Nunavut’s Human Rights tribunal under review
“Lacking the direction” it needs
The Government of Nunavut is reviewing the territory’s Human Rights Tribunal to find out how the tribunal can better serve Nunavummiut.
Nunavut’s Justice Minister Daniel Shewchuk says the tribunal board, set up in 2004 after Nunavut passed its Human Rights Act, is “lacking the direction” it needs to provide support to Nunavummiut who face discrimination.
The board, with three full-time employees based in Coral Harbour, is mandated to hear discrimination complaints under the Human Rights Act.
But “the staff there are lacking support and they are lacking exposure to the public and to the communities across the territory,” Shewchuk said in the Nunavut legislature March 7.
Since 2004, the tribunal has received 64 official complaints, or notifications, as they are called in Nunavut.
Two of those have gone on to public hearings, one of which was held in July 2011, with a decision rendered shortly afterward.
The second hearing was held last December and a decision is pending.
A barrier to the tribunal board’s services remains a fear among Nunavummiut that making a notification will put their job at risk, said Nanulik MLA Johnny Ningeongan, whose riding includes Coral Habour.
“Once they proceeded with their complaint, most people became convinced that it could lead to a situation where they may lose their position and many people felt that was too threatening,” Ningeongan told the assembly.
Even though the process is entirely confidential until it goes to a hearing, clients also feel threatened by the “formality” of the process and having to work with a lawyer, Ningeongan said.
“The people of Nunavut are just beginning to comprehend the process of submitting a complaint to the body,” he said. “It should be receptive and not a barrier to people who want to submit their complaint.”
But following the review of the tribunal board, a newly-published report offers some recommendations on how to improve the system.
That report has not been made public yet.
But Shewchuk said one of weaknesses identified in the system touches on the lack of a Human Rights Commission formed alongside the tribunal board.
Shewchuk said the report will be tabled in the spring sitting of the legislative assembly.