Small Nunavik community wants the travelling court to return
“Sometimes that visual support from parents is important"
KUUJJUAQ — It’s been years since Quebec’s travelling court has stopped in Ivujivik, a community at the northwest tip of Nunavik.
The court used to set up at the local school gymnasium, until school administrators decided they didn’t want students to see handcuffed offenders escorted in and out of the building.
However, that remains the situation today in five Nunavik communities, where there are no facilities to house the travelling court. As a result, accused persons from those communties go to court in larger centres.
Peter Iyaituk, a Kativik Regional Government regional councillor for Ivujivik, wants that situation to change.
During the recent KRG council meeting in Kuujjuaq, he said the 10 to 15 local offenders who are scheduled to appear at each court session must travel to Salluit or, if there’s a trial, to Puvirnituq, where they receive little or no community or family support.
The same is true for victims and witnesses who must travel to participate in trials.
“Sometimes that visual support from parents is important,” Iyaituk said. “For Ivujivik or places where the court doesn’t go, I think that advantage is missing.”
Offenders, victims and witnesses from both Ivujivik and Akulivik currently travel to Puvirnituq — where there is a court house — for trials.
Umiujuaq, which no longer hosts court sessions at its local school, sends people to the court house in Whapmagoostui — the same venue used by Kuujjuaraapik.
And on the Ungava coast, Nunavik’s smallest communities of Tasiujaq and Aupaluk send offenders, victims and witnesses to court in Kuujjuaq.
“The communities where the court doesn’t go have no facilities to welcome the court,” Catherine Fortier-Pesant, director of the KRG’s legal department, said Nov. 27 at the meeting of KRG regional councillors in Kuujjuaq.
“The tendency from the courts and the judges is to sit in bigger communities and to have the people travel to those communities,” she said. “But if you feel the court should come to your community, and you can think of a place for it to sit, we can work on that.”
In Ivujivik, Iyaituk said he’s been looking at a few different options, including the community’s recreation centre and the now-unused co-op hotel.
“If I can communicate with the FCNQ [co-operative federation] to host the court, that could be a good option,” he said.
“But otherwise, the recreation centre would require some renovations, like new washrooms and a communications system.”
But even small communities that do host the travelling court face challenges.
A community like Kangiqsujuaq, which would normally host the court three times a year, went more than a year in 2009-2010 without a visit due to poor weather conditions that prevented the charter carrying court staff from landing in the community.
In larger communities, such as Puvirnituq or Salluit, airports have de-icing machines, which allow planes to land and take off in bad weather.