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Nunavut courts face high homicide caseload

There are 15 outstanding murder and manslaughter cases before the Nunavut Court of Justice in a territory of 33,000 people.

Murder and manslaughter cases dating back to 2008 winding their way to trial

There are 15 outstanding murder and manslaughter cases before the Nunavut Court of Justice. 

In a territory of 33,000 people, that means a lot of work for those in the justice system.

Norman Tarnow, acting deputy minister for the Nunavut Department of Justice, says the high number of murder and manslaughter charges in the court system have cost and human resource implications. (CBC)

"Preparing for these cases, certainly they have both cost and human resource implications, as well as the need for additional court space," said Norman Tarnow, acting deputy minister for the Department of Justice.

Three of the 15 cases have been in the system since 2008. The accused range in age from being in their late teens to their 50s. All the crimes occurred in eight of Nunavut's 25 communities.

Murder and manslaughter charges currently before the Nunavut courts:

Ruben Arnakallak, Pond Inlet

Charge: Second-degree murder

Incident: Nov. 25, 2011

Idlout Korgak, Rankin Inlet

Charge: Second-degree murder

Incident: July 9, 2011

Allistair Nakashook, Cambridge Bay

Charge: Second-degree murder

Incident: Feb. 6, 2011

Kenneth Arreak, Pond Inlet

Charge: Second-degree murder

Incident: Dec. 30, 2010  

Elee Geetah, Cape Dorset

Charge: Second-degree murder

Incident: Oct. 10, 2010

Peter Kingwatsiak, Cape Dorset

Charge: Second-degree murder

Incident: Sept. 20, 2010

Abraham Nakoolak, Rankin Inlet

(co-accused with Colin Makpah)

Charge: Manslaughter

Incident: Aug. 14, 2010

Colin Makpah, Rankin Inlet

(co-accused with Abraham Nakoolak)

Charge: Manslaughter

Incident: Aug. 14, 2010

Eulalie Nivisanak Ussak, Iqaluit

Charge: Second-degree murder

Incident: Dec. 12, 2009  

Jeffrey Salomonie, Iqaluit

Charge: First-degree murder

Incident: May 20, 2009  

Youth, Cape Dorset

(cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act)

Charge: Manslaughter

Incident: April 1, 2009

Peter Angutimarik, Igloolik

Charge: Second-degree murder

Incident: Feb. 28, 2009  

Jimmy Nowdlak, Iqaluit

Charge: Manslaughter

Incident: Sept. 8, 2008  

Joyce Kringuk, Repulse Bay

Charge: Second-degree murder

Incident: Aug. 8, 2008

Bruce Kayaitok, Kugaaruk

Charge: Second-degree murder

Incident: June 13, 2008

Thousands of pages

When someone is killed, the RCMP are usually first on the scene. Investigators and forensic experts collect samples, statements and evidence to build a case that could send someone to prison for life.

Police then make a report to Crown prosecutors.

RCMP Sgt. David Knibbs of V Division’s Major Crime Unit says the paperwork on a homicide case can range from 3,500 to 40,000 pages. (CBC)

"On the small end, a homicide file would be about 3,500 pages. For this division, a larger file would be somewhere in the range of 30,000 to 40,000 pages," said Sgt. David Knibbs with Nunavut's 'V' Division Major Crime Unit.

Once the Crown and defence prepare their cases, they will likely be heard at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit. It takes a year to get a preliminary hearing and officials estimate the average length of time from a homicide charge to a conviction or acquittal is about three years. 

"These types of cases, of course because of their seriousness, are over and above the usual cases that the court deals with," said Tarnow.

Officials have responded to the heavy caseload before Nunavut’s court system. The federal government earmarked money in this year's budget to hire more judges and prosecutors for the territory, and eight new court staff were approved to help ease the burden. 

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