A group in Nunavut says the territory is the most under-served region in the country when it comes to dealing with mental-health issues and the effects that has on the justice system.

The new report, which is based on the Inuit Health Survey was tabled in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut Thursday by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI).

It says:

  • Nunavut's crime rate has more than doubled between 1999 and 2012, while Canada's national rate has declined.
  • 40 percent of Inuit adults living in Nunavut have experienced severe sexual abuse as children. That includes 1 in 2 Inuit women.

Group calls for 'screening program'

The report, which looks at three areas of Nunavut's justice system — community justice, family violence and the relationship between mental health and the criminal justice system — says the system has "failed children and youth."

James Eetoolook, vice-president of NTI, says the report is partially based on workers' experiences on the front lines. 

“Individuals working on these issues in Nunavut told NTI repeatedly that justice is part of a system that must be looked at holistically," Eetoolook said in a written statement. 

"We have taken this into account in the recommendations set out in our report by highlighting the ongoing need for increased mental health services and cross-sector coordination to prevent family violence."

Cambridge Bay

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. held its annual general meeting in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut this week, where the report was tabled. (CBC)

NTI wants the Government of Nunavut to create a screening program that would identify people who could be at risk because of a history of trauma or mental health issues.

The group also requests that aboriginal health organizations, like the Aboriginal Healing Foundation or the Inuit women's group Pauktuutit, have federal funding restored.  

NTI also calls for the creation of a recruitment strategy, aimed at getting psychiatrists and clinical psychologists living and working in the territory.

No immediate fix

In the report, NTI admits even if all of its eight recommendations were put into place, it wouldn't immediately fix the problems within the system.  

NTI hopes the report provides a starting place for a new way of administering justice in the territory.

The group held its annual general meeting in Cambridge Bay this week. Delegates also spoke about food security, relations with the federal government and rates of suicide in the North.