The commanding officer of Nunavut’s RCMP is acutely aware of the numbers: only four Inuit police officers remain on his staff of 128 Mounties. There is also one Inuk special constable.
That number once stood as high as 11.
Chief Supt. Michael Jeffrey has also studied other figures, such as a recent labour force analysis that he says illustrates how difficult it is to find suitable Inuit candidates. He starts with the population of Nunavut, at approximately 38,000. He then extracts all the people who aren’t of working age, reducing the figure to about 24,000. Of those, close to 15,000 want to work and nearly 13,000 of them have already found employment, he says. The remaining Inuit labour force is also coveted by the Government of Nunavut, the Government of Canada, municipalities and the growing number of mines in the territory, said Jeffrey.
“I can tell you it is an extremely competitive market in Nunavut for Grade 12 applicants with a good work history and a good reputation,” he said, adding that some of the competitors offer very enticing compensation packages.
In addition, the RCMP must reject those with a significant criminal history and can only accept those who are medically fit, he added.
Regardless of those hurdles, Nunavut has a relatively high proportion of young people entering the 18- to 24-year-old age bracket, a target for recruiters, and the RCMP will attempt to persuade some of them to consider a career in the RCMP, Jeffrey said.
Local efforts to hire more Inuit workers have included having up to two positions dedicated to recruiting, and those positions were filled by Inuit officers over the past several years, said Jeffrey. Last year, the recruiter went into nine communities, attended a trade show in each Nunavut region and met with more the 750 people. Six RCMP entry exam-writing sessions were held and two individuals passed. They moving forward in the enlistment process, said Jeffrey.
In addition, there are numerous RCMP youth initiatives, such as sending teens to youth leadership conferences and to training programs at the police force’s depot in Regina. Mounties also attempt to make a positive influence in communities through volunteering as sports coaches, at community breakfasts, bike rodeos and other events, the commanding officer said.
At the national level, a dedicated analyst is assigned to make sure Inuit applicants are given proper attention and phone contact is made with those applicants, Jeffrey noted. Inuit are guaranteed that they will be able to remain in the territory when they have qualified to serve as police officers.
The RCMP has lost four Inuit police officers over the past couple of years, two who left for government positions and two who departed to further their education.
While the police force has struggled to fill their boots, the RCMP has, over the past several months, hired six Inuit to serve in civilian roles such as working at the front desk in various detachments and taking 911 emergency calls, Jeffrey noted. That brings the number of Inuit civilian personnel with the RCMP up to 12, he said.
“They know the community that they live in because they’re from those small communities,” said Jeffrey. “They can act as translators for our members. They can assist persons in making complaints in their language of choice… They are as integral and important to policing service delivery as regular members.”
Having worked with several Inuit RCMP officers and administrators during his career, Jeffrey said he has found them to exhibit “outstanding professionalism,” particularly when community members sought them out in hopes of resolving legal issues rather than going through official channels.
“All the (Inuit) members that have come through have shown great care towards the community that they’ve served and worked diligently at the job that they do,” he said.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. didn’t respond to a request for comment on the low number of Inuit in the RCMP.
Nunavut Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak couldn’t be reached prior to press deadline.