June 17, 2020 – Kuujjuaq, Nunavik – Makivik Corporation, an Inuit rights organization calls on the Government of Quebec to completely overhaul the way it delivers the Justice System in Nunavik, including the Youth Protection Services, young offenders and the police force serving Nunavik – the Kativik Regional Police Force (KRPF).
“The protests taking place around the world highlighting systemic racism inside the justice systems is alive and well in Nunavik and it sickens me,” said Makivik President Charlie Watt. “A systematic overhaul of the administration of the justice system and policing is long overdue. Report after report has called for an overhaul. Study after study has highlighted the deficiencies in both systems and Inuit are suffering discrimination from both systems in all levels from education to health care and the administration of communities. Youth protection was established to protect Inuit children but instead is destroying families and violating the rights of children and parents while Quebec has sat back and allowed it to happen.”
Makivik will be keeping a watchful eye on Premier Legault’s newly created Action Group to address systemic racism in the province in particular with Indigenous peoples. The working group is flawed even before it has started its work because Inuit are not represented in the group.
Nunavik is ready for a Civilian Inuk from Nunavik to head the Kativik Regional Police Force; Nunavik needs Youth Protection services to reflect Inuit values, culture and language and a justice system that works in the north and allows for the Inuit to fully exercise their rights.
Inuit held an inquiry into the justice system in Nunavik in the early 1990s. The Inuit Justice Task Force produced a final report into their findings in 1993 called Aqqusiurniq Sivunitsaslaguniqsamut – Blazing the Trail to a Better Future. The report made 30 recommendations organized in eight main headings such as: Preventative Measures; Role of Inuit Customary Law and Traditions in the Justice System; Law Enforcement (Police); Legal Representation; Court system and alternate forms of dispute resolution; Correctional services and facilities; and Post-incarceration and alternatives to incarceration.
More recently, in September 2019, the Viens Commission made public its final report into the relations between the Quebec Public Service and Indigenous communities in Quebec. The commission was chaired by Jacques Viens, a former Quebec judge with many years of experience in the Nunavik justice system. His report made 142 Calls for Action, including specific sections on policing and the justice system.
In addition, just over a year ago the Quebec Bar Association, in March 2019, urged the Quebec government to address justice system shortfalls in Nunavik.
“Quebec Premier Francois Legault made an official apology to the Indigenous Peoples of Quebec including the Inuit,” said Charlie Watt. “Last year he said in the National Assembly, ‘the Quebec State has failed in its duty to you,’ and asked for our forgiveness. Premier Legault we are all living through difficult times. The pandemic, and the demonstrations related to systemic racism within police forces are bringing these issues to the forefront, and we want to work with you to get to the bottom of the problems of policing and the justice system in Nunavik.”
The issue will be discussed at the Makivik Annual General meeting next month.
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Makivik is the land claims organization mandated to manage the heritage funds of the Inuit of Nunavik provided for under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement. Makivik’s role includes the administration and investment of these funds and the promotion of economic growth by providing assistance for the creation of Inuit-operated businesses in Nunavik. Makivik promotes the preservation of Inuit culture and language as well as the health, welfare, relief of poverty, and education of Inuit in the communities.