An upcoming project by the Yukon Status of Women Council to study the challenges women in the Yukon face when accessing the justice system in instances of sexual assault has received $374,000 in funding from the federal government.
The Yukon Advocate Case Review will focus on finding answers to why there are low reporting rates on sexual assaults in the territory, as well as why no charges are pressed in most reported cases.
“It’s hoped that the results of this three-year project will lead to improvements in the justice system that will reduce gender-based violence,” says Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.
The announcement was made Aug. 22 by Bagnell on behalf of Minister of Status of Women Maryam Monsef, near the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre in Whitehorse.
Judicial decisions on sexual assault trials, sexual assault reports that don’t result in charges and Crown sexual assault files that don’t reach trial will all be examined to better understand trends and find out what issues are preventing Yukon women from accessing the justice system for sensitive cases like these.
Five communities will be under review: Whitehorse, Dawson City, Watson Lake and two others that are yet to be determined. The first review will start in January 2019. The reviews will be based only on information from 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Bagnell says a committee will be looking at these cases “in an effort to determining, and correcting through education and empowerment, why so few incidents are reported,” as well as “why so many are misclassified as unfounded” and “why so few lead to charges and convictions.”
In 2017, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale asked Canadian police forces to re-evaluate their procedures for sexual assault cases due to the number of unfounded cases in order to ensure the justice system is properly serving sexual assault survivors.
Since then, Statistics Canada and members of the policing community have made recommendations to address data collection issues of unfounded criminal incidents through the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey with hopes of creating consistency of reporting and discern why incidents might not be getting solved in the sphere of sexual assault. The Yukon Advocate Case review will be another step forward in gaining information to analyze and learn from.
“Our government is working to ensure that our legal systems are delivering justice to survivors across Canada, and this funding will also help to identify the challenges associated with the low reporting and conviction rates for sexual assault cases in the territory,” said Monsef in a statement.
“Helping Yukon women gain better access to the legal system in cases of sexual assault will help prevent such cases from going unreported.”