Anawak ponders policy while communities await answers
While Justice Minister Jack Anawak studies recommendations submitted to him by the Nunavut corrections committee, communities like Kugluktuk and Rankin Inlet are waiting for responses to proposals for new correctional centres.
MONTREAL — Justice Minister Jack Anawak finally got his first look last weekend at the recommendations of the Nunavut Corrections Committee on where and how Nunavut should invest its energy and money in corrections services.
However, he has yet to make its recommendations public.
This committee is made up of representatives from Cambridge Bay, Baker Lake, Iqaluit, the Nunavut Social Development Council and Corrections Canada. One committee member is a former inmate who has served time in both territorial and federal institutions.
Even after the committee’s recommendations are made public, Nunavut’s official response may take time. That’s because it won’t be easy to satisfy every regions’ desire to take a more active role in corrections.
Kugluktuk wants own centre
Kugluktuk is already promoting itself as the best site for a new minimum security jail.
Kugluktuk’s MLA, Donald Havioyak, says this idea isn’t new. When he was Kugluktuk’s mayor five years ago, residents first raised the issue of getting such a facility for their community. They said that too many of their young men were in jail, far from home.
“There was at one point 50 inmates in Yellowknife, all from our community,” Havioyak said.
There are approximately 120 inmates from Nunavut at the Baffin Correctional Centre and the Yellowknife Correctional Centre who are serving sentences of less than two years.
Inmates from the Kitikmeot end up at either YCC or BCC, although those at risk of violent behavior, or who require more security from other prisoners, are usually sent to YCC.
Havioyak said that with limited programs and no family support, offenders don’t get the tools to stay out of trouble after they return home.
The situation is worse for those who are at YCC or jails in the South.
“Their identity as Inuit is lost, too,” Havioyak said. “Once they come back, they usually become repeaters.”
Havioyak believes that a minimum security facility in Kugluktuk, with room for 32 to 36 inmates from the community and surrounding region, would be a step towards breaking this cycle.
Help rather than security
He said the proposed Kugluktuk facility could cater to those accused of non-violent crimes with sentences of less than two years.
Kugluktuk’s mayor, Joanne Taptuna, also supports a corrections facility in her community, one that would be heavy on help rather than security.
“We’re not talking about fences, but doors that lock at a certain time,” Taptuna said.
She’d like to see a place where inmates and their families could receive help and work with elders and other community members.
A consultant has prepared a report on the project that presents several different scenarios for this facility.
But Building any brand-new jail in Kugluktuk would cost millions of dollars. Taptuna and Hayioyak both say that despite this expense, a Kitikmeot-based institution would cut down on travel expenses for the territorial government.
“It will be better in the long run,” Havioyak said.
Kugluktuk isn’t the only community in Nunavut that would welcome such a corrections facility.
Earlier this year, the Keewatin Legal Aid Committee promoted the idea of creating a new correctional facility in Rankin Inlet, possibly within the little-used forward operating facility in Rankin.