Recommendations stem from UN ruling in Behchoko woman’s case
The Northwest Territories Department of Justice said it will comply with some of the recommendations in a recent United Nations ruling.
The UN committee on the elimination on the discrimination against women ruled the territorial government discriminated against Cecilia Kell when the department allowed her non-aboriginal husband to claim their home in the community of Behchoko, Northwest Territories (N.W.T.), Canada.
When she filed court action against her partner and the territorial government, her case was dismissed.
Kell was passed on to seven different legal aid lawyers over her 15-year battle.
The UN committee called for the Government of the Northwest Territories to conduct a full review of legal aid in the territory.
“The legal aid act will be having a review phase. It is our intention to be introducing a new legal aid act in the next year. So that act will be extensively reviewed. In conjunction with the UN committee review we will also be having a review of the system as a whole,” said Mark Aitken acting deputy minister for the attorney general branch of the Department of Justice.
The committee also called on the territory to hire more aboriginal women in legal aid.
Women’s rights activist calls for more support
Women’s rights activist Arlene Hache, who works in N.W.T.’s capital city of Yellowknife, is calling for more support for aboriginal women going through the legal aid system.
Hache said that if Kell had had someone in her community able to give her legal support, she might not have had to go to the UN.
“The native court worker system used to be their own society and worked for the aboriginal community. When the native court workers became government workers and began to work for legal aid, they no longer work for the community. They don’t comment or provide support to peoples’ access to lawyers,” said Hache.
The government has six months to let the UN know how they are going to comply with the recommendations.
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