Lawsuit against Nunavut RCMP claims force losing touch with Inuit

An Inuit family whose son was shot by RCMP is suing the force

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. An Inuit family whose son was shot by RCMP is suing the force over its failure to staff Arctic detachments with officers who can speak with and understand their posted communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An Inuit family whose son was shot by RCMP is suing the force over its alleged failure to staff Arctic detachments with officers who can speak with and understand the communities where they are posted.

It’s the second recent lawsuit to question the relationship between officers and Indigenous northerners. The longtime northern lawyer who represents the family said she fears the RCMP is gradually losing its connection to the people they are supposed to serve.

READ MORE: Trudeau apologizes for government’s past mistreatment of Inuit with tuberculosis

“We want to prevent another shooting death of a person in Nunavut,” said David Qamaniq, the father of Kunuk Qamaniq, who died of a gunshot wound after a confrontation with Mounties in Pond Inlet in 2017.

A statement of claim says the 20-year-old man was grieving the one-year anniversary of his sister’s suicide the afternoon he was shot.

“Together with his mother he cried for his lost sister,” the statement says. “Kunuk expressed despair and suggested he, too, might commit suicide.”

His parents became concerned and contacted RCMP when they learned their son had borrowed a rifle to go rabbit hunting and was headed to the community graveyard. David Qamaniq told the officers his son was sober.

Shortly after, the Qamaniqs were summoned to the community health centre, where they learned their son had been shot by an officer. The young man died shortly after.

The lawsuit is an attempt to force the RCMP to institute recommendations from several inquests into suicides and police shootings in Nunavut, said Qamaniq.

“RCMP, I don’t think, have followed the recommendations,” he said.

The lawsuit alleges Mounties aren’t trained in how to deal with possible suicides. It claims officers don’t speak the language of the people and don’t use the communication tools they have.

It also refers to “the personal and cultural biases of the officers … both unexpressed and which they had expressed in the community.”

It accuses the RCMP of failing to recruit Inuktut-speaking officers or civilian members who could build bridges with local people.

A statement of defence has not been filed and none of the allegations has been proven. The RCMP did not respond to a call for comment.

V-Division, which polices Nunavut, boasts fewer and fewer Inuk officers and has three of about 120 in total. The RCMP website says none of its 25 detachments offers services in Inuktut.

V-Division spokesmen have said they try to prepare southern officers for policing remote Inuit communities. There is a firearm occurrence somewhere in the territory every day and a half.

“They orient them a little bit — a little bit,” Qamaniq said. ”Just the tip of an iceberg. That’s not enough.”

Anne Crawford, the family’s lawyer, said the force is losing touch with Inuit.

“Everyone is concerned about the overall relationship between the RCMP and individuals in Nunavut these days,” she said.

“I have practised here for a very long time. It seems to be more and more difficult for RCMP officers to get a really good feel for the communities they’re working in.”

A class-action lawsuit filed in an Edmonton court in December alleges RCMP in the three northern territories regularly assault and abuse Indigenous people.

The Nunavut legislature has also discussed the problem. In 2015, a report was commissioned into police misconduct. The report was never released.

A letter that year from Nunavut’s legal-aid service suggested it had information on 30 cases of excessive use of force. The service’s chairwoman has said there were 27 civil cases filed between 2014 and 2017.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Mt. Baker climbers reach summit in memory of Const. John Davidson

Team includes Abbotsford Police members, Davidson’s 3 kids and others

Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s ER expansion still in the works

Deadline for construction proposals recently closes, but construction timeline unknown

Money in to finish Lougheed Highway twinning

$29 million to complete four laning of four-kilometre stretch in Maple Ridge, but no start date

Figures reveal spike in highway traffic jams between Abbotsford and Langley

Nearly one in 20 westbound vehicles between Abbotsford and Langley clocked at under 60 km/h

Mission council grants third reading to Tunbridge townhome proposal

Speakers at public hearing voice concerns, say project will ‘stick out like an eyesore’

Food fight: Liberals, Tories trade shots as pre-campaign battles intensify

Health Canada released an overhauled document that did away with traditional food groups and portion sizes

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

Pride flags stolen from Lower Mainland church

Went missing sometime Friday night, says Maple Ridge reverend

25 new wheelchair-accessible cabins open at Cultus Lake Provincial Park

Maple Bay Campground is now home to 25 new wheelchair friendly cabins, a first for BC Parks

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Two brands of ice cream sandwiches recalled due to presence of metal

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall on Iceberg and Originale Augustin brands

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

Most Read