Nunavik class action on detention periods to be heard this fall

Amended lawsuit now seeks $10K a day per claimant held in custody

Nunavik’s police chief says the organization is recruiting Inuit to work as intervenors to help officers respond to crisis situations. (File photo by Sarah Rogers)

By Sarah Rogers

A class action lawsuit filed last year against the Quebec government now seeks greater compensation for an estimated 2,400 Nunavik residents affected by long detention periods.

The lawsuit, filed last September, seeks compensation for Nunavimmiut who are held in custody for unreasonable periods of time—more than three days for those awaiting a hearing—due to a lack of correctional facilities in the region.

The action initially sought $2,500 a day per claimant held in custody; now the lawsuit seeks $10,000 a day per claimant, plus $50,000 in punitive damages.

The action was originally scheduled to be heard in Quebec Superior Court this week, but has now been postponed until later this year, said Victor Chauvelot and Louis-Nicholas Coupal, the Montreal lawyers who filed the lawsuit.

The delay is due, in part, to time needed to gather the last of the testimony from Quebec’s Viens commission, a provincial inquiry that looked at how certain government services—including justice and corrections—serve the province’s Indigenous groups.

“We understood from what we heard that the situation is much worse than we thought,” Chauvelot said.

Chauvelot filed the action last year on behalf of Kangirsuk resident Michael Carrier, who was arrested on July 5, 2018, in his home community.

Like many who are arrested in the region, Carrier was flown to Kuujjuaq, then onto Montreal where he was processed at the St-Jérôme detention centre.

From there, he was transferred to the detention facility in Amos, where he made a court appearance on July 10 to set his bail hearing for July 13.

But the Crown changed its position on the 13th and consented to Carrier’s release on an undertaking. Carrier finally returned home on July 15, after spending 10 days in custody.

Carrier’s story is not unique: there are an estimated 800 Nunavik detainees each year who have had similar experiences and who are covered by the class action.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for anyone accused in Nunavik of a criminal offence since Sept. 4, 2015—three years before the statement of claim was filed—and held for a period of more than three days between their first appearance before a judge and a bail hearing.

“Anyone arrested and detained in Nunavik should be entitled to the full protection of the law, in the same way as all Canadian and Quebec litigants; this is not the case,” reads an English translation of the court application.

“The forced displacement over thousands of kilometres in inhuman conditions of detention, the language barrier and the distance from family and community are all factors that increase the feeling of abandonment, loneliness, helplessness, anxiety and desperation related to the illegal detention suffered by the plaintiff and members of the group.”

A 2016 report by Quebec’s ombudsman found that up to 14 days can pass between a Nunavik prisoner’s arrest and their arrival at their hearing. That includes a flight to Montreal before detainees are driven to the Amos detention facility.

When it was first negotiated and signed in 1975, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement called for the construction of a jail in Nunavik. And for a time, there were plans to construct a $40-million facility in Inukjuak.

In 2006, Nunavik’s leadership instead negotiated with Quebec for a $300-million crime prevention fund to be paid out to the region over a 22-year period.

But that agreement was meant to come with an air link that would fly detainees to and from detention and court facilities, which never materialized.

Today, the Kativik Regional Police Force says it spends up to 15 per cent of its budget—an estimated $3.5 million each year—on the transport of detainees to and from the region.

More recently, the KRPF has been negotiating with the province for video-conferencing facilities in at least two communities to help cut down on the transfer of detainees to southern facilities.

You can read an unofficial English translation of the application here.

Nunavimmiut with questions about the lawsuit can contact the law firm at (514) 903-3390.

Michael Carrier v. Attorney… by on Scribd

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by Paid crime on

    Nunavik is a funny place where anything is possible, except quality. Quality is just not part of Nunavik. Not much quality in services or characters. 2400 detainees affected by this poor quality service!! We have so much crime in Nunavik. I don’t know about this compensation. Surely people have rights, but many now are going to be paid for committing crimes. There’s no other way to look at it. Paid crime. Off course this concept of paid for committing crime is not the way it is supposed to be interpreted, but it’s the way it is. Only in Nunavik. We should be looking for solutions to preventing the crime, and used the class action funds, if any, to put towards that prevention. If only there was not so much crime in nunavik, this would not be discussed today. It’s only because we have so much crime, that we are here discussing this mess. Other areas of Canada has the same geographical challenges, just like the north., where the jails are outside, with difficult access to lawyers and things. The only difference, other places in Canada don’t have so much crime as nunavik. Nunavik with its lack of control with a alcohol, and drugs has incredible numbers of crime. I’m not saying that Nunavimiut deserve less, but if you live in certain places, you live in certain places, accept your situation, it’s no one to blame. Behave yourself and you won’t even notice theses things.

    • Posted by You got that right on

      You got that right

    • Posted by Lost Time on

      Surely all 2400 aren’t guilty criminals. If it was that simple, people wouldn’t be flown back and forth, sometimes without even setting foot in court once. It would be open and shut.

      And they aren’t all going to be paid thousands of dollars to commit crime, they are asking for an amount (that will end up incredibly low per person) to cover their lost liberty. If people don’t want this sort of compensation, take it up with your elected officials and people who write laws that lead to 10+ days being flown around in custody and shipped from prison to prison for no reason.

      Even if a detainee commits a crime, its not their fault the inefficient system can’t do what they are supposed to do. Almost no other place in North America has this issue.

      And we Nunavimmiut did not create it.

      You can’t take money given to a class action of people, and use it yourself how you want. That’s robbery… do you want to be detainee 2401, losing weeks of your life because of southern bureaucracy? “Behave yourself”.

      Other places in Canada do not have the same geographical challenges as the court system in Nunavik. Not even Nunavut has the same challenges. And the challenges aren’t because “the jails are outside”. You really don’t understand anything you are talking about and it shows.

      This is a collection of quotes from a Supreme Court Case about pre-trial custody being a ‘broken system’ in need of repair, as too many Canadians are detained before trial unnecessarily:

      “At the heart of a free and democratic society is the liberty of its subjects and our justice system must minimize unwarranted denials of liberty.”

      “At the heart of a free and democratic society is the liberty of its subjects. Liberty lost is never regained and can never be fully compensated for; therefore, where the potential exists for the loss of freedom for even a day, we, as a free and democratic society, must place the highest emphasis on ensuring that our system of justice minimizes the chances of an unwarranted denial of liberty.”

      That case had nothing to do with an arctic court system, which is the most broken part of that broken system, and it’s through no fault of the detainees, or our territory’s alcohol sales.

      It’s the fault of the prosecution and the politicians who make it impossible for court to proceed like it does everywhere else in the country.

      I think I will trust the supreme court of Canada more on the topic than you… you aren’t saying we Nunavimmiut deserve less, but you definitely seem to be thinking it when you misunderstand a simple article to blame us for issues beyond the control of Nunavik.

      It’s easy to read things wrong and think “paid crime”. It’s tougher to pay attention and notice the lost time.

      • Posted by John on

        No system can handle 2,400 people out of 12,000 population being remanded. That would be like remand for 7,000,000 in the rest of Canada.

        The system is certainly broken. And there’s no shortage of lost time. However, the “leadership” of Nunavik chose this alternative in 2006. This class action should include Makivik and KRG, as they are the architects of this approach. Typical Nunavik reaction is to blame once again, the South…

        • Posted by UNGAVA on

          2400 People out of 12000, thats a lot of people.

          • Posted by 1 officer for every 100 people in small towns on

            Crime is everywhere, including Nunavik, but when you have a bored 22 hothead police officer looking for action, especially in a place where he/she would not be reprimanded, there are going to be more arrests per capita. If there were 1 officer per 100 people in the south, for example, Montreal/Laval metropolitan area, you’d have 20 000 cops patrolling the streets, I can guarantee that there would a lot more arrrests made, and the racism/prejudice doesn’t help, I’ve heard nurses, Social workers and police say mean evil $#!t about Inuit, just because they believe that no one understands what they are saying, I’ve had to speak up many times, because these people are supposed to be helping the most vulnerable but most are here just to pay off their student loans

      • Posted by Much crime and blame others on

        Listen up please. To be even discussing the crime rate in Nunavik, in any favourable way, whatsoever is unacceptable and insulting to the many many victims. I’m not against detainees rights. And I’m not ignorant enough to believe that all detainees are innocent, or guilty. . But let’s call a spade a spade here, and stop this excuse, and defence, and total denial of our Nunavik issues. We are among the highest rate, if not the highest crime rate in the country, per person, per population. That’s well statistically factual. The last thing we need to be concerned about is this ridiculous aspect of how the system is accommodating the detainees, with very low interest in discussing the impact of our victims. I’m bitting most people, probably more than most places, that are arrested in Nunavik, are intoxicated, drugged, and hurting and bothering others in the community, and it keeps going and going. Nunavik for the most part are not capable of having a sensible beer or a drink. Before we start discussing those aspects of detainees having a more comfortable route to jail, we need to address alcohol, drugs! Our child abuse, and the ridiculous amount of crime. Yes, things are not as comfortable as can be , so too other Canadians with less issues have it hard too. Nunavik should spend more time in real jails, rather than camping off in one isolated group, pampered, and babied back to society without any treatment.

      • Posted by Everything is outside on

        Saying : not because jails are outside of Nunavik, that the problems exist. Off course that’s a vital part of the problem. The lawyers are outside, the judges are outside, even if they come by once in awhile. Nunavik is dependant on everything from outside. That’s a problem in a big way. The fact that nunavik depends on outside, is not outsides fault. It’s nunavik that is not capable without this dependence. It’s not outsiders fault that nunavik has not have those resources inside nunavik. If Nunavik don’t have wood to build, that’s not outsides fault. I’m just trying to point out that Nunavik must own it’s problems, only then will nunavik get anywhere. Where does beer come from, the beer that a Nunavik beer drinker drinks? Think about it.

  2. Posted by 20 percent on

    2400 of 12000 is 20% of the population of Nunavik. That’s incredibly concerning. That’s a critical situation, a crisis. The number of victims, wow. Most of the victims are women, children, elderly. This is an eye opener to many. I know this is supposed to indicate the justice system letting down detainees, but reading between the lines, and interpretation of the real issues are nonetheless written within.

  3. Posted by Statistics… on

    “2400 of 12000 is 20% of the population of Nunavik”. As we are talking about Nunavimmiut held in custody, we need to account for the 18+ age of the population. With a generally accepted ratio that 50% of the Nunavik population is under the age of majority, we have no other choice than to realize that 2,400 out of 6,000 should be the more accurate number… Do the maths…

  4. Posted by Math doer on

    Yes, statistics, might be right there, that 2400 is out of 6000. That’s even more shockingly concerning. That’s getting nearer to half the adult population. I’m telling you, it’s a crisis. I don’t see any light yet at the end of the tunnel for change of better life. It’s on a downward spiral at this time in our time. Whatever the cause. No one is going to fix it, other than the people of Nunavik. Residential school, and generational trauma comes up often as the culprit. Even if it’s so, we must go forward and get better, or this will continue to traumatic pass on to the next generation. It’s time to go forward for our kids, and not allow them this traumatic experience. We must also, stop blaming, and get rid of alcohol. Personally, I don’t believe it’s from residential school or dog slaughter. I think it’s cheap to use theses excuses. Human being are more resilient than to let such things overcome them. I think, it’s lack of motivation, and abuses from within, that’s finally surfacing in the new cultural challenge. The use of alcohol, and neglect of children doesn’t impress anyone.

  5. Posted by Joe on

    That is the way. Get paid to commit crime. What a messed up system we have. Some of these crimes are very severe. Way to go

  6. Posted by Get what you deserve on

    In this life, people get what they deserve. People bring on their own problems, with their own consequences. It’s called Karma. Looking at Nunavik today , and what has become of it, it’s easy to see how making right or wrong decisions affects outcome so much. We have the best of land on the planet. Great wildlife, hunting and fishing, notwithstanding, our caribou depletion. We have it all really. But just look at the state of people. Look at the decision of people. Instead of embracing what we have , people are living in self made misery. Abusing alcohol, drugs and each other. It’s a bad decision with bad consequences. The rest of Quebec and Canada, are treating us like we are treating ourself, with disrespect and abuse really. We get high prices on everything , because who cares about it, when we don’t care ourselves. We get poor quality services, because we don’t show respect for anything, we get what we are allowing ourself to get. Nunavik is literally dying from self abuse. Some are taking the quick way out, and committing suicide. The people’s bad decisions in Nunavik, with self made misery, is the cause of suicide. Young people are seeing no future. If Nunavik don’t smarten up soon, it will be absorbed into another culture with no choice.

  7. Posted by do not forget on

    When cannabis was legalized, KRG forgot to tell Nunavimmiut that they can be pardoned now for simple possession. So, if you had been incarcerated for that, you definitely could benefit.

    • Posted by What else weren’t we told on

      Oh yes, what else were we not told. It seems many of us were never told anything good in life. Were never told how to treat ourselves and others with respect. Never taught well in any aspect of navigating this life. And it all come down to KRG not telling us about Cannabis. What a thought that is.

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