Kugluktuk residents are calling for more RCMP officers, higher police visibility and a dedicated night shift to tackle growing crime and a sense that the Mounties are not responsive enough to calls.
Those were some of the points raised during a public meeting that attracted close to 100 people at the Kugluktuk recreation centre on Aug. 2.
The “us and them” mentality has to cease, said Kugluktuk councillor Nadene McMenemy.
Some community members expressed frustration over “not being acknowledged as equals” by the RCMP, McMenemy said.
“They felt completely disconnected from them,” she said of the gulf between residents and law enforcement. “Not only are they upset about unanswered calls, some felt that it was like, Why bother? I’m not going to be taken seriously. They feared going there to report (a crime). That should never be… you should never be afraid of a police officer to report a crime.”
RCMP commanding officer Amanda Jones told the audience that the RCMP is developing a course to educate officers on Inuit culture. She also spoke of interest in reviving special constable or auxiliary constable positions. There’s an administrative position open at the detachment which, when filled, will free up officers to spend more hours on the streets instead of doing paperwork.
Mounties are facing fatigue from a higher volume of calls territory-wide, according to Jones. In Kugluktuk, the number of requests for assistance has jumped substantially since alcohol restrictions were lifted in December, following an October plebiscite.
Resident Barb Adjun, who had been lobbying for a community meeting, said the RCMP and the Hamlet of Kugluktuk both need to do more.
“Our protection, and the protection of others, does not have to stop just because the liquor restriction was lifted,” Adjun stated. “’You guys (local residents) voted for it’ is not an excuse… there is no excuse when it involves children or youth.”
‘Increase your workforce’
McMenemy expressed sympathy for the officers being busy, but she said it’s the RCMP and territorial government’s problem to solve.
The Kugluktuk detachment had six officers until 2012, but then it dropped to five, where it stands now. That’s despite the community’s population growth to nearly 1,600 people. With transfers and days off, there can sometimes be very few Mounties available, McMenemy noted.
“You have to increase your workforce. That government finds funds for everything,” she said. “Life and death should be your priority. That’s the bottom line. Nothing is more important than saving the life of somebody.”
The Hamlet of Kugluktuk plans to help out by hiring a second bylaw officer and it’s working towards enhancing its women’s and men’s shelters.
McMenemy said the recent problems are not all the RCMP’s responsibility. The community, which is grieving three recent deaths in incidents that involved liquor, has to confront its alcohol issues, she acknowledged.
‘We deserve the same treatment’
Quentin Norberg, who organized a July 24 protest outside the Kugluktuk RCMP detachment that attracted approximately 25 people, said he left Friday’s public meeting with little confidence that much will change.
“(It) still didn’t answer my questions. Why aren’t our calls being answered? Why are we still being ignored? Even if they do take our calls, why does it take them so long to respond?” Norberg asked.
He said he felt the RCMP’s top brass weren’t organized at the meeting and didn’t come with solutions in mind.
He suggested the RCMP should hire a local person or two to work in a dispatch role rather than having calls relayed to Iqaluit.
Norberg, who served as a bylaw officer in the past, said he has respect for RCMP officers when they are genuinely trying to assist the community, but he said that respect has been eroded recently. He recounted a break-in at a relative’s place and said he never heard of any results from reporting it to police. Norberg and some family members asked around town and were provided with names of suspects, which they forwarded to the RCMP.
“Nothing happened,” he said. “But as soon as a white man’s house got broken into… boom, a full-force investigation. Four (RCMP) members investigating a white man’s home that just got broken into. Why can’t we Inuit get the same response, same treatment? We’re all the same. We deserve the same treatment.”
McMenemy said she’s determined to see Kugluktuk once again return to the place she knows it can be, but she said everyone has to work together toward that goal.
“We’re the most friendliest, loveliest town that you could live in in Nunavut,” she said.