New community justice centre opens in Inuit region of Arctic Quebec

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The courthouse in Kuujjuaq, the administrative capital of Nunavik. A community justice centre has been opened in the Nunavik village of Inukjuak to help the population better access legal information. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)
A new community justice centre has been set up in Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec, and was officially opened by Quebec’s Justice Minister Sonia LeBel on Friday.

The centre is based in Inukjuak, a village of around 1700 people on the Hudson Bay coast.

The centre will offer free services, including legal information and  referral services.

“The creation of a community justice centre in Nunavik will significantly increase access to legal information for the northern population, using plain language adapted to real-life situations,” LeBel said in a news release. 

“By supporting this project, which was developed and implemented with the constant involvement of our Inuit partners, the Québec government is improving access to justice for all justice system users, wherever they are located in Québec.”

Inuit administration

The new centre will be administered by Makivik Corporation, which represents the political interests of Inuit from northern Quebec. 

On Friday, the organization said they hope the new centre will help contribute to better informing the Inuit population of Nunavik about their legal rights.

“Makivik Corporation has established the Nunavik Community Justice Center to give Inuit in Nunavik access to relevant legal information,” Makivik President Charlie Watt said in a news release. 

“The mission of the centre, based in Inukjuak, will include informing and supporting the Nunavimmiut about their rights and responsibilities. We hope that the information and support services provided by the centre in the area of notarial law, along with the travelling legal clinics, will improve access to justice for the Nunavik population.

“Makivik Corporation continues its work to promote justice by and for Inuit.”

Inadequate services

Nunavik, a region with a population of around 13,000 people, is made up of  14 communities.

They are served by an itinerant court from southern Quebec that visits communities an average of two to four times a year depending on the weather.

There have been numerous reports issued over the last 20 years denouncing the inadequacy of the Quebec justice system in serving the Inuit of Nunavik, including everything from language problems to rights violations such as bail hearings have been delayed beyond the three-day Canadian maximum after arrest.

The creation of community justice centres is part of a 2015-2020 plan from the Quebec justice ministry. Besides Nunavik, centres have been set up in several other regions of the province. 

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Death in the Arctic – The Court, Eye on the Arctic special report

Finland: Police in Northern Finland overstretched, says retiring officer, Yle News

Sweden: Cross-border Nordic policing would better serve Arctic: politician, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska’s crime rates are soaring, stats show, Alaska Public Media

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project.

Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the violent death of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on violence and trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

Twitter: @Arctic_EQ

Email: eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

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