Iqaluit city council considering curfew for youth in new year

The City of Iqaluit is exploring the idea of a curfew for kids in the Nunavut capital, at the request of one of its councillors.

Iqaluit had a curfew in the past, and has looked at reinstating it at least twice

Councillors in Iqaluit had proposed a curfew for youth in 2013 and 2015, but one was never instated. The city did have a curfew in the 1970s. (David Gunn/CBC)

The City of Iqaluit is exploring the idea of a curfew for kids in the city, at the request of one of its councillors.

Jason Rochon brought up the idea of a curfew during the local RCMP's crime update to council at the end of November.

There were 19 arsons reported in Iqaluit from the beginning of the year until Oct. 31 — double the total number of arsons in 2017.

The 19 arsons do not include the fires set on Nov. 8, which included the Northmart warehouse.

The curfew was then scheduled as a discussion item for Tuesday's council meeting, the last meeting before the holidays.

"With the recent fires, we have too many youth out, and if they're not the ones starting the fires and it's adults, then you shouldn't be out when adults are doing those kind of crimes either," Rochon told council on Tuesday.

Iqaluit city Coun. Jason Rochon says he doesn't think it's safe for kids to be out late at night. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

He said he's also heard from residents that kids were out late during the summer months, sniffing gas under houses. While nothing happened, he said a curfew could avoid this risky behaviour.  

Councillors in Iqaluit also proposed a curfew for youth in 2013 and 2015, but one was never instated. The city did have a curfew in the 1970s.

There are other communities in Nunavut with a curfew, including Pond Inlet, where youth are expected to go home when the fire alarm rings at 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday.

Kids' safety first

While all councillors agreed that children's safety should be a first priority, there was debate about whether a curfew would contribute to safety.

"The children that are out late at night almost universally are better off on the streets, than in more dangerous situations at home, which is very unfortunate," said Coun. Kyle Sheppard.

He "vehemently" opposes a curfew, saying he believed a curfew violated the freedom of peaceful assembly enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

The children that are out late at night almost universally are better off on the streets.- Coun. Kyle Sheppard

"If one was imposed by this council, I myself would engage the Canadian Civil Liberties Union and would fight that decision in court. I am not in favour of a curfew," Sheppard said.

Rochon said a curfew would help RCMP and peace officers and counsellors do their jobs.

"My feeling is that if they're not safe at home, then people need to be doing their jobs, like social workers and different people, and things need to be reported, but we can't just let children run around at 2 o'clock in the morning in minus-40 weather," Rochon said.

"I've only heard from a few people from another community that has it, and they said that they really like it, but that's just very few."

Deputy mayor Romeyn Stevenson said he would like to see public consultation before the discussion goes much further.

The city will reach out to other communities, through the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, to hear their experiences with curfews. It will also reach out to the RCMP, which will deliver a report on a curfew in the city to council.

The curfew will be discussed again in the new year.