Long, long days on Court circuit

Court circuits to remote locations in the far North can often mean long, exhausting hours of work but, just as frequently, weather delays and the like can translate into days and days (and days) of enforced idleness.  Experienced travellers always plan ahead for these eventualities…

The lady in the above picture is Maaki Kakkik , a court interpreter and a friend with whom I have travelled many times over the years. During the past ten days on court circuit, a series of events occurred which resulted in us only attending court on two days, with the remainder being spent stuck in hotel rooms. Thankfully, I had blog articles to edit and some cookery books to review, while Maaki, as you can see, spent her time on a sealskin jacket. She only expected to get a little work done in the evenings but she actually had the whole thing nearly finished by the time we finally go to fly home again. I expect that this may sound like a fairly pleasant way to spend a week and a half but, in reality, the days away were brutally long and seemingly endless…

Followers of my blog will recall a recent post mentioning that the first leg of our circuit was to the community of Igloolik. Our stay in the community coincided with the arrival of the oil tanker bringing the coming year’s supply of fuel but the actual resupply operation took quite a while to accomplish as last year’s broken pack ice kept on drifting in and out of the bay.

An unfortunate and tragic incident in Igloolik resulted in the regular court sitting being cancelled. My colleagues and I thus decamped early for the community of Hall Beach, the second leg of our trip. I was unable to get an aerial shot of the hamlet on this trip so I am using a picture I took last year. I apologize for the quality of the image (the plane windows were very dirty) but, to the right, you can see the community, the airstrip at the center, and a military installation to the far left. It is hard to tell here, but the town actually sits right on the water’s edge. At this time of the year, however, the ice floe extends a good few kilometers out from the shore.

Hall Beach is one the few remaining DEW line installations that have not been automated. Most Canadians over forty or so will be most familiar with the meaning of the ‘DEW’ acronym from the late “Stompin’ Tom Connors” ballad, ‘Muk Tuk Annie’ wherein he sang of the short, dump dancer from Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit) who ‘had the boys all crying on the distant early warning line’. The Distant early warning line, for those who don’t recognize the name, is a chain of radar installations across the north that was constructed during the Cold War to detect missile attacks coming across the pole.

These big doo-hickeys have something to do with the radars I presume. Either that or they get some pretty great TV channels on the base…

This is where I stayed in Hall Beach. The main hotel was full and my co-defense counsel and I were given rooms in this little 3 bedroom house. One of the Crown Prosecutors spent a night here as well but she decamped the following morning due to general grubbiness of the place as well as the rather ominous stains on her mattress. She was lucky enough to find a place with the family of one of the police officers for the remainder of her stay.

This was my room. It was marginally less unattractive than the shared bathroom but not too horrifying, I suppose. Still, it is a bit difficult to regard the place as being worth the nearly $200 per night per person charged to Legal Aid for the privilege of being without a telephone, internet service or meals. Luckily, we had a kitchen and the Co-op store was handy.

Anyway, this particular circuit was not a whole lot of fun for a variety of reasons. Hall Beach is probably one of the bleaker places on Baffin Island as you may be able to tell from the aerial picture. The hamlet essentially consists of two parallel streets on a strip of gravel plunked down between nowhere and beyond, and the nightlife is not much to write home about, other than the excitement of the odd polar bear wandering into town.

On the whole, I have to say that this picture, taken a kilometer or so from the hamlet, is how I will likely best remember the place…

15 thoughts on “Long, long days on Court circuit”

  1. I think back to those stressful days of working for defense attorneys and an attorney service, and realize that those jobs were pretty cushy in comparison to yours! Good on you. You’re a brave soul – and doing a good service for the greater community.

  2. Wow. So interesting but certainly far from glamorous. I can’t believe they charge Legal Aid that much! But I agree with the commenters above: it’s super brave of you to do this so far up north!

  3. Wow! The word “bleak” is the only one that comes to mind! I think it’s fascinating that I fantasize a bit about having an extended time away with my thoughts, far from activity and probably somewhat remotely housed. Perhaps I need to rethink that fantasy! I don’t think cold and desolate is what I had in mind either! This was an interesting post, though. The Cold War defenses are pretty fascinating. You have some extraordinary experiences in your line of work! Debra

  4. Wow. That is such an alien world to me. I wouldn’t know anything about it if it weren’t for you and your blog, so thank you for this. How long have you been working on this court circuit?

  5. That does look abit tough, hotel wise and to spend time, stuck there. Yes, thank goodness for blogging. $200.00 per night charged back to Legal Aid, is sad and ridiculous. (I worked for B.C. Legal Aid, not as a lawyer. As a law librarian.)

    Makes the Best Western Hotel or EconoLodge look luxurious.

    When I was in Iqualuit, I kept on thinking as looked out over the vast white snow tundra on edge of town where there are no roads, if there is domestic violence repeatedly in those isolated Arctic communities, where does one “escape”??? When it’s too expensive to fly out, too dangerous to snowmobile out,etc.?

    1. Iqaluit has a women’s shelter… in the smaller communities some victims will get flown out by social services in certain cases. Beyond relying on friends, family neighbors etc, there is not much else.

    1. LOL … this week I am doing a gruelling stretch in docket court here at home. Much as I complain, I would probably head back to Hall beach on the next plane. The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it?

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