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Northern law should be Inuit law

There is no doubt that enforcing law and order in Canada's largest territory is a contentious issue between Nunavummiut and law and justice officials alike.

People call the police when they need help and expect the courts to punish criminals when they commit crimes. The problem in Nunavut is that most of the people going to jail are Inuit and most of the people administering justice are qallunaat from down south.
Such an arrangement is bound to breed resentment and distrust.

In Nunavut News' Addictions special edition Nov. 25 we referred to this arrangement as a process and management system where southern-trained police, judges, lawyers and the accompanying bureaucracy operate a high-priced assembly line through which troubled and traumatized Nunavummiut are placed to be spat out on the other side toward whatever remedy this process and management system decides.

The Nunavut RCMP headquarters. There have been disputes of note between Nunavimmiut and RCMP lately, especially those highlighted by Dave Qamaniq.
NNSL file photo

There are many well-meaning people in this system, many who truly care but most are not of Nunavut nor are they able to relate to their mainly Inuit clientele.

The way the justice system is set up now, an essentially foreign and colonial system, it can only rub people the wrong way and cannot address the core disconnect between the system and the people.

Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq called for body cameras for RCMP in Nunavut to increase the people's trust and diminish the likelihood of misconduct after a case of alleged police brutality in Iqaluit which earned a lot of media attention.

With 88 per cent of the territory being Inuit, for justice to be true it ought to be administered for the Inuit by the Inuit. At the very least, the system requires a deeper cultural immersion than the one that exists now.

To the credit of those who work in the Department of Justice, dispensing justice has never been an easy task and the system is full of hard-working people often trying to do the right thing.

But to avoid the adversarial attitudes and distrust that has been developing throughout the North, the system should be representative of the people who live in Nunavut.

That's why it's all the more important that Inuit get involved with the law, participate and advocate and make the system theirs.

Such examples can include best friends John Voisey and Stanley Adjuk Jr. from Whale Cove (Nunavut News, Sept. 30 edition) who want to become RCMP officers, though there is no guarantee that they will end up working in Nunavut.

One question that should be asked is how feasible is it for a made-in-the-North police force? The RCMP is a professional police force but is it a culturally appropriate one?

The Government of Nunavut expects the Department of Justice alone to spend over $128 million in fiscal year 2019-2020, 36 per cent of which is going to law enforcement.

That nearly $50 million, or a portion of it, would go a long way for a made-in-Nunavut police force.

There are endless education troubles and it's true the territory does not produce enough graduates to fill the positions needed in the North, but with Nunavut Arctic College and even southern institutions like the University of Saskatchewan offering Nunavut law programs, things are heading in the right direction.

People just need to be encouraged and be shown a future where it is Nunavummiut who are deciding what is best for them.

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