The Yukon court house in Whitehorse. Yukon and the N.W.T. received poor marks on a new justice system report card from the MacDonald-Laurier Institute. Yukon ranked 13th out of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories, while the N.W.T. ranked 12th and Nunavut ranked 8th. (Philippe Morin/CBC) High crime rates, high costs and limited access to legal aid have put Yukon and the N.W.T. at the bottom of a list ranking criminal justice systems in the provinces and territories.
The MacDonald-Laurier Institute on Monday issued its second report on criminal justice in Canada. It’s based on Statistics Canada data on crime and the legal system.
The think tank’s first such report came out in 2016 , and since then N.W.T. has dropped from 11th to 12th in the rankings of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. In both reports, Yukon is at the bottom of the list.
Nunavut, meanwhile, has improved since 2016 — going from 10th in the rankings to eighth this year.
"It’s a pretty remarkable jump," said Benjamin Perrin, a University of British Columbia law professor and one of the new report’s co-authors. "Nunavut has actually pulled ahead of a number of provinces [that have] significant resources … to tackle their crime rate." The rankings are based on data from Statistics Canada, and focus on public safety, support for victims, costs and resource use, fairness and access to justice, and efficiency. (MacDonald-Laurier Institute) Yukon, meanwhile, has made little progress.
"It’s really unfortunate," Perrin said. "There are major concerns and major problems with the justice system in the Yukon." Yukon crime ‘off the charts’
Yukon scored poorest when it came to the cost and use of resources by its justice system. Part of that is attributable to the territory’s geographic size and its sparse population and, in part, to its relatively high rates of violent and property crime.
"There are just astronomically higher rates of all types of crime," Perrin said. "They’re actually off the charts — we had to limit how much of an effect that would have on the grade, because it was so disproportionate." ‘There are major concerns and major problems with the justice system in the Yukon,’ said Benjamin Perrin, a University of British Columbia law professor and one of the report card’s co-authors. Yukon also has high rates of probation breaches, failure to comply with court orders and relatively high numbers of accused persons on remand.
At the same time, Yukon spends relatively little on legal aid, compared to other jurisdictions. Perrin argues that legal aid can make the justice system more fair, efficient and less expensive.
"If governments are trying to save money by cutting legal aid, they actually end up paying probably much more in the end," he said.
On the plus side, the report found that Yukon has relatively few unsolved crimes and the median length for criminal cases is lower than average. Victim support poor in N.W.T.
The N.W.T. received failing marks for the cost and use of resources by its justice system and its support for victims. The report says victims receive one of the lowest proportion of restitution orders in Canada.
N.W.T., like the other territories, also has high rates of crime. It has the second-highest rate of violent crime (after Nunavut) and the highest rate of property crime (although, that’s declined since 2016).
Like Yukon, N.W.T. also has relatively high rates of breach of probation and failure to comply with court orders. The territory also spends little on legal aid, compared to other jurisdictions.
N.W.T. also sees a relatively high proportion of criminal charges stayed or withdrawn. According to Perrin, that can reduce the system’s efficiency.
"The Northwest Territories is charging […]
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