Nunavut is preparing legislation to create a civilian police review agency after a recent review of a shooting death of an Inuit man released almost no information about what happened.
“We are actively discussing partnerships with civilian lead investigative bodies and will soon bring forward the legislative changes required to ensure a civilian body has full statutory authority to conduct investigations in the territory,” territorial Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak said in an email.
Ehaloak, who has said before that she supports civilian reviews, made the promise after the Ottawa Police Service released results of an investigation into the shooting death of Attachie Ashoona in Kinngait, Nunavut, on Feb. 27.
Investigators found officers “did not exceed the use of force necessary to control the situation.”
No information on the circumstances was released. Ottawa police said they interviewed five RCMP officers and 10 people from the community, but there was silence on what Ashoona was doing or why the officers fired their guns.
Ashoona’s name wasn’t released until this week.
“They’re doing what the current system currently allows,” said Benson Cowan, head of Nunavut’s legal aid society. “All it does is erode trust in the institutions that are so important.”
Kinngait Mayor Timoon Toonoo confirmed council hadn’t received any information on the investigation.
“We haven’t got anything,” he said.
Cowan said the review may have been thorough and complete. But nobody except the investigators knows that.
“I don’t think anyone would look at this and say this would build trust.”
Trust between Inuit and RCMP has been an issue for a long time.
“Nunavummiut have expressed the desire to move away from police- led investigations into serious incidents involving members of the RCMP V Division,” Ehaloak said.
Northern media report there are at least six current investigations into RCMP behaviour. Several Arctic politicians have called for body cameras on Mounties.
In June, video showed an apparently intoxicated Inuit man being knocked over by the door of a slowly moving police vehicle before he was arrested. He was taken to the detachment lockup where he was badly beaten by a fellow prisoner. The man was never charged.
There are historic grievances as well. The force has been criticized for its role in ushering Inuit into communities and killing sled dogs that would have allowed them to leave.
Nunavut RCMP were not available for comment.
New Democrat Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq said civilian oversight of police would be a good thing, but wouldn’t address why so many Inuit get into trouble in the first place.
“Where do we see violence? Where do we see crime? We see that where there is poverty.
“We see that in Nunavut because of the lack of basic human needs being met.”
She urged Ehaloak to look at other solutions to policing problems in Nunavut, pointing to Indigenous police services in other parts of Canada.
Qaqqaq said the federal government needs to step up to ease ills such as poor housing behind many of Nunavut’s social and criminal problems.
“The federal government is doing less than the bare minimum for Inuit people,” she said.
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton.
The Canadian Press
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