'The entire rehabilitation service is deficient.'

A probation system with no probation officers


KUUJJUAQ – There is no one to supervise convicted persons in the Ungava Bay area who are sentenced to terms of probation or serving out prison sentences on parole.

Kuujjuaq is supposed to have two probation workers based in the community, but the last one resigned about a year ago.

The absence of probation officers may explain why Quebec court judge Donald Bissonnette sentenced several offenders to jail terms rather than probation at a session held in Kuujjuaq last month, said Denis Trottier, Kuujjuaq's legal aid lawyer.

According to Trottier, Bissonnette did not grant any conditional sentences to be served in the community with probation orders – because there are no probation officers.

The nearest probation officer is in Val d'Or, more than 1,000 kilometres away. Genviève Metson juggles more than 100 active cases, not just from Ungava Bay communities, but also from communities along the Hudson Bay, which also lacks probation officers.

Sometimes the probation officer isn't free to travel to Nunavik when court is in session. At other times she's not immediately available by phone, and callers are asked to leave a message.

At a recent court sitting, the lack of an on-site parole officer created confusion over where an offender who had broken his parole conditions should be sent: back to jail or to the Makitautik halfway house in Kangirsuk. The mix-up required the offender to appear before a judge for a second time.

Lawyers say delays and confusion are common.

That's not all that's missing in Kuujjuaq's courthouse. There's also no local court worker, no public computer to access legal records and no place for lawyers to do research, although they pay fees to the Quebec government for this service every year.

"We're forgotten," said Trottier, the Kuujjuaq legal aid lawyer.

The absence of parole and probation officers and a court worker means offenders come into the courthouse with no one to help them. Instead, they get help from the Sapumijiit court workers, who are supposed to work with victims of crime, not offenders.

"When there's no one here you feel bad, but we're not supposed to help them," said Lucy Grey, one of two Sapumijiit agents in Kuujjuaq.

The lack of probation and parole officers also complicates the work of police, who are often asked to help out with arrangements.

"There used to be two parole officers, now there's none. Something's missing," said Danny Stevens, the deputy director of operations at the Kativik Regional Police Force.

The local community rehabilitation officer, who looks after offenders who have completed all their parole or probation conditions, is also absent on maternity leave.

"The entire rehabilitation service is deficient," said Cpl. Charles Bouliane, the KRPF's court liaison officer.

Although parolees or those serving conditional sentences on probation may be monitored by phone, there's no one on hand to make local arrangements for therapy, for example.

Calls to the parole officer's toll free number and to Quebec's public security department, the Ministère de la securité publique were not returned before the Nunatsiaq News deadline.

Lawyers and police suggest parole and probation officer positions may not offer as many benefits and high pay that come with other jobs in the region.

Kuujjuaq's last probation officer was also reportedly reprimanded for attending a function that some of her clients attended, a difficult order to fulfill in a small community where many events are open to the public.

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