Astute readers may have noticed an increase in the frequency of court stories over the last month.
Effectively coming out of four separate court dates — though there are two more circuits scheduled for December — the high volume of cases and guilty pleas has resulted in more than the usual flow of stories involving assaults, impaired driving and other dangerous crimes. This is the result of the courts not sitting for the summer due to Covid-19 and now trying to make up for lost time.
I can appreciate that, after a summer of no court whatsoever, a return to court reports can be a bit jarring, and we’ve received a lot of feedback from readers about the stories being published.
For the record, we publish the names of people who plead or are found guilty in court, but not if a) it is their first related offence or b) if it could identify the victim of the crime or c) if the crime is linked to a diagnosed mental health problem.
However, the facts of the case are on the public record and will be published in accordance with the law, and of course we will publish the names in convictions for first (or later) offences in serious crimes like murder, arson, drug dealings, fraud and such. Essentially, mental health issues are a factor in our decision not to name people before the courts, and we typically won’t name people charged with minor, non-violent offences. Serious charges may result in a charged person being named, depending on the severity of the crime and public interest in doing so.
Last week we had a photo spread of Purple Shirt Day, an nation-wide effort to raise awareness about family violence as the first step to trying to tackle and eliminate the problem. By no coincidence, we also had several stories about convictions related to family violence.
The fact is these crimes are happening — not reporting on them may ease some readers anxieties, but it doesn’t make them go away. It simply makes them anonymous, and it is far easier to do bad things when no one is looking.
Readers are right to be upset when learning about some of the crimes that happen in Inuvik, but attacking the news for reporting merely helps lawbreakers by giving them cover for their actions. If people want to see the number of convictions go down, they need to address the problems at their sources.
That means ensuring proper funding for early childhood education and on-the-land programming, as well as counselling and career guidance, at the public school level. That means more work with teaching traditional knowledge and language so people can experience continuity between their heritage and their current world. That means funding addiction support programs that don’t require someone to uproot and leave the territory for therapy. That means funding community programming to help people getting their lives on track keep occupied, find meaning in their lives and discover ways they can positively contribute. That means providing accessible jobs and affordable housing so people can take control of their lives.
One thing that has become obvious to me in my time covering court is just about everyone who has run afoul of the law actually wants to be a productive citizen. They just need the tools to get there.