Nunatsiaq News
LETTERS: Nunavut February 11, 2014 - 2:36 pm

Questions about appointment of new senior Nunavut JP


I learned today that Calvin Clark has been appointed as the Senior Justice of the Peace for Nunavut.

For many Nunavummiut who are not involved with the criminal justice system, this appointment is happily of little meaning or consequence to them.

However, for those other citizens who sadly find themselves within the maw of the criminal courts, this appointment is of some significance.

As Senior Justice of the Peace, Mr. Clark will be making many important decisions. He will decide whether people accused of crimes will held at the Baffin Correctional Centre without bail, often for many months in duration. He will decide whether citizens accused of criminal behaviour will be found guilty of their crimes.

For those who are found guilty, he will decide what punishment is appropriate for their transgressions. He will decide whether the state has or has not violated their legal rights guaranteed by our constitution.

Profound responsibilities to be sure. But yet the citizens of Nunavut have no idea how Mr. Clark was chosen for this important office which, of course, will come with a sizeable salary given the important responsibilities being placed on his shoulders.

It appears that, in accordance with recent amendments to the Justices of the Peace Act, Mr. Clark was appointed by the cabinet on the simple recommendation of the senior judge, Justice Robert Kilpatrick.

Unfortunately, we do not know what criteria were used by the senior judge to determine that Mr. Clark is the best candidate for the position. We do not know whether the senior judge used a merit-based process to arrive at the best candidate. We do not know whether the senior judge sought expressions of interest for the position with a view to selecting the most qualified candidate.

The Legislative Assembly did actually express its democratic voice in the recent amendments to the Justices of the Peace Act. The assembly stated in the legislation that the following qualities should be required for applicants seeking to be a justice of the peace in Nunavut:

a) a good understanding of Inuit societal values;

b) the ability to communicate in an Inuit language and;

c) a knowledge of the community in which she or he will serve.

We have no way of knowing whether Mr. Clark meets any of these criteria and we probably never will. That is because the senior judge has made his recommendation, cabinet has acted accordingly, and that is the end of the matter. In the words of the lawyer types “case closed.”

Many people who read this letter will likely think “who cares, as long as this fellow is hard on the criminals and keeps them in jail, I could care less about his qualifications.”

Respectfully, I do not agree. The public needs to know more as to how this position was filled and what process was used to select Mr. Clark. After all, every other jurisdiction in Canada has a transparent process for filling these types of positions. The citizens of Nunavut deserve no more and no less.

In closing, I would really like to applaud the appointment of Mr. Clark to this important position. However, I’m instinctively unable to do so given that I know nothing of the process which led up to it.

(Name withheld by request)

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