Quebec court to hear Nunavik class action on long detention periods

“It is too important an issue to be ignored”

KRPF officers meet an aircraft chartered by the Quebec court at the Puvirnituq airport in 2017 to escort detainees to the community’s courthouse. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

A Quebec Superior Court judge has authorized a class action against the Quebec government seeking punitive damages for Nunavik detainees.

The lawsuit, filed in September 2018, seeks compensation for Nunavimmiut who are held in custody for more than three days awaiting a hearing, due to a lack of correctional facilities in the region.

Quebec Superior Court Judge Gary D.D. Morrison authorized the class action on June 29.

“The Supreme Court of Canada has, on more than one occasion, concluded that the Canadian criminal justice system has tragically failed this country’s Indigenous peoples,” Morrison wrote in his judgment.

“The Court cannot conclude at the authorization phase that such is the case in this present matter … but it is too important an issue to be ignored.”

At the time is was filed, the class action was estimated to include some 2,400 Nunavik residents affected by long detention periods, although it’s unclear where that number could stand today. The action seeks damages of $50,000 for each class member.

Montreal lawyers Victor Chauvelot and Louis-Nicholas Coupal filed the action in 2018 on behalf of Kangirsuk resident Michael Carrier, who was arrested on July 5, 2018, in his home community.

Like many Nunavimmiut who are remanded into custody, Carrier was flown to Kuujjuaq, then onto Montreal where he was checked in as an inmate 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.

The Superior Court has now appointed Michael Carrier as the representative plaintiff on behalf of all Nunavimmiut who have been charged with a criminal offence in the region after Sept. 4, 2015, and who were detained for a period exceeding three days.

The class action argues that “adjournments beyond three clear days result in unlawful detention, unless there has been consent.” It also alleges that Quebec has failed to provide a justice system in Nunavik that is able to facilitate bail hearings held within three clear days.

“It is this alleged systemic and systematic failure and the unlawful detentions which are said to violate the rights of accused in Nunavik,” the judgment noted.

In rendering his judgment, Morrison also drew on the Supreme Court of Canada case in R. v. Myers, in which Chief Justice Richard Wagner ruled that courts must ensure that people awaiting trial in custody in jail really need to be there.

“Delays in routine bail and detention matters are a manifestation of the culture of complacency denounced by this court … and must be addressed,” Wagner wrote.

The class action will be heard before the Superior Court in Montreal, though no date has been set.

Superior Court Judgement – Michael Carrier v. Procureur Général du Québec by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Ms.T on

    So many young men have committed suicide before court dates in Nunavut, sad. I wish a study was done to see how many died after being charged. Some charges are just not worth dying for. Too many don’t understand the court proceedings. When a person is charged, a full explanation has to be given to him or her as soon as he/she is charged. Too many parents and family spend sleepless nights trying to be the security to prevent a suicide.

    • Posted by We know not, but know what on

      Yes many don’t understand the proceedings, but they surely understand how to do crime. You don’t make a lot of sense with your comment. We all know the terrible effects of suicide, but I’m not tuning into your cause and effect, as simply relating suicide to crime, in a misunderstanding way.

  2. Posted by No good on

    Family and parents should be doing a better job, teaching good loving life skills, then charges will not be needed in most cases. I don’t see any benefits coming out of this, if it materialize. Those who benefit, supposing that they’ll get money, only to use it in a form to commit more crimes, and the cycle starts over. Equality for all is important and should be. But let’s look at the reality of our northern living. It’s not like we have a society full of professional to handle the load. Everything and everyone doing the intervention comes in from the south, it’s not their fault. People of the north, are not involved in being the professional, therefore it’s belongs to the people, to be disadvantaged, not to anyone’s fault but their own. There’s too much of this, I deseved more! But will not do my part.

  3. Posted by This is foolishness on

    It’s foolish to think judges, lawyers or anyone else will fix this state we have in Nunavik. It’s just the way it is and will continue to be. It has everything to do with the remoteness of our area. It’s like everything else, even to medical care, food security, housing. There’s no difference for the justice! It’s just part of the isolation we have to the proximity of services. It’s not going to change. It’s just comforting I guess for some to believe it can and will change. Judges and lawyers know this as well, they just play with people, giving false hope, to make themselves a little bit shinier. Playing around with money as well, on the bill of the taxpayer. The government, If it had any brains at all would put a stop to any benefits.

  4. Posted by The Native on

    We live in a small community and there are sacrifices we make for living here. Unfortunately sometime justice may take a little longer to happen. So if you bothered by being detained for extra time don’t break the law.

    • Posted by What next? on

      What next? Compensation for having to travel to a hospital down south, and waiting for surgery? This don’t make sense to our situation. It’s part of the attempts made to put distancing towards Inuit to gain any equality. Like just pay them a bit of cash, and it keeps them to shut up for awhile. The government needs to understand the full nature of isolation and remoteness. If there are so many Inuit going south to jails and hospital, and traveling for other vital services, then get the services put in the north, not pay people to shut up.

  5. Posted by Bob Vance Vance refrigeration on

    With the six comments we have so far that make excellent points but can’t we use this as a stepping stone to all get better access to basic needs that the rest of Canada holds? Where are we at anyway? Antarctica 🇦🇶?

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