A national policing program aimed at serving Indigenous communities is expanding to Nunavut.

Through the First Nations and Inuit Policing Program, new RCMP officers are to be hired across the territory over the next three years.

The territorial and federal governments say the agreement means residents will have a greater say in how policing is conducted in their communities.

Officers will be given a unique mandate developed in consultation with communities.

The focus will be on community engagement, crime prevention and public safety.

Under the First Nations and Inuit Policing Program, police services are supported through agreements between the federal government, provincial or territorial governments and Indigenous communities.

The federal government is responsible for 52 per cent of costs while provincial or territorial governments account for the remainder.

“Enhancing and expanding Indigenous-led approaches to public safety — including better policing in Inuit communities — is a top priority for both governments and a key milestone on the road to reconciliation,” reads a joint statement from federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Nunavut Justice Minister Craig Simailak.

The relationship between Inuit communities and police has long been strained.

RCMP killed thousands of Inuit sled dogs between the 1950s and 1970s across the eastern Arctic as part of federal efforts to force Inuit into permanent settlements and abandon their traditional lifestyle.

The Federal Court certified a $600-million class action in June 2021, alleging RCMP discrimination against Indigenous people in the North. Its claims include excessive use of force and Charter rights violations.

The federal government is appealing the certification, arguing the issues should not be dealt with as a class action.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national organization representing Inuit in Canada, and the RCMP announced a shared workplan earlier this year aimed at improving the relationship between Inuit and police. It intends to address gaps in policing and build transparency and trust.

In 2019-20, Public Safety Canada provided more than $150 million under the First Nations and Inuit Policing Program to support approximately 1,350 police officer positions in 425 Indigenous communities.

—By Emily Blake, The Canadian Press

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