Arson took its toll on Iqaluit this year, and following RCMP Staff Sgt. Garfield Elliott’s report to Iqaluit city council Nov. 27, Coun. Jason Rochon introduced the idea of imposing a curfew for the capital’s youth.
Elliott’s report spanned from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, but included a night in early November when the city dealt with multiple arsons, including the NorthMart fire which saw one youth charged.
“About arson … we’re about triple more than last year,” said Rochon.
To date, Iqaluit has seen 19 arsons in 2018. That compares to eight in 2017, four in 2016, and 11 in 2015.
“There was an article in the newspaper in April or May last year saying there’s buildings that aren’t getting insurance because it would be cheaper to just build it as opposed to paying insurance because of all the arson,” Rochon said.
“So I’m just wondering … would the majority of the arsons be minors and youth?”
Elliott said he was tasked to look at arson by Mayor Madeleine Redfern earlier in the summer.
“We had several that were occurring around the beach area, as an example. At those times we had four or five in a short period of two to three weeks, and it was a cause for concern,” he said.
“Those investigations did appear that it was random, but young persons involved. I don’t want to get into how the investigator – fire scene examiner – provides me that information, but they are logistic, sound backing of why they are making that determination by the style of the fire.”
Rochon followed up.
“I personally think that if there was a bylaw in place, that there was a curfew like in other communities, that there’d be a lot less fires. I just think if there was a curfew people wouldn’t be setting fires. Do you think your job and the community would be safer if there’s a curfew?” he asked Elliott.
Elliott remained silent for 15 seconds before answering.
“I think we’d have to weigh that question, but I am in the chair so a response is warranted,” he said slowly.
Elliott said some of the arsons were not late night fires, with a few in the summer occurring in what’s considered daytime hours and some in early evening, and so wouldn’t have been affected by a curfew. But Elliott acknowledged that Rochon also mentioned youth under buildings and homes, and gas sniffing.
“Overall, if a curfew was in place it would reasonable to adduce that the crimes would be diminished somewhat for the vandalism-type complaints,” Elliott finally said.
The staff sergeant informed council that a youth remains in custody for two charges related to the Nov. 8 NorthMart fire. The youth has since appeared at the Nunavut Court of Justice twice.
“That matter has been further adjourned. We have further investigative steps to be followed up on some exhibits to be sent away for examination. The NorthMart fire has come together and we’re quite confident in the charges that have been laid in that matter,” said Elliott.
“There’s still some follow-up work with the fire commissioner investigator report that will be quite in-depth. Everything has come together in that investigation and it’s looking very sound.”
But that was only one arson in the city during a period of several hours.
“That particular evening there were five subsequent fires set in the community after the NorthMart fire,” said Elliott, adding extensive investigations continue on those matters.
About crime generally, Elliott said the numbers vary.
“We are going up in some areas, the numbers going up and down,” he said.
The number of sexual offences isn’t encouraging. In 2015 there were 69, in 2016 there were 91, in 2017 105 and this year to date there have been 102. Assaults are similarly much higher than 2015’s 542 and 2016’s 599, but looking to outpace 2017’s 890 as there have been 887 in 2018 to date.
The number of impaired driving charges is up to 124 as of Oct. 31, already surpassing numbers from the last three years – 113 in 2015, 92 in 2016, and 110 in 2017. There have been fewer drug trafficking charges, and the number of break and enters is also down.
Elliott also told council the Iqaluit detachment saw three freshly minted members arrive, plus an experienced officer will arrive in mid-December and two more in late January.
“Overall, resource-wise, we continue to be supported by our management, and staying sufficiently resourced to meet the needs,” he said.
Finally, V-Division will roll out Inuit-specific cultural training for all officers in the territory, and RCMP in Nunavut is setting up for periodic checks for Christmas-related impaired driving.