The national organization representing Inuit has developed a plan with the RCMP to help improve their relationship.
Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said his people have long been victims of discrimination, neglect and violence within the criminal justice system.
“Every time Inuit interact with the RCMP, we have that history and the weight of that intergenerational trauma in the relationship,” Obed said Thursday from Ottawa.
Interactions with police have been strained, but the plan brings hope for a new relationship, he said.
Development began after meeting with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki last year. A joint RCMP and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami press release said the plan is the start of a collaborative relationship to address gaps in policing.
The aim is to build transparency and trust, the statement said.
It stems in part from the recommendations of the National Inuit Action Plan, which are the Inuit priorities of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“Mutual trust, respect and empathy are fundamental to building healthy relationships between police and Inuit communities,” Lucki said in the news release.
The public has long been very suspicious of the police in Nunavut. The RCMP killed Inuit sled dogs between the 1950s and 1970s as part of a federal plan to get people to abandon their traditional way of life.
In recent years, there have been other high-profile cases, including a video of a Nunavut RCMP officer hitting an Inuk with the door of his truck in 2020.
Lucki said the RCMP is committed to implementing the plan to repair, rebuild and improve relationships with communities in Inuit Nunangat, the region that is the Inuit homeland.
Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino said in a statement that walking the path of reconciliation means fostering new relationships.
“Those who address the wrongs of the past, make a meaningful difference in the present and address the common challenges of the future,” he said.
Consultations, more Inuit officers
The plan includes regular consultations with Inuit leaders to monitor progress.
It also includes an objective of increasing Inuit representation within the force and mandatory cultural training for officers working in northern regions.
Nunavut has seen a large number of police shootings in recent years, which has raised concerns in Inuit communities. Southern police forces are responsible for investigating these shootings, and in most cases little information is released.
Obed said the new plan also aims to develop RCMP investigative strategies and how information will be shared.
Transparency is necessary to improve trust, he added.
Obed said there will also be strategies for working with the RCMP on responding to calls for suicide and self-harm. Obed said it was the second most common call for RCMP services in Nunavut.
Obed said there are challenges, but the RCMP has a very positive role to play in keeping Inuit communities safe. It will take time and energy to build a better relationship, he added.
The RCMP should provide funds for the implementation of the plan. No specific amount has been revealed.
“For our communities … to be at our best, it makes sense that we have a better relationship with the RCMP,” Obed said.