Yukon Advocate Case Review Project
The rate of sexualized assault in Yukon is high compared with Canada's national average (3.5 times higher than the provincial average). The number of sexualized assaults that are deemed "unfounded" in Yukon (or labelled as not having basis in fact) is also high compared with Canada's national average (25% in Yukon compared to 19% national average). As a result, the Yukon Status of Women Council is collaborating with Yukon's RCMP, Crown and Judiciary to conduct a review of Yukon's legal responses to sexualized assault cases. Borrowing from what is known as "The Philadelphia Case Review Model" and much of the "unfounded" work that is being done in other cities across North America, this project is a collaborative and constructive analysis of the ways in which Yukon's legal system can better respond to victims of sexualized assault. The project will be conducted over three years in 5 Yukon communities. Cases labelled "Unfounded" by RCMP, stay of proceedings, acquittals, withdrawals, and not-guilty verdicts by the Crown and Judiciary will be collaboratively reviewed and analyzed. Each review committee will be made up of liaisons from the RCMP, the Crown and the Judiciary along with women who have experienced sexualized violence and been through the legal system, women and legal advocates along with a project coordinator and collaborators. The aim of this project is to gain a better understanding of how to improve procedures for RCMP, the Crown and the Judiciary so it is safer for victims to report sexualized assaults, and to determine the factors that lead to convictions of sexualized assault. Ultimately, our goal is to help create systemic change within Yukon's legal system so that fewer cases of sexualized assault are mis-classified.
The Yukon Status of Women Council has received funding from Status of Women Canada to support this project over 3 years.
For more information, the Yukon Advocate Case Review has a project website: www.yukonlegalsystemreview.com
Research project on women in sex work & trafficking of women & girls in the Yukon & Northwest Territories
The North has four – eight times the national rate of violence against women, and 3.5 – 5 times the provincial average for sexual offences against women. Our previous work on 2 pan-territorial research projects, indicates that women engage in sex for drugs and housing and that other forms of sex work exist. However, there is no clear picture of the full spectrum and extent of sex work, the determinants specific to the Yukon or conclusive evidence of trafficking of women and girls. The RCMP does not have a clear picture either. Our previous research identified and mapped existing services and programs showing there are no services for women wishing to exit the sex industry, no programs targeting prevention or addressing their specific needs
The project will build on the findings of the Repairing the Holes in the Net (RTHN) and You Just Blink and It Can Happen (2007) projects which outlined the dynamics of women's homelessness in the Yukon and looked at the response of systems and services to the issue. Homeless women and service providers told their stories and identified gaps, barriers and made recommendations for improvements to services. Those stories revealed some women's involvement in survival sex, exchanging sex for drugs, and partners or drug dealers involving women in sex work. Other stories told of young girls being solicited for sex work or of women being brought from other provinces to work here. It also revealed a lack of specific policy and program responses to the sex industry and trafficking of women and girls.
We have received funding from Status of Women Canada for a 3-year project to:
Objective 1: Conduct baseline research, identify elements & spectrum; analyze findings on the extent, conditions, determinants, dynamics of sex work and trafficking of women and girls in the Yukon & NWT.
Objective 2: Facilitate an inter-sectoral, community approach addressing the issue between decision makers, women with lived experience, service providers to provide safe effective services, improved policies and programs, and collaborative action to reduce violence.
These two objectives will be carried out in several phases over a 3-year timeframe. Methodology would follow a participatory action research model building a Community of Practice to support the research team and act upon findings and include women with lived experience in all phases of the project.
The recently completed 2015-2018 Court Watch Yukon (CWY) program was coordinated by the Yukon Status of Women Council (YSWC) built on an earlier pilot program of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre from 2002 – 2004. YSWC obtained funding from the Time-Limited Operational Fund of Justice Canada, the Yukon Law Foundation and the Crime Prevention and Victim’s Trust Fund, Yukon Government to build on the recommendations of the successful pilot program and re-instate the Court Watch program.
The CWY pilot project established the need for a permanent court watch program in the Yukon, which continues to be confirmed by territorial statistics that paint a powerful picture of the systemic problems underlying the ongoing inequality of sexualized assault and spousal abuse experienced by women in Yukon. The Yukon Health Status Report (2009) revealed that sexualized assaults and spousal abuse are 2-3 times higher in the Yukon than in any other province, and that women’s shelters are used between 3-10 times more often per day in the territories than elsewhere in Canada.
Consequently, CWY aim was to improve support systems and legal knowledge available for victims in the criminal justice system enabling women to have equal and respectful experiences in the judicial process. CWY also aimed to raise awareness of violence against women in the community and positively influence social responses toward women who have experienced violence.
CWY also analysed the language used towards victims, described incidence of violence and analysed judicial sentencing in cases of sexualized assaults and spousal abuse. The program increased NGO and government capacity to support victims of violence by compiling data and documentation on the judicial process. CWY also proposed practical solutions to ensure that women are treated with respect, dignity and equality in the legal system as well as supported policy and legislation to increase court efficacy in prosecuting cases of sexualized assault and spousal abuse.
In 2001 Yukon Judge Heino Lilles noted that “the inability of the formal adversarial court process to address family violence effectively is well known to anyone who practices in the criminal courts,” and that this inability is further exacerbated by “high rates of domestic violence, a significant First Nations population that feels victimized by the formal justice system…and a perception that relatively few victims actually reported domestic assaults to the police.” His account acknowledges the reality facing victims of sexualized assault and spousal abuse in the Yukon, and the Court Watch Yukon program aimed to address these issues.