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Nunavut Court of Justice: An Example of Challenges and Alternatives for Communities and for the Administration of Justice

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 53 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2011 Pages: 343-374
Scott Clark
Date Published
July 2011
32 pages
This article discusses the establishment of the Nunavut Court of Justice in Canada, and the need for community-based justice alternatives that can work together with the mainstream criminal justice system.
The Nunavut Court of Justice, a superior court and the only unified criminal court in Canada, was established in 1999, coincident with the creation of Nunavut. One of the court's three main objectives has been to provide an efficient and accessible court structure capable of responding to the unique needs of Nunavut. The achievement of that goal is an ongoing process in light of challenges inherent in providing justice in Nunavut. The article considers delays and lengthy case processing times as one example reflecting the difficulties facing the court. The author argues that improvements have been made since 1999 but that ongoing problems with the implementation of organizational improvements in the areas of legal aid services, the Inuit court worker program, and the justice of the peace program mean that the court's original objectives are not being completely met. Reasons for the gaps are examined, including perennial funding shortages for Nunavut's justice programs. The Nunavut Court is also seen as representative of broader challenges for the mainstream justice system in engaging with Inuit communities and culture. Fundamental problems resulting from the historical and ongoing marginalization of Inuit in Nunavut contribute to problems with the administration of justice. The author argues for increased movement toward true community-based justice alternatives, not to the exclusion of the mainstream system but in an effective intersection with it. (Published Abstract)