Why a Yukon Court Watch program revival?
In 2010 and 2011, three studies were written in the Yukon by various concerned women’s groups calling for not only a revival of the Court Watch program but an establishment of a continuous program. These studies were: Yukon Sexualized Assault and Male-Violence-Against-Women: Gaps in Services Report by Yukon Status of Women Council; If My Life Depended On It: Yukon Women and the RCMP, Submission to Review of Yukon’s Police Force by Lois Moorcroft; and Sharing Common Ground Executive Summary by the Government of Yukon.
More recently, according to the 2013 Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends Report:
• The Territories consistently record the highest rates of violence against women in the country;
• In 2011 the rate of the police reported violent crimes against women in the Yukon was four times higher than the national average;
• The rate of sexual offences against women in the Yukon was more that 3.5 times the provincial average.
At the same time, sexualized assault and male-violence against women is under-reported in the Yukon.
What is Yukon Court Watch doing?
Yukon Court Watch will provide necessary oversight of the Yukon Courts to address gender inequality in court, along with improving services and supports for victims. We will be sharing the information that we collect with community agencies to ensure that women are treated with respect, dignity, and equality in the justice system as well as improve support systems and legal knowledge available for victims in the criminal justice system. We also are seeking to raise public awareness with respect to violence against women in our community and positively influence the social responses towards women who have experienced violence.
Court Watch Yukon observations will focus on inaccessible and mutualizing language, the court atmosphere, respect and dignity shown to victims, the process of therapeutic courts in the Yukon, and dual charging.
Fully trained Yukon Court Watch volunteers began observing court proceedings for sexualized violence, violence against women and spousal violence. Volunteers note women’s experiences in court atmosphere, mutualizing language and dual charging. Volunteers attended a training that involved local representatives from the Public Prosecution of Canada, Crown Witness Coordinators, Offender Supervision Services, Victim Services, Legal Aid, private lawyers and Aboriginal Court Workers. Volunteers record information about the crime, accused, sentencing, environment of the courtroom, and the proceedings. We have had incredible support from researchers with Feminist Research and Education Development Action (FREDA) at the Simon Fraser University with respect to information gathering and upcoming analysis.
Mutualizing language is of particular interest to us for two reasons. First, mutualizing language are words that conceal the level of violence in an incident (e.g. “he kissed her” vs “he put his mouth on hers”). Second, research has found that there is a correlation between the use of mutualizing language and lighter sentences (2).
Be a Court Watch Volunteer!
• Keep up to date on women’s issues and learn about the Justice System
• Observe trials, bail hearings, and Domestic Violence Treatment Option court
• Commitment of 4 to 8 hours a week
• Complete a criminal records check
Yukon Court Watch Volunteer Coordinator
The revival of Court Watch Yukon has been made possible by the generous funding support of the Community Development Fund, Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund, Department of Justice Canada Victims Fund, The Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, and the Yukon Law Foundation.
1) Coates, L. & Wade, A. (2004). Telling it like it isn’t: obscuring perpetrator responsibility for violent crime. Discourse & Society, 15(5), 3-30.
2) Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre. (2004).Final report of the Court Watch Yukon project.