National Indigenous Peoples Day is soon upon us, but despite the great accomplishments of Nunavut’s Inuit people, they still face great injustices under a colonial system.
These injustices have been going on for as long as the Canadian footprint has been felt in the North but have recently manifested themselves in a terrible RCMP incident in the community of Kinngait.
While the world was reeling from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police, a police officer in Kinngait was caught on tape violently taking down an intoxicated man who could barely stand.
And if the man hadn’t suffered enough, he was placed in a jail cell with another intoxicated man who allegedly delivered a vicious beating on him while police were out answering other calls. The Kinngait jail cells were meant to accommodate four people, but were housing seven intoxicated individuals. This highlights the lack of resources available to the RCMP, but also begs the question of whether police dealing with intoxicated people is the appropriate response.
The citizen video sparked outrage across the territory and echoed what is being expressed globally: a lack of police oversight, especially for racialized citizens.
The time for reckoning is upon us as the RCMP and police forces across the country that deal directly with Indigenous Canadians have been given a chance to make tangible changes to how they operate.
In Nunavut, there have been six cases that required third-party investigations by outside police forces, such as the Ottawa Police Service, this year alone.
Three of these incidents have been shootings.
Without body-camera footage, something that more and more civilians and politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have been increasingly calling for, it is now the officer’s word against all else.
Nunavut News knows that there are many RCMP officers doing an outstanding job in the territory but relations have been strained and trust shaken as more cases of wrong-doing by police have been brought to light by Nunavummiut.
Although the national RCMP commissioner does not seem overly excited about exploring body cameras in the North, now is the time to fully research the subject and repair relations with the citizens they are tasked in protecting.
Mounties need not look further than Nunavik where the local police force has been piloting a body camera project since January. If Nunavik’s experiment can show us anything, it’s that the RCMP’s inadequate-technology argument does not hold water.
As it has been pointed out many times before, body cameras protect citizens and police alike and can crackdown on the cowboy activity that was caught on a resident’s video in Kinngait.
But body cameras are just the beginning.
It’s time for a full inquiry into how the policedeal with Indigenous peoples in this country and find ways to become more sensitive to the Indigenous experience.
Anything less would be an affront to reconciliation, something that has been promised time and time again.