Two MLAs say they want to see Inuit special constables back on the job in Nunavut.
Tununiq’s David Qamaniq spoke of the historic importance of Inuit members of the police force while making his member’s statement in the legislative assembly on Wednesday.
“I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police members sent to the North would never have survived without the help of those Inuit who took on the role of guide, interpreter, mediator, dog team driver, and boat captain during patrols,” said Qamaniq. “A number of these Inuit were employed as special constables with an official rank and a pay cheque. Even their families assisted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on a daily basis.”
He called for a greater Inuit presence in the police force once again.
“The population in a community like Pond Inlet is almost 95 percent Inuit. For Inuit to trust the police, they need to feel that the police understand who they are. Who better to understand Inuit and how law affects them than Inuit themselves?” said Qamaniq. “We need more Inuit Royal Canadian Mounted Police members working in our communities.”
Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq said he remembers when Inuit played “vital roles” in communicating across language and cultural barriers and building trust. He said their presence would be particularly helpful in putting elders at ease when dealing with the police.
Justice Minister Jeanne Ehaloak replied that the RCMP currently has seven Inuit applicants — down from the original 10 after three withdrawals — through a new RCMP training initiative in partnership with the Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation and the Department of Family Services.
The program includes literacy and numeracy training, mental health and coping skills and helps candidates obtain an unrestricted driver’s licence, according to Ehaloak. Those who are successful will continue their training at the RCMP Depot in Regina later in the year.
“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are always working and trying to find ways to hire
Inuit as RCMP officers and I think that special constables would be the first way to go,
then train them to become RCMP officers,” said Ehaloak. “With the support of the Department of Justice, along with the RCMP, hopefully we can go through this process.”