Testimonial from a Crown Witness Co-ordinator in the Nunavut Regional Office of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada - Iqaluit, NUNAVUT
Approximately seven years ago, I became one of three Victim Witness Assistants in the Nunavut Regional Office of Justice Canada. In the following years, our title changed to Crown Witness Co-ordinators, our numbers increased by one, and the workload got much heavier.
I am very proud to be able to share with you what it was like then and now, and how I think my work made a difference to the people I served over that period of time.
When I first started, there were six lawyers and three of us working with victims. Now there are 16 lawyers and four of us. I was very lucky to be trained by our most senior Crown Witness Co-ordinator, Elisapee, who is still in the Nunavut Regional Office today.
I remember my first circuit court was in beautiful Pond Inlet. Elisapee and I had to share a very small and cold room at the hotel. Even today it is likely that you will have to share a room when you arrive in our communities and sometimes you might have to share it with a perfect stranger. I remember that Elisapee showed me the ropes and had a lot of patience with me during my initial months. When I first started, I read awful stories about bad people and I wouldn’t let my children go out without me. I thought Nunavut was a dangerous place because of the kind of work I did. Over the years, I learned that people are not really bad — what they do is bad, and there are only a handful of people in each community who go to court. There are many more good people in Nunavut.
Throughout the years my job included interpreting for the crown prosecutors, making appointments for victims and preparing them for court, assisting with the preparation of other witnesses, photocopying statements, reading files, contacting the RCMP for additional information, writing memos, referring people to various other service providers like Social Services, helping people fill out victim impact statements, translating those statements for the Crown and the court, making phone calls and building trust. On many occasions, I even recall babysitting young children so witnesses and victims could testify.
The largest part of my job and sometimes the most difficult was working hard to make my people understand the justice system better. This necessitated building trust between the victim and the prosecutor who would have to examine them on the witness stand in order to get a conviction. Having been born and raised in Cape Dorset helped me do my job better. On many occasions, I found myself educating our Southern lawyers about why the culture was different from theirs and giving them useful tips about how to do their jobs better.
The best part of my job was helping my fellow Inuit, getting thank you notes from witnesses, helping the southern lawyers and meeting people. The worst part of my job was being away from home for long periods of time and having to fly in small airplanes. In Nunavut, there are no roads between communities. I still remember one flight where the court party chartered a plane to take us from Pangnirtung to Qikiqtarjuaq (two of our most scenic communities). The pilot agreed to fly low over the Pang Pass in order to show his passengers the mountains on each side, but the Pass was very windy and the plane was rocking from side to side. I recall thinking at one point that we were being pulled backwards by the mountains! The pilot had the plane tilted to the right (where I was sitting) so the passengers could see the rock better. I had finally had enough and yelled at the top of my lungs They saw it already, now let’s go! After landing in Qikiqtarjuaq, the pilot kind of gave me a mean look but I didn’t care. I was just thankful to be safe and sound on the ground once again.
My husband was recently transferred to Winnipeg, so I have left my job and the territory I love. But I shall never forget the work I did and the people I met. I am convinced that I made a difference and I hope to be able to continue to serve victims wherever my future takes me.
Crown Witness Co-ordinator
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