Rehabilitation and Culture – Research Projects

Sleds in snow

Rehabilitation and Culture – Research Projects

Integrating Inuit values in Arctic criminal courts

This project, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), explores Inuit conceptions of rehabilitation in a criminal court context. The research endeavours to integrate a specialized rehabilitation-oriented criminal justice approach from other jurisdictions, known as “problem-solving courts,” with the culturally informed concept of “protective factors” that reflect Inuit values and enhance resilience for young Inuit men facing rapid social, cultural and other changes linked to crime. Problem-solving courts improve criminal justice outcomes by emphasizing the court’s role in offender rehabilitation to address the underlying causes of crime (e.g. substance abuse, mental illness, and adverse social circumstances).  This study uses protective factors, developed from interviews with young Inuit men, elders and community justice committee members, to elaborate on the rehabilitative aims of problem-solving courts to provide systematic guidance to courts, lawyers, probation services, health and family service providers and community organizations for achieving these aims in an Inuit Arctic context. The results of this research will help address the remedial aims set out in the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada case of Gladue and to answer, in part, the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to reduce Aboriginal imprisonment and to make the legal system more equitable for Aboriginal people.

Rehabilitation and Criminal Justice: Research for a Wellness Court in Nunavut

Aboriginal people are considered 10 times more likely to be jailed than non-Aboriginal Canadians. Efforts to solve this problem—including Criminal Code changes and the Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Gladue (1999) and Ipeelee (2012) directing a different approach to Aboriginal sentencing—have had limited success. In the mainly Inuit territory of Nunavut, cultural stressors, including the presence of Western institutions and values, have been linked to crime rates 5.5 times higher than the rest of Canada and to disproportionate numbers of Inuit caught in the justice system. Young Inuit men, in particular, are vulnerable. While Nunavut criminal courts routinely apply Gladue principles and include Inuit elders’ panels at sentencing and Inuktitut interpretation, the otherwise conventional Western approach to the administration of justice continues to raise concerns that it unintentionally marginalizes Inuit participation and values. The goal of this access to justice research project is to generate knowledge to help inform a therapeutic intervention for a future Wellness Court in Nunavut that is responsive to the needs of justice-involved young Inuit men. This research is related to the SSHRC project but has a broader suite of deliverables which are responsive to needs identified by the legal and health sectors in Nunavut. This access to justice research project is funded by The Law Foundation of Ontario.