Maybe the saddest story of the North?

CamBay Graveyard


Your Honour, this may be the saddest story of the North I have ever told in a Court – or at least one of them.


It a story of abysmal systemic failure the dimensions of which are mind boggling – it is the one of the most Gladue intensive tragedies I have ever related to a Court.


Sam was born to a disabled woman named Suzy Smith in 1986 – he turned 30 in June.

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Without Northern Justice, Southern Justice steps in

Snaking through the delta


The CBC Forum on indigenous justice underlined the fact that Northern communities, composed generally of well-intentioned and law abiding members, have not acted as nations by taking control of their non law-abiding members.  The point is that, ultimately, if there was Northern justice, southern justice would not have to step in.


I see this problem in Court all the time, where the presiding Judge is faced with sentencing an individual who has injured another member of the community and having no real option but to send him or her to jail.  The southern justice paradigm the Judge brings with her/him includes the idea of jail as a collective expression of repudiation for the violence that brings the offender before the Court.

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How did the Lawdawg get his name?

Qiviuq and Ovayuk


A few years ago when I began doing a public legal education column with the CBC in Iqaluit, a discussion with a producer about Inuktitut got side tracked into dogs and the idea that qimiq is a word for dog but it does not need kamotiq (sled) as a descriptor because qimiq includes a notion of sled already.


She agreed that you would have to describe a guide dog or a police dog in a particular way. Anything out of the ordinary for an arctic dog would be required as an adjective, but anything that dogs traditionally do, is an unnecessary descriptor – it is captured by the concept qimiq.

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Facepalm(s) in the North

Clouds in CamBay


David is the second of Suzy’s children.  David is the only one of Suzy’s children with a formal diagnosis of FASD.  David has an on-again/off-again relationship with Christine (on-again when she misses him and wants help to take care of their two-year old daughter and off-again when he gets drunk and beats her up).  During the off-again times, he lives with Suzy, his 2 younger siblings and Suzy’s mother Gloria.


David lives in a tiny Arctic community of about 1000 souls.  As is the case with all of Canada’s tiny Arctic communities, this one has primary and high schools, a Northern Store, an Arctic Co-op store, a post office, government offices of some sort, a Health Centre and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment.

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I Have A New Question On My Intake Form

Circuit Court Workhorse


Circuit Courts fly into a community, dispense justice and fly out.  Criminal lawyers who do circuit work face serious challenges in making sure that their clients get proper assistance.  Time pressures sometimes make for client meetings that are rushed and it is always important to record as much detail about the client for my own purposes and for the lawyer who may next have the file.  I am not the only lawyer to use an intake form to make sure I cover all the bases.


Wally and Stevie claimed that Billy kicked in their door and struck both of them with a stick from a tree. Stevie ended up with a head injury that required 5 stitches to close. Wally and Stevie both gave statements to police; they said that they kicked Billy out of their house for being drunk and obnoxious following which he returned, kicked in the door and then hit Stevie with a stick.  When he went to Stevie’s assistance, Wally got hit with the same stick.


My client is Billy.  He has no phone so I could not speak to him before I flew into the community to defend him at the trial scheduled to take place during the two-day circuit.

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