Community justice
Helping those who commit crimes get back on track

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Feb 16/00) - Rankin Inlet's Valerie Stubbs is trying to tip the scales of justice in a positive direction.

Stubbs is Kivalliq's lone community justice specialist for Nunavut's Department of Justice. She has been working hard the past few months to establish effective community justice committees in each of the region's seven hamlets.

So far, committees have been set up in six hamlets and a motion is before council in Chesterfield Inlet to establish one there.

"My major task is to work with the various communities to develop committees of well-respected individuals," says Stubbs. "Their task is to conduct locally-based restorative justice.

"Traditionally, Inuit developed ways of dealing with conflict so that harmony could be maintained within the community. This is a return to that approach with mostly first-time offenders."

Stubbs also works closely with hamlet councils to ensure committee members are appointed. Her training allows her to help committees build a structure for the effective delivery of their jobs.

"I have an assumption councils and communities know people who are well-respected, honest and wise. My job is to encourage council to appoint these people, viewed as informal community leaders and helpers, to the committee."

The committees work with people in the community on land programs and crime prevention programs.

Stubbs plays a valuable liaison role between the committees, RCMP and the Department of Justice.

"When people need direction or information on how to do a certain task, I 'link' them to the right person."

People are referred to the committee either by the RCMP before they are charged, or by the courts.

To be eligible, they have to admit guilt, be remorseful, agree to the justice committee and meet with the person they harmed. Stubbs says the committees help get people back on track before they start down a path of bad behaviour.

A justice committee ensures the person apologizes for their crime and does something to make up for it.

"This is all part of the growing up process. We all have to apologize in life. The committee is saying you are accountable to your victim, family and community.

"Most importantly, it says you're a good person who may have done a bad thing, but you are still a valuable member of our community."