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Nunavut MLA tables never-before-seen report on preventing domestic violence-related deaths

On the seventh anniversary of his sister's murder, Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, spoke up in the Legislature against domestic violence.

Adam Arreak Lightstone says he wanted 15 recommendations to be made public

On the seven-year anniversary of his sister's murder, Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, spoke up in the Legislature against domestic violence. The white ribbon he wore on his lapel symbolizes the global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against. (Nick Murray/CBC)

On the seventh anniversary of his sister's murder, Adam Arreak Lightstone spoke up against domestic violence in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.

It was difficult at first, the rookie MLA couldn't bring himself to read a prepared member statement amid a flood of emotions.

It's not the first time Arreak Lightstone has shed more than a few tears for his late sister, Sula Enuaraq. On her birthday this past March, he again used his member statement to honour her memory.

"She never had the opportunity to have this day mentioned in the Assembly," he told the House at the time.

Enuaraq and her two daughters were killed in June 2011, in a widely-suspected case of murder-suicide. Enuaraq's husband, Sylvain Degrasse, was found dead at the Iqaluit cemetery with a gun beside him.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Nunavut's Chief Coroner and the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee of the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario, spent the next five years investigating the case, and others involving domestic violence-related deaths.

Susan Enuaraq describes the moment she learned of the murder of her niece, Sula Arreak, and Sula's two daughters. 1:52

The investigation culminated in 15 recommendations on preventing domestic violence-related deaths, which until Thursday — when Arreak Lightstone tabled them in Nunavut's Legislature — were never made public, despite the headline of the document reading "media release."

Nunavut's Justice Department wouldn't comment on why the recommendations were never made public, instead deferring questions to Nunavut's Chief Coroner's office.

"Government actions alone cannot prevent tragedies like the one that struck my family," Arreak Lightstone's statement said, which was read into the record by fellow MLA John Main.

"However, the decisions that we make as a government about where to invest our limited resources do matter in doing what we can to stop domestic violence matters very much."

Public awareness and training, among key recommendations

Arreak Lightstone found his voice while he was tabling the report.

"The results of the coroner's inquest in the domestic violence death review committee recommendations were not made public for reasons that I do not know," he said.

"But I would like to make those recommendations public. I would like to ensure that the difficult job that they had conducted does not go in vain."

Most of the recommendations centred around greater public awareness around domestic violence and abusive relationships, and for better training across the board.

As you can imagine, all of us have spent time thinking what might have been done differently to prevent this from happening.- Adam  Arreak   Lightstone , MLA Iqaluit-Manirajak

That included publicizing more information about safe separation from an abusive partner, and how to recognize and respond when a strained relationship becomes a potentially lethal one.

It also recommended more training for community justice workers, victim service specialists, health care professionals, women's shelter staff, and police on how to both recognize the signs of domestic violence and how to manage and respond to high-risk cases.

"In the years since the tragedy occurred, my family and I have struggled to find answers and reach some form of closure," Arreak Lightstone's statement read.

"As you can imagine, all of us have spent time thinking what might have been done differently to prevent this from happening."

Arreak Lightstone said he'll have questions about whether the recommendations have been implemented, at a later date.

About the Author

Nick Murray is a CBC reporter, based in Iqaluit since 2015. He got his start with CBC in Fredericton after graduating from St. Thomas University's journalism program. He's also worked two Olympic Games as a senior writer with CBC Sports. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @NickMurray91.