Nunavik crime victims unfairly compensated, lawsuit alleges

By Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

NUNATSIAQ NEWS

A lawsuit alleging the Quebec government has not properly compensated victims and survivors of crime in Nunavik is moving forward.

After Judge Lukasz Granosik certified the class-action suit on Dec. 1, the next step will be for it to head to trial.

In accordance with Quebec’s Crime Victims Compensation Act, survivors and victims of crimes against the person as well as the children of homicide victims may be entitled to compensation from the provincial government, either through services or money.

According to Louis Coupal, one of the lawyers leading the lawsuit, those compensation services are being offered at a lower rate in Nunavik than in the rest of the province. As a result, he
said, crime victims in the region are not being compensated equally.

“There’s a huge difference between the use in Nunavik and the use elsewhere in Quebec,” Coupal said in an interview.

“The state has failed to comply with its own laws the right of Quebec Inuit to equality – as everyone’s allowed to be treated under the law according to section 15 of the Charter – was infringed.”

Coupal provided data that he said supports the claim.

Between 2013 and 2019, crime victims in Nunavik were on average 40 times less likely to be financially compensated than victims elsewhere in the province, according to provincial figures included in a 2021 court filing.

For example, of 87,691 reported crimes against the person province-wide in 2019, 7,223 people – 8.24 per cent of victims – were approved for compensation service.

That same year in Nunavik, there were 4,946 reported crimesagainst the person, for which only 11 compensation applications – 0.22 per cent of crime victims – were approved.

In his ruling, Granosik cited this disparity as a reason to allow the lawsuit to proceed.

“It could have helped survivors of crime to address their traumas more professionally,” Coupal said.

“It’s arguably very tragic.”

With the lawsuit headed to the next phase of the legal process, Coupal said he will send messages around Nunavik and post public notices encouraging people to contact his office if they have any questions.

He said anyone in the region who has been the victim or survivor of a crime since 1972 may be eligible for compensation.

Coupal hopes the lawsuit will serve as a tool for social change in ensuring people benefit fairly from the compensation they are entitled to. There was no estimate available for how long it could
take for the case to be heard in court.

The case was spurred by Raven Gordon-Kawapit, of Kuujjuaq, who said she has been a victim of crime in the past and last September filed an application to launch a class-action lawsuit.

“Some class actions, such as this one, also aim at improving services, improving practices,” Coupal said.

“We sure as hell hope that if they have not started already, the government will start using and promoting IVAC (provincial crime victim compensation services) a lot more on the territory of
Nunavik.”

A spokesperson for Quebec’s justice department declined comment on the suit as it’s an ongoing legal matter.

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