Nunavut’s senator and MP say an incident captured on video this week of an Indigenous man being struck by an RCMP officer’s truck reinforces the need to explore the use of body cameras for Mounties in the territory.
The incident, which took place on Monday in the small community of Kinngait, is now subject to an independent criminal investigation and an internal one.
Senator Dennis Patterson told The Globe and Mail on Thursday that the video is very alarming and suggests inappropriate police action. He also said the incident underscores the need for discussions on whether officers in Nunavut should use body cameras.
“It reinforces the importance of the availability of this technology to protect citizens from police excesses, but also to protect police, who often have a very difficult job and dangerous job in our communities, sad to say,” he said.
Mr. Patterson said he is convening a roundtable with stakeholders throughout the territory to explore the issue, adding that a serious dialogue is required to ensure the people of Nunavut don’t fear the police, and that officers can do their work to protect communities.
It is clear that trust between the public and officers is eroding, he added.
Nunavut NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who is Inuk, said in an interview that it is important to realize that incidents like the one in Kinngait are more common than people think.
She said she has been speaking with Mr. Patterson and Pond Inlet MLA David Qamaniq about body cameras for the RCMP officers.
The video of the incident was released as protests against police brutality swept across Canada and the United States after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
“We know it not just an American issue, it is a Canadian issue as well,” she said.
The victim in the Kinngait incident was arrested for public intoxication, but not charged, according to an RCMP statement.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not respond directly on Thursday to a question about the video, but acknowledged generally that systemic discrimination exists in Canada.
During his daily news briefing, Mr. Trudeau said Thursday the country must address challenges in society that are a lived reality for racialized Canadians and Indigenous people. But he did not specifically comment on the video or the actions of the officer.
“Even as we watch with horror what is going on in the United States, we know we have an awful lot of work to do here in Canada,” Mr. Trudeau said. “As a government, we have taken steps towards that, but as you point out, there is much more to do.”
After the Prime Minister’s news conference, Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal issued a statement to The Globe that all Canadians deserve to feel safe in their communities.
“The video from Kinngait involving the RCMP and a member of the community is shocking and upsetting,” he said. "Upon review, the officer has been removed from the community and an external investigation has been launched. We will continue to work towards protecting our Northern communities and those who live there.”
Nunavut Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak said in a statement this week that she met with RCMP Chief Superintendent Amanda Jones to express her “frustration and outrage.“
Iqaluit lawyer Lori Idlout said reports from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association are full of good ideas on how to deal with such issues.The force should bring back special constables, she said — local, trained people who work with RCMP in crime prevention.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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