The province of Quebec has increased the number of Crown attorneys and staff for the courts in Nunavik yet the system is still backlogged the Quebec inquiry heard on Tuesday.
“Attorneys, we have 4 times more than before,” said Nathalie Samson with Legal Aid services. “We increased a lot the resources and in spite of all that the problem continues to increase this is the observation that we’re seeing and the limits of justice, justice cannot resolve everything.”
Last year, Nunavik’s crime rate was astronomical with almost one criminal incident per person in a population of a little more than 12,000.
Many of those charges come from breach of probation conditions which often includes breaking the prohibition of drinking alcohol.
“We want to be ready for everything,” said Marie-Chantal Brassard, chief prosecutor and director of Criminal Pursuits and Penalties. “We want to have all the solutions but I don’t have any explanations, rational explanations for those numbers.”
Commissioner Jacques Viens said the region should consider alternative measures other than imprisoning people with addiction issues.
“I will have to ask you to reflect very profoundly with other intervention workers,” said Viens. “Other participants you will have to find something that will be a little more appropriate.
But it’s not like the province hasn’t been warned about issues with justice in Nunavik.
In 2016, Quebec’s ombudsman issued a report calling for sweeping changes to justice in Nunavik.
Among the solutions proposed was to reduce travel by prisoners.
Because there is no detention centre in Nunavik, Inuit prisoners are often transported more than a thousand kilometres to the south to be heard until their case is heard.
These people are not convicted yet and often travel back and forth a dozen times before a verdict is reached.
One solution offered in the report to reduce travel and speed up a trial was to introduce video conferencing.
But the inquiry heard that video conferencing has yet to be properly set up in either men’s or women’s prisons.
“Maybe I’m repeating myself here, but we’re in 2018 technology has been very developed, and we don’t live in the middle ages anymore,” Viens said. “There are people who are suffering from these delays who are subjected to injustices because of these delays and this has been related to us on multiple occasions.”