Premier wants new jail
“We’re still waiting. We’re still lobbying.”
Nunavut’s premier, Paul Okalik, says he signed a petition that calls for a child rapist to leave Iqaluit to protest against what he believes is a lack of specific programming and treatment for such offenders in the territory.
The petition started about two weeks ago, shortly after the arrival of Jason Hikoalok, a 26-year-old man who recently served an eight-year sentence for sexually assaulting two young girls, four and five years of age, in the Kitikmeot region.
The petition gathered more than 1,200 signatures.
Women who started the petition tried presenting it in court two weeks ago, while Crown and legal aid lawyers argued over the terms of a peace bond that would restrict Hikoalok’s movements so that he could not be near children.
But a judge turned the women away, and told them the petition should be given to Okalik, Nunavut’s justice minister.
Okalik says he and Ed Picco, MLA for Iqaluit East, plan to forward the petition to the federal government.
Okalik said he’s especially concerned that Hikoalok did not receive any counselling or programming for sexual offenders during his eight-year sentence.
That’s because Hikoalok refused any such programming offered to him, the court heard. But Okalik said he understands Hikoalok had trouble understanding instructions in English – a common problem for Inuit inmates.
Even though Hikoalok served his time and has been released from custody, Okalik said the petition could help him press the federal government to build a new, joint territorial-federal penitentiary in Nunavut.
That’s because such a facility could bring counselling for sex offenders with it, Okalik said.
The Government of Nunavut has had plans for building such a facility since 2001, but they’re still waiting for the federal government to get on board and offer funding, Okalik said.
“We’re still waiting. We’re still lobbying. Hopefully it’ll change,” Okalik said.
As for Hikoalok, he’s begun to receive counselling in town, through the John Howard Society. Hikoalok’s lawyer, Chris Debicki, said he plans to appeal the terms of Hikoalok’s peace bond.