provide financial assistance or compensation, which may help women with children, for example, who are fleeing an abusive relationship and possess little money.
All these orders may be made by either justices of the peace or judges, whether or not the alleged abuser has been charged or convicted of a crime.
The JP only needs to be convinced that abuse has occurred, and will likely happen again.
But the 2010 evaluation says this act is failing because most community justice outreach workers aren’t “qualified or able to carry out the requisite duties.”
That’s because they lack the skills and knowledge to do so, the report said.
As well, such workers are employees of hamlets, “hired by one authority to do the work of a second, remote authority” — that is, the Government of Nunavut’s justice department.
The outreach workers say they feel “alone and essentially without support.”
They just “occupy space” in the hamlet office and often end up doing other jobs.
Most “see themselves as receptionists who sit and wait for people to come in.”
They admit taking the job for money only and that they are “entirely unsuited for the position.”
And many people told the consultants that they don’t like elders as counselors.
“The elder we had told the alcoholic to drink a little and he’d be okay… the elders were beaten or beat up people themselves — who wants counselling from those people?”
Good work has been done, the evaluation notes, in Iqaluit and Cape Dorset, where the act has been put into action and some emergency protection orders were applied.
Of the 80 emergency protection orders, in 2008-09, 53 came from South Baffin. Of these, 28 were from Iqaluit and Cape Dorset.
Of the seven community intervention orders applied under the act, four were from Iqaluit and Cape Dorset. There was only one compensation order and no stalking prevention orders in all of Nunavut.
The emergency protection orders often fail because couples get back together quickly, and there no consequences for failure, the report said.
It’s “kiss and make up and never mind the paper,” the report said.
The only successes of the act came from “outstanding individuals” more than from the act itself.
Generally, “implementation of the act is incomplete” and “no meaningful implementation of community intervention orders with the requisite counselling by traditional Inuit counsellors has been applied.”
The consultants “discovered little if any support for this counselling and applicants do not want to be referred to it.”
Such counsellors “as there are” say they want “nothing to do with family issues.”
“Some attempts have been made, but the results have been poor,” the report said.
The consultants also recommended moving the justice positions out of hamlets and into the GN and only in larger communities.
In smaller communities, RCMP members, who are “authorized, trained, willing and able,” should deal with applying the act, they said.
They also recommended expanding the concept of traditional Inuit counselors “to include anyone who has experience in counselling and who has earned and merits the respect of Nunavummiut.”
And they called for more training, better enforcement policies, and more communication to sell the act to the public.
The manager of the GN’s community justice program has not yet returned a request for an interview on how application of the act evolved over the past year since the evaluation was finished.