Nunavut could get special team to aid sex assault prosecutions
Legal team would be similar to one already in place in Northwest Territories
Nunavut could soon have its own specialized legal team to look at changing the way sexual assault prosecutions are handled, similar to an approach already in use in the Northwest Territories, according to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
That national organization, which is responsible for prosecuting offences under federal jurisdiction, created the team for NWT following calls for stricter action against sexual violence in the final report on the national inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
That team is staffed with two senior prosecutors, and will oversee all cases related to sexual assault including assisting other prosecutors with case preparation, prosecution strategies, and sentencing recommendations.
It will also assist and oversee Crown witness co-ordinators in working with victims and witnesses of sexual assault, and collaborate with community leaders to address sexual violence in the territory.
Annie Piché, general counsel for the public prosecution service, said a similar team that would address and improve sexual violence prosecution is in the works for Nunavut.
She said a general counsel in Nunavut was recently appointed, but the actual team makeup may differ based on the needs of the territory.
“There’s work ongoing to establish how the team can best improve the sexual (crime) prosecution and assistance to victims of sexual violence in Nunavut,” Piché said.
“It might be different from the NWT in order to reflect different realities between the two territories, but the objective will be the same.”
The goal of the NWT legal team, and eventually for Nunavut as well, is to create institutional change in the way sexual assault and sexual violence cases are understood and addressed, especially those involving Indigenous women or girls or LGBTQ people, said Piché.
That includes doing community outreach, better communication with other stakeholders such as the RCMP, and cultural competency training for prosecutors.
“We hope to adopt the more trauma-informed approach towards victims and we want to hear directly from those who are affected by sexual violence,” Piché said.
“We strongly believe in our office that for victims and for the community to get justice, we should be competent and ethical prosecutors.”
According to a 2014 report from the Department of Justice, Canada’s northern territories had the highest rate of violent crime and sexual assault in Canada.
In 2010, the rate of police-reported sexual assault in the territories ranged from two to six times greater than in Manitoba, the province with the highest rate of police-reported sexual assault.