Nunavut MLA says family abuse law adds to homelessness
Homelessness is a "growing problem," Nattilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk says
Too many people are homeless in Nunavut as a result of the Family Abuse Intervention Act, Nattilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk said in the legislative assembly March 14.
The act is supposed to offer protection to victims of family abuse and to end abuse more quickly and efficiently.
That’s because it allows police to bar an alleged abuser from the family home, give the victim possession of the family home and children, and prevent an abusive spouse from contacting the family.
“It has become clear that one of the unintended consequences of the Family Abuse Intervention Act is a rise in the number of individuals who no longer have a place to live,” Ugyuk said.
Ugyuk asked Nunavut’s justice minister, Daniel Shewchuk, if his department collects any information on whether people who are removed from homes because of the act find housing.
Shewchuk said he didn’t have the information Ugyuk requested in front of him, but he said he would look into it.
Homelessness is a “growing problem,” especially for women and children, Ugyuk said.
The number of homeless people in Nunavut stands at about 1,200, but Ugyuk said that doesn’t come close to reflecting the true state of homelessness in the territory.
As well, independent shelters don’t have enough money to operate, so many women face finding a place for their children to live, she said.
And many community-based societies are run by volunteers who burn out, overwhelmed with the administrative burdens of running a shelter.
Men who must leave their homes often find themselves living in shacks, tents or cabins, in a climate where the weather is “harsh and unforgiving,” Ugyuk said.
“After an extended period of time, these temporary homes can pose added risks to an individual’s health and well-being,” she said, and sometimes people who have no home of their own also end up in southern cities.
Ugyuk wanted to know if Shewchuk had heard similar concerns about the Family Abuse Intervention Act causing homelessness is in other Nunavut communities.
Shewchuk replied that he hadn’t heard of any similar concerns from other communities.
“It’s going to have consequences, it’s a very good tool for intervention to take place, to stop people from going into the court system, so it’s a very good initiative,” Shewchuk said.
The act includes orders of a “calming period” of three days, where spouses can’t contact each other.
A community intervention order can also require both spouses to attend traditional counselling with an elder.
Other orders make the alleged abuser provide financial assistance or compensation, which may help women with children, who are fleeing an abusive situation.
All these orders can be made by either justices of the peace or judges, whether or not the alleged abuser has been charged or convicted of a crime.
As for the law causing homelessness, Shewchuk said he plans to work with Monica Ell, the minister responsible for homelessness.”
Ugyuk wanted to know if Shewchuk would visit her constituents to see the situation first-hand, but he said his staff would continue to visit communities in the Kitikmeot region.