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Nunavut’s RCMP commanding officer confronts public trust

The RCMP’s commanding officer in Nunavut is aware that some Inuit want the territory’s police force to be more accountable.

Chief Supt. Amanda Jones says she always listens to complaints from the public. “I just try and understand where it’s coming from and hope that if we can’t get to where they want to be, then there’s another way we can build that trust and communicate with each other,” she says.
photo courtesy of the RCMP

“If there’s a mistrust then that’s something that we need to work on. That’s the community telling us, ‘Hey, we don’t trust you.’ How do we improve that?” said Chief Supt. Amanda Jones. “I know our (RCMP) members are working very hard out there and doing amazing work for the communities under pressure. Some get it right, but you can’t get it right every time.”

Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq has led the charge in the legislative assembly, repeatedly calling for a body cameras pilot project.

Jones said there are hurdles to clear before body cameras could be adopted: getting approval from the RCMP’s headquarters in Ottawa because the Mounties are a national police force and then there’s the technological challenges and expenses related to storing all the video footage.

“I will never say never but right now it’s the capacity to hold all that information (that’s a barrier),” said Jones. “Some of our members would like to have that equipment on them too because they feel that it’s an injustice to them because they thought they did the right thing and someone’s claiming that they were overhanded or something. One day it may come into effect as technology gets better over the years.”

She encourages those who feel that they’ve been mistreated by the RCMP to either speak directly to the local detachment commander or contact the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, which is based in Ottawa. The commission is a federal agency, separate from the police force, with a mission statement to “deliver a robust complaint process which holds the RCMP accountable for its activities and the conduct of its members.”

Jones noted that there’s been a relatively low number of complaints filed with the commission from Nunavut.

“I’m sure that it’s not because people aren’t dissatisfied but I think it’s just a lack of knowledge of it,” the commanding officer suggested.

Qamaniq and fellow MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq also spoke in favour of the re-established of Inuit RCMP special constables earlier this month.

Jones, who took over as Nunavut’s commanding officer in January 2019, said there have been talks with the RCMP’s national headquarters on the possibility of a special constable or community constable program “to see if that’s something that we can bring back.”

“Obviously it’s the training, the funding and the resourcing component of it that’s the really big picture, but it’s something that hasn’t died,” she said. “Certainly we are still discussing it because we do recognize that it’s something the Inuit really are interested in, participating with the RCMP, and it was a tremendous program in the past.”

Another recommendation made by Nunavut’s political leaders that is coming to fruition – at least in the near-term – is cultural orientation. There will be two weeks of pre-deployment training in April for RCMP officers posted to Nunavut. Those sessions will include Inuit culture, history and language lessons so officers have a better understanding of the territory and its people, according to Jones.

“I’m hoping that that would be something that will continue,” she said of the course. “Obviously it needs funding because it does cost a lot of money. We’ll be putting forth (a request) for more funding, and then how do we improve it? What do we need to add to it to provide a better cultural experience for the membership? It’s certainly something I would like to see mandated (long-term). It’s very unique and special coming up to Nunavut. There’s a lot of history that our members need to know and we recognize that.”

Jones acknowledged that much of what’s being asked of the RCMP revolves around more money to make it a reality.

“The will is there, I would say that, but there’s lots of pressures everywhere and you have to be able to put your resources where you can and your funding where you can.”