Nunavut jails get bad grade from Canada’s auditor general

Report finds critical understaffing, inadequate mental health supports and poor case management

James McKenzie, the principal of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, gave a news conference on Thursday about a report on Nunavut’s corrections system. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Nunavut’s Justice Department hasn’t made enough progress in delivering programming to help inmates reintegrate back into society, Canada’s auditor general says in a new report.

The report, tabled in the legislative assembly on Thursday, follows up on recommendations made in a 2015 audit.

“They haven’t made satisfactory progress,” James McKenzie, the principal of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, said at a news conference.

“Addressing the issues we’ve raised will be important to achieve a system that incorporates culturally relevant programming and rehabilitation measures that promote healing and reintegration of inmates back into society.”

Similar to the findings from six years ago, the report says most inmates’ cases aren’t being managed properly — with need assessments, release plans and suicide risk assessments often not being done.

Between the Baffin Correctional Centre and Makigiarvik in Iqaluit, for example, only six per cent of inmates had case management plans.

An inmate at the facility in Rankin Inlet served a nine-month sentence and had no records of a needs assessment, case management plan or any progress reports.

Needs assessments are the first step in inmates getting the support they need, including anger management and help dealing with substance abuse.

McKenzie found the department struggled to give inmates access to programs vital to their rehabilitation, such as mental health services.

“[These] are intended to address the underlying factors that led to inmates being incarcerated and to reduce their likelihood of reoffending,” the report states.

Most adult inmates who were identified as needing help didn’t get it, even though a “significant” portion of inmates in the territory needed mental health or addiction support.

None of the secure custody facilities in the territory offered male inmates sex offender rehab programs.

Some progress has been made on inmate overcrowding, with two new correctional facilities being built in Iqaluit, McKenzie said, but the women’s correctional facility is still “inadequate,” without enough beds or space for programming.

In terms of education, resources were inconsistent across facilities, with some inmates having the option to gain high school credits while others couldn’t, and only some receiving literacy or pre-trade training.

Women at the Iqaluit facility didn’t have access to any resources to help them upgrade their academic or employment skills.

When cultural programs were offered in the various facilities, the report says they were often only in English and not in Inuktitut, the language spoken by most inmates.

“Critically high” staff vacancy rates are another factor in facilities’ ability to manage inmates properly and ensure their safety, the report said, on top of recommending more mental health support for staff themselves.

The department did address concerns raised by the auditor general in its first report about inmates being held in solitary confinement for up to 10 days at a time, bringing that down to a maximum of two days, on average.

But the report said that despite this, the department doesn’t have formal guidelines or training in place to monitor inmates in segregation.

Nunavut’s Justice Minister George Hickes addressed the report in the legislative assembly before the document was tabled, having seen it a couple days prior.

Justice Minister George Hickes addressed the auditor general’s followup audit in the legislative assembly on Thursday. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

Hickes said the department accepts all recommendations by the auditor general and will work diligently to implement them.

There are nine new recommendations in the report and nine still outstanding from the 2015 report.

He said many solutions are already in the works, since the review was done before the new Corrections Act came into force and the Aaqqigiarvik Correctional Healing Facility opened.

The review covers Jan. 1, 2018, to March 21, 2021.

Hickes said the Corrections Act will set clear standards for disciplinary segregation and create independent oversight, with a new position of chief investigation officer waiting to be filled.

“The report did not take into account the fundamental positive changes our new state-of-the-art correctional facility will have on corrections and programming,” he said about the new Iqaluit jail.

New staff will soon get pre-deployment training to ensure they’re ready for the job before their first shift, with the first cohort having started on Tuesday, Hickes said.

A new online tool slated to launch this fall will help document and track inmates’ assessment, progress and incidents, Hickes added.

A new case management system is also expected to launch March of next year.

The auditor general reviewed all seven correctional facilities in Nunavut including BCC, the Nunavut Women’s Correctional Centre, the Isumaqsunngittukkuvik Youth Facility, the Aaqqigiarvik Correctional Healing Facility, Makigiarvik, the Uttaqivik Community Residential Centre, the Kugluktuk Ilavut Centre and the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility.

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(29) Comments:

  1. Posted by Insider on

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you in our facilities, Mr. Hickes, but I am going to object to your attempt to divert and gaslight us on the problems with case management. The hours that have been poured into improving the system are uncountable. The work that is done often goes ignored by our upper managers.


    There is no accountability and little effort. It’s poor leadership and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

    • Posted by IQ Day on

      Where is the leadership and accountability from our warden ? We are a sinking boat. Iktsuarpok!!

      • Posted by Iktsuarpok on

        Good coffee stand?

    • Posted by Voter on

      I have never seen or heard from our mla Hickes, unless you are in his small inner circle you don’t get much out of him.
      Where has he been with all the issues we have in Iqaluit? Very disappointing, I hope someone else will be running against him.

  2. Posted by Under staffing on

    Under staffing is just another way of reinforcing the fact that there are tons of jobs up for grabs in nunavut. Only prerequisite is that you show up on time and ready to work 40 hours a week, be ready to actually work and not socialize for 6 hours a day, and finally not call in sick all the time for no reason. Oh and did I mention it probably pays 100k+ a year?

    • Posted by Inertia, is it Friday yet? on

      Too bad the people running the show are too busy scrolling facebook all day to get off their asses and get some hiring done and competitions underway.

      • Posted by Mr. Sock Puppet on

        When your warden can’t even buy a box of paperclips without asking the director for permission, you have to know that the serious work is never going to get done.

  3. Posted by Tip of the iceburg on

    The real reason case management is not being done is because of a complete lack of leadership. Excuses about lack of staff might be partially true, but when was the last time a job competition was held for these vacancies? Again, a complete lack of leadership. We have leaders wh

    • Posted by Wake Up on

      Sorry to burst your bubble but job postings looking for correctional staff is a permanent fixture on the GN’s website, its been there forever…they are always looking for people.

      • Posted by Pay attention on

        The relief positions are always there, they need to full permanent positions and not just in Iqaluit.

  4. Posted by Meanwhile on

    Meanwhile the director of corrections gets an annual management bonus.

  5. Posted by Tell me lies on

    The idea that the new building is going to solve all or any of these issues is a total red herring. Isn’t this what was said about the facility in Rankin Inlet? How is that going?

  6. Posted by Interested Reader on

    Dear Nunatsiaq can you please post a link to the report?

  7. Posted by Think About It on

    I walked through BBC for a tour, a half dozen years ago or so. You couldn’t pay me enough to work in that environment. Not a chance. People screaming, throwing waste, the building was full of signs that someone or many someones had vandalized and destroyed the interior. Not sure if the inmates were putting on a show for the Feds or what, but if that is “normal” life in there, those guards should get paid triple what they get now. Still would not be enough for me though, what ever that amount would be.

  8. Posted by ikajuqtau, help on

    The corrections facilities are jails, for those who have committed inappropriate social actions. Often the individuals have low education, jobless and come from poverty, weak social values, have trauma – directly and indirectly from effects of PTSD from family (suicide, violence, sexual trauma, abuse, etc.), addicted to substances and other issues. What types of programming and interventions whether it is for a group, individual or even with family are going to be offered? In addition to this, is the department of Health looking at Nunavut as a whole? What proactive programming is offered in schools, colleges but especially community and families? That’s where most of the gaps are, outside institutions. Teachers, RCMP officers, social workers, hospital and nursing stations, families and elders get a brunt of the effects of the actions of these individuals. Help! Where are the successes?

  9. Posted by Umingmak on

    Honestly, it’s hard to feel bad. These people are criminals. Wife-beaters, murderers, rapists, etc. They don’t deserve to be treated well – and in fact – they should be punished much, much more harshly.

  10. Posted by Seen it all on

    Most if not all of the criminals in the jails in Iqaluit have mental health problems, Iqaluit needs a huge mental health center with good doctors and therapists period. Nothing will ever change until this happens.

  11. Posted by Truthfully on

    Managment at the top are just politisions there just there to fill pockets. They can never give you a straight answer they will always go around it because they don’t know the is a sinking ship from the top down.

  12. Posted by Cleaning house on

    The only way to fix this issue is a total change of management.
    Top to Bottom.

  13. Posted by Change is overdue on

    It’s time for change,  frankly way past time.   The longtime Director needs to me removed immediately without hesitation,  this example will prove the generals report is being taken seriously.   The same director has been in place since the first toxic report and nothing but a jail has been built,  which is only an illusion to make efforts for improvement.   Dont be fooled,  a new jail does nothing for inmates rehabilitation needs.  The only reason the current director hasn’t been terminated is because of his longtime service with the Department, he will depart as soon as the new jail is 100% complete on his terms and take credit for a building, when in reality he needs to take credit for the failure of this Department and step down or be removed now.  The Minister needs to respect the community and its needs and make this change,  before the community turns on him…

    • Posted by Way overdue indeed on

      This is exactly what needs to happen, and now, on the heals of a second failing grade from the AG, is the time to do it.

      Does the Minister have the nerve, or even the sense to do what is right for this department? Respectfully, Mr. Hickes, read the 2015 report again, and contrast it with this report. Do you see any progress?

      Let’s wake up and stop with the excuses and BS about a new building magically transforming the rot in our corporate culture.

      We need new people and new ideas to invigorate the department, and this time we need people who are educated in modern management.

    • Posted by Emigrating to Whitehorse, bye bye on

      It truly is amazing how many riots, fires and terrible auditor generals reports this person has survived. Must be all that charm.

      I don’t have any problem with building nice new jails, but if the department is going to pretend this is the answer to all their problems they should at least give some evidence that it is working.

  14. Posted by Tulugaq on

    Where is IQ in all this? Putting people in jail is a known recipe for disaster if it’s not coupled with rehabilitation and reinsertion in the community, a more restorative approach. Because, like it or not, an inmate is highly likely to be released one day back in the community. Then there is the recidivism issue, i.e. people who reoffend which is evidence the system fails.

    If you look at the crime rates data for Nunavut they’re about 10 times higher than the Canadian average and at least 5 times higher than the higher jurisdictions like Manitoba. If the goal is to lower recidivism rates and crime rates, it is well demonstrated that a more restorative approach is needed and is more likely to work. Healing is part of a restorative approach but this is hardly available in Nunavut jails.

    You may have the best building in the world, if it doesn’t address the root causes of crime and fix it, crime rates will remain far too high and jails useless other than keep someone away from society for a period of time that might be longer or shorter but at the end of the day, the person will be out and the communities will always have to suffer the failures of the justice system.

  15. Posted by Take action on

    This department has let down Nunavut and it’s community’s.

  16. Posted by Micky mouse on

    Now now
    Lets let the Minister, Detector, Wardens. Be the leaders we what them to be. To not point fingers at one another. Take responsibility for this mess And resign.

  17. Posted by Follow-up on

    Nunatsiaq news can you do a follow-up story in a few weeks or so.

    To see if there’s been any progress on this story as this department is a uter mess.

    This department takes huge amounts of our taxes and by the looks of things throws it away.

    The people of Nunavut should be in raged against the Derector and the management as they have failed for to long and are just there to make them selves look good.

    Thank you Nunatsiaq
    Please do a follow-up we can’t let this one slip into the cracks.

    • Posted by Accountability on

      I second this motion. For too long those involved in the repeated failures in this department has escaped any consequence or accountability. Please post a link to the report and ask some serious questions of the Minister, and do not let him gaslight you on the new building as if that is somehow the cure because it is not and that will be evident soon enough.

  18. Posted by Question to Auditor on

    The guards in Rankin Inlet are paid about 20K more a year than the guards in Iqaluit because they are classed as caseworkers. If they are not doing casework who is accountable?

  19. Posted by Follow up please on

    Follow up story please

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