N.W.T. prosecution service leads new team for sexual assault
New team specializing in sexual assault cases prompted by final MMIWG report
The N.W.T. Public Prosecution Service has set up a specialized team to handle cases involving sexual assault, to give trauma-informed supports to victims going through the court process.
"We want to try to make it as comfortable as possible, knowing that it's never going to be an easy process," said Annie Piché, general counsel for the new team.
The team will rely on input from members of the community who are affected by sexual violence to develop culturally-sensitive and trauma-informed approaches.
The launch stems from the calls for justice outlined in the final report for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG). It identifies the need to address systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit and LGBTQ+ people, which the report states face "staggering rates of violence."
The report calls specifically for judicial accountability.
In the N.W.T., the risk of sexual violence faced by women is nine times greater than the provinces.
"We all know that in the Northwest Territories that the vast majority of victims of sexual violence are Indigenous women and girls," said Piché.
In part, this is why the team will consist of prosecutors who have spent several years in the North and "who know first-hand the realities of criminal justice in the NWT," reads a press release from the public prosecution office.
For communities to receive justice, Piché said the territory needs "competent and ethical prosecutors."
The new positions, which includes training for prosecutors, witness and victim coordinators, was made possible by funding allocated as a result of the MMIWG final report.
In the report, it says that "it must be understood that these recommendations, which we frame as 'Calls for Justice,' are legal imperatives – they are not optional."
Piché said while she is hopeful that the team will create meaningful change and instill justice for Indigenous women and girls, two-spirit and LGBTQ+ people, she recognizes that the new team is just one piece of the big picture.
"There's a lot of work that needs to be done on these other fronts: social, economic, cultural and institutional," said Piché.