No judge? No trials. Court cancelled in 2 Nunavik communities this week

People expecting to have criminal cases heard now have to wait until November

Cases to be heard at the Kuujjuaq courthouse, pictured, as well as in Kangiqsualujjuaq this week will now have to wait at least until November. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Court has been cancelled in Kuujjuaq and Kangiqsualujjuaq this week because no judges are available to fly up to oversee criminal case proceedings in those communities.

Isabelle Boily, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Justice, confirmed the situation in an emailed statement to Nunatsiaq News, but did not offer an explanation for why no judges were available.

Defendants expecting to have their cases heard will have to wait until the court’s next scheduled trip to these communities — in November. The delay is impacting their right to be tried in a reasonable time, said defence lawyer Daphnée Creighton.

Creighton, who works for Yves Ménard Lawyers based in Montreal, has clients in Nunavik’s Ungava Bay communities.

Along with other lawyers who serve Nunavik defendants, Creighton said she has been scrambling to book new court dates for clients, including some who have been in detention for close to a year.

“There’s nothing I can do for them to have a closer trial date or to force the court to hear the trial, because the court term is cancelled,” she said.

Daphnée Creighton, a Montreal-based criminal defence lawyer, defends clients in Nunavik’s Ungava Bay region. (Photo courtesy of Yves Ménard Lawyers)

“As their lawyer, all I can do is postpone the case to the next court date.”

There is a permanent courthouse in Kuujjuaq, but other communities have to set up a makeshift courtroom in school gyms, community centres and other rented facilities.

Judges, clerks and Crown attorneys who serve the region are usually based in Amos, Que., and fly in for court.

Court delays and cancellations are common in Nunavik, Creighton said. There are a number of issues that can arise, including infrastructure problems and weather.

Earlier this month, court was cancelled in Kangiqsujuaq after the school gym where it was supposed to be held was flooded.

“It’s sad, first of all, that we’re unable to give them the justice system that people have down south, and it’s also sad that people don’t get to be tried in a reasonable time,” Creighton said.

She said Nunavimmiut are stuck with a “second-class” justice system. Exacerbating the delays, Crown attorneys tend to prioritize people facing higher-level charges, such as sexual assault and others involving violence, forcing those charged with lesser offences to wait.

Following the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 ruling R. v. Jordan, which put ceilings on how long a trial could be reasonably delayed, some of these years-long cancellations and postponements result in charges being stayed or dropped.

“A lot of these people are on strict conditions, awaiting their trial, and even accused individuals want to see their matters resolved quickly because it kind of puts your life on hold,” Creighton said.

“There’s so many files in Nunavik that finish with the Crown just withdrawing the charges, because the delays in which trials should be done is not respected in Nunavik.”

Creighton said she is expecting a heavy docket when court returns to Kuujjuaq and Kangiqsualujjuaq, with what she described 32 hours worth of cases to be processed in a single day.

Some of these cases could be postponed again, she said, and some of her clients will be forced to wait until the next scheduled trip to those communities, in June 2023.

“We’re just kicking the rock further and further down the road,” she said.

“Most of the time, nothing ends up happening because the dockets are overcrowded and we’re not giving these people the level of justice system that they deserve.”

Back at the Department of Justice, Boily said her department is working on a number of initiatives in an attempt to improve access to justice in Nunavik.

In a French-language email, she said her department is working with Makivik Corp. to improve timelines and conditions of court sittings in Nunavik; help court staff prepare ahead of sittings; work with Inuit communities to encourage community-level participation in conflict resolution.

A report examining justice system improvements in Nunavik, written by lawyer Jean-Claude Latraverse, will be published soon, Boily said.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by pissed off on

    THis is tragic .
    Anybody in the judicial system put themselves in the shoes of the victims or the defendants for that matter.
    Months and years wasted because someone in the South did not feel like it or simply did not think that the Northern people deserve a better service.

    Someone has forgot that PUBLIC SERVICE means serving the public above your own personal vagarities. I understand last minute issues but not simple disregard for the job at hand. Case that end up dismissed are a shame and a black spot on the system of JUSTICE. Guilty people go free because nobody cared enough to put in place a proper organisation.
    Thank you

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    • Posted by Big Drama on

      Disappointment is understandable, but as we don’t know why they were unable to come so, maybe we should suspend the notion that this is about someone in the south not thinking northern people don’t “deserve a better service.”

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  2. Posted by North south on

    The perspective in this article comes from defending lawyer mainly. What about the victims of crime. Yes, called out the delays in the name of the victim too. We have too much crime in Nunavik. There’s a attitude that builds around the numbers! The stats. It’s horrific amounts of intoxication leading to bad behaviour. The attitude towards criminal is not good in the best of times, but in the worse of times, there’s a don’t care what happens to criminal attitude. Off course every person has a right to trial, and justice. Many people find it very justifiable to have a criminal locked up for longer period while waiting for the court, like keep it in the cell. But many ! And most are concerned for delays as to not having justice for the victims, not so much concern for the repeated offenders, that’s for sure.

  3. Posted by Go south young man on

    All from the south. Ok, booze comes in from the south. The crime in Nunavik, is mainly from that drink from the south. Then we need the lawyers and judges, you guessed it, from the south to applied justice to criminal activity caused by the booze. This all comes in on same jet together, the judge , lawyers and the booze that is. Now the booze keeps coming in, crime is rampant as usual, but no judges or lawyers to answer the call. Solution: no more booze from the south until the judge and lawyers are able to come north again. Let’s have some motivation here.

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    • Posted by The south on

      If you don’t like southern things stop using the internet, cell phones, boats with engines, heating on your house. Flushing toilets. Medicine. Etc.

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      • Posted by North south on

        Wondering what part of the south internet comes from? It’s a terrible service, don’t like that. Cell phones are garbage as well. Not sure where in south, boat engines are made, but I think the use for them is 100 fold more in northern areas , that’s an economic boom from north to south. Hydro development on Nunavik land, housing heat .

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  4. Posted by Tulugaq on

    This is just the tip of the iceberg and illustrates the persistent colonialism of the Quebec government. What the story doesn’t mention is the fact that in the late 1980’s the government turned down a report to improve the court system in Nunavik. Further, in the mid 1990’s judge Coutu presided over a committee to improve the system in Nunavik (and across Indigenous communities in Quebec) and delivered a lengthy report that was largely ignored. Quebec also ignored proposals made by an Inuit Justice Task Force late in the 90’s.

    The same situation occurred on numerous occasions since the beginning of the circuit court in Nunavik and Quebec has ignored the need of Inuit and persists in its colonial approach to justice. Further, while it reaps the benefits on any development in Nunavik, Quebec is unable to deliver decent services to Nunavimmiut. This is across the political parties whether they were liberal or PQ but the worst so far is the CAQ that is probably the most neo-colonial party governing Quebec since Duplessis. The CAQ government even ignores the Viens commission’s recommendations! Inuit have the right to self determination and perhaps it’s time for them to take over Nunavik and establish their own institutions.

  5. Posted by Flight south on

    Most of the court dockets in kuujjuaq and most Nunavik communities are dealing with repeat offenders. The same old people with same old behaviours. There has to be a better way, then to waste money, time, and resources on these same people continuing hurt on to others. It must be either a joke or a degrading feeling to be a lawyer or a judge seeing that same group of offenders over and over. And the victims, who only get relief and peace when the said offenders are locked up. It’s not hard to figure out that once released from custody, the same thing happens over and over. We can do better then allowing such wasted people back in the community to hurt over and over, eventually seriously injuring of fatally hurting , and only then the sentence is a little bit, yes , little bit stricter. It should be strike out three times, out of society for good. Otherwise it’s the same old same old, forever. I don’t see much humanity towards our citizens, by allowing the lunatic to injury over and over, in the name of lunatic rights over innocent people.

  6. Posted by Time to look at a live source , play by play on

    It’s prime time showing as we speak. Kuujjuaq has a live show that’s been played over and over as weeks go by. It’s delinquency at its fullest. Kids neglected, and or abused in action of resent and monkeys see monkeys do behaviour. Kids with no real place to call home, out all night causing property damage and stealing, food even to survive. The social media has alarmed the reader, and you need only look around to see for yourself the live show. Many testimonies from victims posted on this wall and that. Pleads gone out to DYP, police, community members. All to no avail. It’s hope that these behaviours don’t lead to some kid being seriously injured from these delinquent lost kids. Kuujjuaq has such an history of kids hurting kids, and adults that grew from kid to adult with theses same behaviours, now frequently spent ing time in jail, not a good life.

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