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

Former Waterside property to be rezoned?

Invermere residents supported rezoning Waterside property.

Angel Flight

Flights take patients for medical appointments.

Potential pints and a paroled peacock

Radium council discussed a micro-brewery and one of the village’s wildlife mascots.

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

On the job hunt with Nelson’s Make A Change Canada

The employment charity is organizing next week’s Kootenay Patricks, Montreal Canadiens game

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Most Read