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Bill 40 aims for made-in-Nunavut Corrections Act

New act calls for Inuit Societal Values Committee, independent investigator


Nunavut's assistant deputy justice minister Yvonne Niego describes a proposed new

Nunavut’s assistant deputy justice minister Yvonne Niego describes a proposed new “made-in-Nunavut” Corrections Act last September to about a dozen residents of Cambridge Bay during a consultation on future changes to the act. Niego, who presented with senior policy analyst Mark Witzaney, also asked for input about the creation of an independent officer, similar to an ombudsman, who would hear complaints about the corrections system. (FILE PHOTO)

When they meet again in late May, Nunavut MLAs will consider Bill 40, which contains the final version of the territory’s new Corrections Act.

A summary of Bill 40 states the act “provides for robust appeals and grievance mechanisms for inmates, introduces an independent Investigations officer, and establishes an Inuit Societal Values Committee.”

The new act, which would replace legislation inherited from the Northwest Territories and unchanged for 30 years, received its first and second readings in the legislative assembly earlier this month. It now goes to the standing committee on legislation.

The act follows a series of Nunavut-wide consultations, some successful, some not, on what the public wants to see in the new act.

Participants at a consultation in Cambridge Bay in September 2016 raised a number of issues, including the need to incorporate Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and provide more re-integration support for offenders.

Many of their suggestions appear to be integrated into the new act.

Among other things, the act says correctional programs must be compatible with “the background and cultural heritage of the inmates participating in the programs” and made available in the official languages of Nunavut, and “in particular the Inuit language.”

In selecting or designing correctional programs, the act says consideration must be given to the importance of Inuit societal values and culture.

And correctional programs operated on the land must provide traditional Inuit counselling to inmates and teach Inuit cultural skills.

The act also says Nunavut’s corrections director may authorize the release of an inmate from a correctional centre for up to 60 days so the inmate can participate in a correctional program operated in a community or on the land.

Among its other new measures, the act establishes an Inuit Societal Values Committee, composed of members appointed by the minister, which would include one resident from Nunavut and one form each Nunavut’s three regions, nominated by Inuit organizations, a nominee of the corrections director, two elders, and up to two other members who are residents of Nunavut.

According to the act’s description, the committee may “receive and hear submissions and suggestions from individuals and groups concerning the incorporation of Inuit perspectives, Inuit societal values and Inuit traditional knowledge in the corrections system, and in particular in programs offered in the corrections system.”

Also new: the appointment of an independent Investigations Officer by the justice minister for a five-year period, who will hear grievances and have the powers of a board under the Public Inquiries Act.

The decisions made by the Investigations Officer will not subject to appeal to, or review by, any court, the act says.

The act also talks about how inmates can present grievances “with respect to any matter that is causing the inmate distress or dissatisfaction, at any time.”

And it says that no person shall make reprisals against any person for giving evidence or providing assistance in a review or investigation.

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