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Violent crime statistics not relenting
New 10-year report by Nunavut's court highlights extremely high rates of assault

Peter Worden
Northern News Services
Published Monday, March 04, 2013

A Nunavut Court of Justice report documenting its activities over the past 10 years was released last week. While the court does annual reports, this report is the first to cover an entire decade.

"This report was sort of a way for the judiciary to get caught up on their direct reporting to the public," said Alison Hamer, a NCJ law clerk who helped with the report. "It's just meant to foster a greater understanding of the court system and promote the open courts principle required by the constitution."

The report, entitled Ingirranivut (Our Journey), shows a stark spike in assault rates in comparison to other provinces and territories. Nunavut maintains the highest assault rates - sexual and physical - as well as homicides and general violent crime - including all murders, assaults, firearm use and robberies - in all of Canada. While the number of criminal charges in 2012 (roughly 7,500) is slightly lower than last year and 2010, it is still nearly twice as high as recorded in 2001 (just over 4,000).

"The accelerating rate of violent crime and the rate of young lives taken by suicide in Nunavut, is telling us something about ourselves and our society. There is a message in these dark statistics for all of us, for any who would care to look," stated Justice Robert Kilpatrick, who initiated the report, in a 2011 open letter to Nunavummiut that was used to conclude the report.

The number of resident NCJ judges has also tripled to six today from two in 2000. For three years after Nunavut was created in 1999, the court was given only two justices to address the territory's needs, the report explained.

"As the volume of serious crime in Nunavut increased, the court was unable to address the sitting needs of the court with resident judges alone. Deputy judges from southern superior courts were called upon with increased frequency to assist the (court) in meeting its core responsibilities," read the report.

"The hard reality is this: all the judges, social workers, police, alcohol workers and mental health workers are powerless to turn back Nunavut's human tide of misery, unless there are also people who care," wrote Kilpatrick.

While the report calls for more crime prevention, more government programs and services such as suicide prevention "to address the growing crime and social dysfunction," Kilpatrick said real change must begin in the homes of Nunavummiut.

As the legislature sat Feb. 26, Nattilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk stood to address Nunavut's high rates of spousal and partner violence against Inuit women.

"Too often, a woman is murdered in Nunavut by a partner or spouse," she said.

Nunavut News/North's request to speak with a social worker about these statistics, made with the Department Health and Social Services, was declined.

Fact file

Crime Statistics

- Nunavut's 2011 rate of 21 homicides per population of 100,000 (actual number of homicides in 2011 was seven; there were six in 2010) is the highest per capita in Canada by a wide margin. The national per-capita rate is 1.7 per 100,000 people.

- Over the last decade, Nunavut has had the highest annual per capita homicide rate at 13.6 of 100,000.

- Close to one-third (32 per cent) of all homicides in Nunavut since 2001 have been committed by the victim's spouse, and close to one-quarter (23 per cent) by another family member.

- Nunavut has the highest per capita rate of spousal homicide in the country.

- At one point in late 2011, the Nunavut Court of Justice had 16 open homicide files. In the previous three years, the RCMP had laid a total of 15 homicide charges.

- Iqaluit generates the highest per capita volume of charges in Nunavut.

Source: Statistics Canada/Ingirranivut

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