MLAs tear into Nunavut government over child sexual abuse
"It’s very important for us as a government representing the people of this territory to stand up and scream it from the hilltops.. that this is not acceptable"
(Updated at 11:10 a.m.)
Members of the Nunavut government, including Premier Paul Quassa, struggled to fend off questions in the Nunavut legislature earlier this week about the staggering amount of child sexual abuse in the territory.
But after Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes accused Quassa on Thursday, June 7 of being “evasive,” Quassa finally agreed, in a one-word answer—“yes”—to write a letter to the office of the governor general, demanding that child sexual abuser Ike Haulli be stripped of his Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
“It’s very important for us as a government representing the people of this territory to stand up and scream it from the hilltops…that this is not acceptable and that we will make this change,” John Main, the MLA for Arviat North Whale Cove said that morning.
Main started his line of questioning on June 6, when he asked Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak about what the Nunavut government plans to do about child sexual abuse.
Main said he had heard shocking numbers at a recent meeting with Nunavut RCMP members.
“We were informed that within the Nunavut territory, sexual abuse is 155 per cent higher than the national average. We need to tackle this issue as a government,” Main said.
Ehaloak said the Government of Nunavut’s Justice Department continues to administer its “victim care program,” using funding from the federal government.
“The Department of Justice will continue to work with our federal counterparts to advance victim services in Nunavut,” Ehaloak said.
She also said the Justice Department is trying to find housing for victims “to house them while evidence is being gathered” and that the RCMP visits schools to educate children about sexual abuse.
Main, reading from the Justice Department’s business plan, said one of the department’s objectives is “to help create a positive healthy relationship between the offender and the community.”
With that in mind, he asked how that can work in small communities.
“Can the minister explain to me what that looks like when it comes to a convicted sexual offender who is returning to a small community, where they may be in very close contact or may see the victims or the people that have been negatively affected by their crime?” Main said.
“What does creating a positive, healthy relationship between the offender and the community look like in terms of sexual abusers?”
Ehaloak replied that she doesn’t have that “level of detail of information,” but that she would be willing to share it later by tabling a document in the House.
Main continued to question the government the next day when he asked Quassa if he would write a letter to the governor general’s office asking that Haulli’s Diamond Jubilee medal, given to him in 2012, be revoked.
This past April, following a civil court proceeding, Justice Earl Johnson of the Nunavut court awarded a $1.22 million in damages to four people from Igloolik who Haulli sexually abused between 1968 and 1986.
Following Haulli’s exposure as a sexual predator, the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council wrote to Rideau Hall demanding that Haulli’s Diamond Jubilee honour be revoked.
And they asked others to join them in that effort.
“We call on all northerners to protect and support those vulnerable to the violent actions of some men and boys,” Qulliit said at the time.
Quassa responded to Main Thursday by saying the “government has zero tolerance,” but that the letter from Qulliit is enough and that he hadn’t been asked to write such a letter.
Later that day, Hickes rose and accused Quassa of being evasive on the issue and demanded again whether he would write a letter calling for Haulli’s medal to be revoked.
In response to Hickes’s last question, Quassa provide a one-word answer: “yes.”
You can find an online petition started by Qulliit, calling for Haulli’s honour to be revoked, here.
With files from Jane George