The issue: Systemic racism
We say: Amplify Inuit voices
Last week, we published the story of a woman’s comments, made publicly, that carried a spirit of disrespect and were, in many eyes, ignorant.
Jenny Polo-Egeileh’s magazine interview was candid, surely, though her words were a poor reflection of any warmth she felt toward the people she lived among in Arviat.
Her culture shock was understandable, as a young woman leaving her country of birth. Our publishing of her views was not meant as a punishment for her candour, but as a warning that many people still carry and communicate such views when leaving the territory – and these sorts of perspectives feed systemic racism in Canadian policing.
The things she describes as a lack of development and a rejection of momentum, we know to be largely the byproducts of generational trauma, colonization and forced changes to a tradition and culture that have withstood challenges for millenia. Many of those troubles were brought on by outsiders who thought they knew better, but they couldn’t have survived without the knowledge of the Elders and people they met across this land.
While we knew that publishing these comments could be hurtful in many ways, we felt that they could not go ignored, not in a day and age when respect and tolerance of different views and cultures is a requirement of a socially responsible person. When such narrow-minded remarks are made public, we cannot allow them to go unchallenged.
It is human nature to judge, but what you do with that judgment is what defines you as a person.
Arviammiut deserve better. Nunavummiut deserve better. People across Inuit Nunangat deserve better.
To let it slide would be to allow this harmful rhetoric to be spread at face value, and that is unacceptable.
Strides have been made to repair police relations with the people whom officers are meant to serve and protect. Cultural orientation is a part of the training Mounties receive before coming to the territory, but until more time and money are dedicated to that, officers may come to Nunavut with their own biases still drowning out a few days of learning.
Truth and reconciliation are beautiful words, but have fallen flat and empty over the years and the federal government’s imported solutions to problems of its own making aren’t working.
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada called for radical change and decolonization of policing in a January 2020 report put together with Dr. Elizabeth Comack of the University of Manitoba’s department of sociology and criminology.
On Jan. 27 RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and Kudloo signed the Pinasugatingiinniq Agreement, committing both organizations to implement the recommendations of that report “ranging from culturally aware and trauma-informed police services to gender-based training and policies, as well as stronger dispatch responsiveness, longer postings of RCMP members in communities, and diversity within the workforce.”
Priority hiring from within the communities and training for Inuit officers, women and men, is a must.
Kudloo says “systemic racism is a reality in Inuit women’s encounters with the police.”
That’s true, and it’s a reality in many other facets of life in the North.
Wounds cannot be unmade and the scars of colonization run deep in Nunavut. The amazing spirit and resilience of Nunavummiut will allow for healing, but the healing must be allowed to happen from the inside, with Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit as the guiding principles.
It’s heartening to see such a landmark commitment made. It will require continuous effort, but could be a real step in meaningful reconciliation.