A Nunavut MLA who has repeatedly called for RCMP to wear body cameras in the territory has allies in Sen. Dennis Patterson and MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq.
Patterson said he’s concerned that there has been some “erosion in the trust between the RCMP and Nunavummiut that is making it difficult for them to continue to fulfill their duty to serve and protect.”
Adopting body cameras would protect the public and peace officers themselves, he said.
“I support starting off with a pilot project in Nunavut, as recommended by (Tununiq) MLA David Qamaniq,” Patterson stated.
He added that the “accountability, transparency, and peace of mind” that would be afforded by the cameras should not be dismissed due to technical difficulties such as data storage and cold weather. Patterson pointed out that various technology firms can provide solutions and they have supplied cameras to police forces in Calgary and Ontario’s York region, among others.
Nunavut member of Parliament Mumilaaq Qaqqaq said body cameras can be a tool to help improve services.
“Historically, the relationship between Inuit and the RCMP has been a rough one. We have heard stories of forced relocation, dog slaughters and sending Nunavummiut south for tuberculosis treatment,” Qaqqaq stated. “We also know that the justice system often times doesn’t work for Indigenous peoples. We have seen, across the country, the need for cultural and sensitivity training. With RCMP wearing body cameras, we could have more insight on the challenges and room for improvement within the justice system.”
There have been a couple of recent fatal confrontations involving police – one in Clyde River, on May 5, and one in Cape Dorset on Feb. 26. In both instances, Ottawa Police Service has sent officers to investigate the incidents, but no details have been released to the public.
“This has been going on for too long,” Qamaniq said Tuesday, adding that he intends to keep pushing for body cameras.
In a March interview with Nunavut News, RCMP V Division commanding officer Chief Supt. Amanda Jones said one of the primary hurdles to using body cameras is storing all of the video footage and the expenses related to that.
“I will never say never, but right now it’s the capacity to hold all that information (that’s a barrier),” Jones said at the time.
Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main, who offered his condolences to the communities and everyone involved in the fatal incidents, said he also supports Qamaniq’s pursuit of a body camera pilot project.
“If there is a clear reason why this cannot be done in Nunavut, I would like to see a clear explanation,” Main said. “If it’s a case where they just haven’t done the work, just haven’t put the effort into finding the right (product), if it’s just simply not a priority at this time, then that, I think, is maybe a more difficult position for (the Department of Justice) to defend.”
Like Patterson, Main mentioned that some other police forces in Canada have moved towards body cameras and the greater transparency associated with them.
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated declined to comment on the issue.