Nunavut needs a domestic violence death review committee: Toronto prof
Establishing local committee instead of using one from the south called best option for self-determination
A Toronto professor says Nunavut should establish its own specialized committee to help prevent intimate partner violence in the territory.
Domestic violence death review committees, or DVDRCs, are expert advisory committees that review cases and assist chief coroners when a person dies from domestic violence.
The objective is to offer recommendations to prevent future deaths in similar circumstances, in particular femicide, said Desmond Ellis, a professor of sociology at York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research in Toronto.
The first DVDRC in Canada was formed in Ontario in 2003. Since then, several provinces have established their own committees.
However, there are no local DVDRCs in the territories.
Ellis said that needs to change.
“People in Nunavut should create and operate their own domestic violence death review committees,” he said.
Currently, committees from elsewhere in Canada will travel to the territories to review domestic violence death cases and offer recommendations.
However, there are a number of problems with that model, Ellis said.
“What do they know about remote communities in the North?” he said.
The committees, which don’t always include an Indigenous member, come up north and make recommendations “without reference to the historical conditions experienced by people.”
“I read the [2018 recommendations] and I found none of them were derived from an understanding of intergenerational and multi-generational trauma resulting from attendance in residential schools” or other communal traumas like the Sixties Scoop, high suicide rates and incarcerations, Ellis said.
“There’s no reference to the historical conditions and the effects of settler colonialism and state intrusions on Inuit. This list doesn’t correspond to what we know about Nunavut historically.”
The rate of domestic violence in Nunavut is nine times higher than the rest of Canada, according to research done in 2019 by the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre.
According to Government of Canada statistics, while Indigenous women account for about five per cent of all women in Canada, they make up 21 per cent of all women killed by an intimate partner between 2014 and 2019, when 83 victims were recorded.
Ellis, who’s writing a chapter on DVDRCs within Indigenous communities for an upcoming book, said he’s “hopeful” they would work effectively in the territories.
However, knowing the unique aspects of Nunavut’s culture and history is integral to understanding how to address and prevent intimate partner violence.
“A committee set up in Nunavut can determine for itself and make recommendations about social changes and whatever it feels is necessary,” he said.
“And if provincial funding sets up these committees in the south, why shouldn’t the federal government fund and support them in the North?”
Another problem with relying on fly-in committees is that there are fewer opportunities to follow up on their recommendations and whether they’ve been adopted or had any positive effects.
“They make recommendations [but] there’s no followup on implementation. If it was Nunavut’s DVDRC, they may decide if we’re going to make recommendations can we have some mechanism for following up to see whether these were implemented?” Ellis said.
Nunavut’s Office of the Chief Coroner did not respond to requests for comment on whether it is working to establish a domestic violence death review committee in the territory.