Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut December 07, 2017 - 11:00 am

Nunavut small claims process hurts non-Iqalungmiut, Arviat man alleges

“Iqalungmiut have more legal protections than people in the communities”

STEVE DUCHARME
This graph shows that in 2015-16 the Nunavut Legal Services Board was involved in only 13 small claim matters. (2015-16 ANNUAL REPORT, NUNAVUT LEGAL SERVICES BOARD)
This graph shows that in 2015-16 the Nunavut Legal Services Board was involved in only 13 small claim matters. (2015-16 ANNUAL REPORT, NUNAVUT LEGAL SERVICES BOARD)

An Arviat man defending himself in a Nunavut small claims matter is refusing to attend his next court date in Iqaluit, calling a judge’s order to travel to Nunavut’s capital at his own expense akin to “violating my human rights.”

“I do not and have never had any intention of attending the Jan. 3 court date,” Arviat resident Peter Scholz told Nunatsiaq News by email from the West African country of Ghana where Scholz, his pregnant wife, and two small children are currently visiting as of this week.

Scholz is being sued for about $1,400 by Qairrulik Outfitting Ltd., and represented himself by phone during the matter’s last court date, this past Nov. 17 at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.

Transcripts from that hearing indicate that exchanges in the courtroom were tense at times between Scholz and Nunavut Justice Paul Bychok, who presided over the case that day.

Bychok adjourned proceedings in the matter to Jan. 3, and ordered Scholz to attend the matter in person if he intends to continue representing himself.

“If you wish to defend this action, you can either hire a lawyer or you can make arrangements to have someone appear in court on your behalf for trial,” Bychok told Scholz.

Bychok added that “the Nunavut Court of Justice is not a telephone court and I think if you made inquiries you would find that it might not be quite as expensive as all of that to change your travel.”

Scholz is returning to Arviat, from Ghana, on the same day as his court matter, Jan. 3, but will arrive with his wife and two children in Montreal on Dec. 29, before continuing on to Winnipeg two days later.

Scholz alleges that the added expenses to cancel and change flights for his family to travel to Iqaluit, additional nights in hotels, and to book a return flight to Arviat from Iqaluit would “cost almost $13,000.”

“The facts of the case are very simple, and a lawyer would charge more than the case is worth,” he said.

Scholz added that the judge “basically said that if I did not come, I would lose the case.”

According to transcripts of the Nov. 17 court hearing, Bychok did not talk about any future decision he might make on the issue, but said “the matter would proceed in the usual fashion” when it reconvened on Jan. 3.

While not an official policy, most judges at the Nunavut Court of Justice will grant requests by parties to attend court by phone for administrative court appearances.

But parties are generally requested to attend court in person—or designate another to appear on their behalf—for more important events, like trials or decisions.

Nunavut’s legal assistance funding, which is granted through the Nunavut Legal Services Board, is rarely applied to small claims matters.

Scholz wrote that he is “concerned” by the court order, because “if people from communities must travel to Iqaluit for even minor court cases, then in effect, Iqalungmiut have more legal protections than people in the communities.”

The Nunavut Legal Services Board represents approximately 98 per cent of persons involved in family and criminal law matters, according to its 2015-16 annual report.

There were a record 131 applications for coverage under the board’s civil practice wing, up from 90 in 2015, according to last year’s annual report. But only 13 matters were categorized as small claims issues.

The board spent more than 99 per cent of its $11.8 million budget in 2016, closing the year with a surplus of about $77,000.

The overwhelming majority of the board’s expenses are related to services provided in criminal matters, amounting to about $5.5 million in 2016.

Family law matters accounted for another $1.6 million of the board’s expenses, while civil law expenses were recorded at about $450,000.

This graph shows that the Nunavut Legal Services Board dealt with a steady rise in civil law matters from 2013 to 2016. (2015-16 ANNUAL REPORT, NUNAVUT LEGAL SERVICES BOARD)
This graph shows that the Nunavut Legal Services Board dealt with a steady rise in civil law matters from 2013 to 2016. (2015-16 ANNUAL REPORT, NUNAVUT LEGAL SERVICES BOARD)
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(8) Comments:

#1. Posted by 13K? on December 07, 2017

hey peter are you chartering from arviat to Iqaluit that it will cost you 13000?If you are cacluating tickets meals hotel you are probably accounting your wife and kids?Do they have to be there for 1400 claim?I hope you straighten this out.good luck

#2. Posted by Out of Touch on December 07, 2017

Between this case and the City of Iqaluit/Safety Act one, Justice Bychok needs to realize that we are in 2017/2018 and technology is the only way to affordably resolve the issue of living in isolated fly-in communities when resolving access to justice issues.

It’s easy to say “just fly here” when you are paid several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year as a judge. I think Justice Bychok has lost touch with people who aren’t as privileged as he is.

#3. Posted by 13k on December 07, 2017

Ottawa to Iqaluit is about 1,200 one way, Iqaluit to Rankin about 1,000, not sure how much it is from Rankin to Arviat.

Hotels in Iqaluit over 200. Roughly around 3,000 grand to attend in person.

Might be worth just paying the 1,400.

#4. Posted by Great idea on December 07, 2017

Maybe I can sue people in other communities for small enough amounts that they don’t show up.

Honestly though, the Court system in Nunavut needs to revisit some of these “policies”.

#5. Posted by Thinking out loud on December 07, 2017

As always, I am baffled that people who were not in the courtroom for this case can comment on the judge’s decision(s). This article (as any article) does not report all the legal goings-on that happened in the courtroom, although it does seem that the reporter actually read the transcript of what happened in the courtroom that day, unlike the people who commented. With the undeniable facts that Mr. Scholz is being sued $1,400 by Qairrulik Outfitting Ltd. (an outfitter in Iqaluit), maybe there is something to this case that the trolls out there don’t know? And these people are so quick to criticize the judge for attempting to hear the case in Iqaluit, and have people like Mr. Scholz be present in the courtroom in Iqaluit, where the outfitter lives and can appear in court. The fact that Mr. Scholz lives in Arviat, but the outfitter is in Iqlauit, who should get priority and where should this case be heard? Iqaluit? Arviat? Let’s remember that Mr. Scholz is being sued by the outfitter…

#6. Posted by Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter on December 07, 2017

Mr. Scholz can find some small comfort in the knowledge that even if the outfitting business involved wins their case, they may have to pay for a Sheriff to travel from Iqaluit to Arviat to collect the $1400?!?
This may prove a Phyrric victory, Guy…

#7. Posted by Mariner on December 08, 2017

@#3; 3,000 grand is 3 million grand.

#8. Posted by Colin on December 10, 2017

Justice Paul Bychok needs to join the modern world and arrange for his court to provide telephone access. Or hold over cases till he gets to his customers’ locations.

The Canadian Judicial Council has taken special note of the position of self-representing litigants. Their Statement of Principles on Self-represented Litigants and Accused Persons has the following comments:

Judges and court administrators should do whatever is possible to provide a fair and impartial process and prevent an unfair disadvantage to self-represented persons.

Self-represented persons should not be denied relief on the basis of a minor or easily rectified deficiency in their case.

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