Health Systems, Health Law and Policy – Research Projects

Street View in Iqaluit

Health Systems, Health Law and Policy – Research Projects

Creating mental health programs for offenders with mental illness in remote, mainly Inuit Arctic communities

People with mental illness comprise a growing and disproportionate population in Canada’s prisons where they are out of reach of adequate mental health care. While Canadians express concern over this injustice, scholars, health professionals and courts are taxed by the complexity of helping these offenders while ensuring justice and community safety. In recent decades, mental health programs have developed for criminal courts in Canada and elsewhere to answer this challenge. These programs offer health care alternatives to jail and other criminal sanctions for offenders with mental illness. Yet, in remote, mainly Inuit communities in the Canadian Arctic, these programs do not exist, and Inuit who commit crimes for which mental illness is the cause are often prosecuted.

This project will be the first evidence-based health research to address this problem. It examines the hypothesis that relevant, feasible and acceptable initiatives (in health systems, health policy and clinical practice) can create effective mental health programs for Arctic criminal courts—including a potential future Wellness Court. The project is significant in its impact on the mental health of Inuit facing multiple disadvantages in Nunavut. It fills a recognized need for context-specific research to develop policy-relevant solutions for health system problems. This health study is unique for its interdisciplinary context and its high impact in reducing health inequalities for Inuit in Canada.