Follow Us! Like Our Page!

Police Services and Inuit in Nunavik (Arctic Québec) Knowing each other better to help each other better

Introduction

With the launching of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2007, the national apologies for Indian residential schools in 2008, and the creation of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2015, the federal government has shown its willingness to work toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. In Québec, following a crisis that got considerable media attention in 2015 and which involved the police services of the city of Val-d’Or and Indigenous women, the province launched a Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec: listening, reconciliation and progress.Footnote1 The Commission sought to improve understanding of the causes of racism against Indigenous people in certain Québec public services, including police services. These different enquiries have uncovered the presence of many intercultural conflicts, discriminatory actions, and systemic racism that Indigenous peoples have endured in Canada.

As a result, Public Safety Canada issued in 2019 a call for proposals to get more insight into current practices and policies in police services throughout the country. The aim was to gain a better understanding of problematic behaviours, as well as good practices that contribute to more respectful relations with Indigenous people. As part of this call for proposals, the Sentinel North Research Chair on Relations with Inuit Societies of Université Laval has proposed to analyze the specific situation of Nunavimmiut (Arctic Québec residents) by submitting a research proposal Relations of Police Services with the Inuit:Footnote2 Analysis of Practices and Policies in Nunavik. Its results are presented in this report.

The region of Nunavik is north of the 55th parallel of the province of Québec and covers two thirds of the province. It is inhabited by around 13,700 residents (ISQ 2017) who are mostly Inuit and clustered in 14 villages along the coast. The villages are linked to each other and to the rest of the province only by air or sea. The territory of Nunavik has been inhabited for around 4,000 years and for 1,000 years by Inuit and their ancestors. Inuit used to be hunter-gatherers and practised a semi-nomadic way of life until they were settled in communities. Although Inuit and QallunaatFootnote3 first met as early as the 18th century in the region, it was not until the early 20th century that Inuit began to have longer-lasting contacts with Qallunaat through the establishment of trading posts and religious missions. It was only in the second half of the 20th century that the federal government and then the provincial government really began to take control of the region, while developing colonial policies. This process included establishment of a police force on Inuit territory. The history of the police in Nunavik should also be understood against the backdrop of power relations between the federal government and the provincial government of Québec. Nunavimmiut are in a unique situation in Canada, being caught between two sources of influence, one French-speaking and the other English-speaking.

Unlike most Indigenous nations in Canada, Inuit have never been subject to the Indian Act. The James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA), signed in 1975, even gave the Inuit of Nunavik special political status.Footnote4 It notably led to creation of a supra-municipal regional government, the Kativik Regional Government, which administers a regional police force. Nunavimmiut are nonetheless subject both to the Civil Code of Québec and the Criminal Code of Canada. Over the years, because of a deficient court system, an Itinerant Court was introduced to serve Nunavik better; nonetheless, it has been confronted with many cultural, linguistic, and logistical challenges. Nunavik police officers must daily represent an inadequate justice system and deal with laws that Inuit poorly understand. This situation, on top of the colonial heritage and major social problems, makes relations generally strained between the police and Inuit communities (Laneuville 2015: 95-102; Laneuville 2017; Viens Commission 2019: 271-310).

The Sentinel North Research Chair on Relations with Inuit Societies is committed to increasing our knowledge of relations between the Qallunaat and the Inuit of Nunavik and proposing concrete solutions to improve these relations. For this research, the chair had several goals: 1) learn more about the nature of relations between Nunavimmiut and police officers; 2) understand the cultural factors that harm the development of harmonious relations; 3) pinpoint the factors that make Inuit women more vulnerable to violence; and 4) identify good practices within the Kativik Regional Police Force. To reach these goals, the Chair has relied on its expertise and experience in Nunavik, on solid partnerships with regional organizations, and on participation by major local stakeholders.

In this report, we will first present the methodological aspects of the project and then describe the history of the police presence in Nunavik. We will next present, in two consecutive sections, the main characteristics and challenges of the Kativik Regional Police Force, as well as the testimony of police officers who work in Nunavik before we focus on how Nunavimmiut view and have experienced police services. Starting from both points of view, one belonging to the police and the other to Nunavimmiut, we will present the main obstacles to mutual understanding and good relations. Finally, we will put forward a positive vision that the project participants put forward to build relations of trust, respect, and cooperation. Specific action priorities to improve relations between the police services and Nunavimmiut will be presented at the very end of the report.

Methods

Collaborative approach and qualitative methods

To conduct this research, the Sentinel North Research Chair on Relations with Inuit Societies developed ties of cooperation with different regional organizations in Nunavik, particularly those that work in the field of justice. Makivik Corporation allowed its local justice committee members to participate. The Legal, Socio-Judicial, and Municipal Management Department of the Kativik Regional Government (KRG) helped recruit public-sector workers from the Sapummijiit Crime Victims Assistance Centre and among community reintegration officers. The staffs and mayors of three municipalities (Akulivik, Kangiqsujuaq, and Kuujjuaq) also helped us plan our stays in their communities and recruit participants among the residents.

For data gathering, we also worked with the Kativik Regional Police Force (KRPF) and the Nunavik Community Justice Centre. Both partners were invited at the outset and showed much interest in the research project. Soon after the agreement, however, the initial work to set up the Community Justice Centre was halted, and we were unable to continue our planned joint effort with this partner. On the other hand, KRPF support was invaluable. The chief and deputy chiefs notably helped us get access to institutional information and recruit participants within the KRPF.

The project used qualitative research methods to gather subjective and narrative data, i.e., individual experiences and views, to provide an in-depth look into the ways the participants daily experienced and perceived the subject of the research. The data-gathering techniques were semi-directed individual interviews and a discussion workshop. We conducted a non-exhaustive search of the literature to gather what currently exists on the subject, particularly on its historical dimension. Several recent reports provided support for the line of argument presented here, notably two reports by Saturviit (Laneuville 2015; 2017) as well as the Final Report of the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec: listening, reconciliation and progress (Viens Commission 2019). All three reports are based on numerous oral accounts by Nunavimmiut.

Interviews

The interviews had the goal of gathering individual experiences and opinions, whether personal or work-related, about the police services. The interviewees fell into three main categories: 1) police officers or former police officers (employed by the KRPF or the SQ), 2) Inuit residents of the villages of Akulivik, Kangiqsujuaq, and Kuujjuaq (Nunavimmiut), and 3) Inuit and non-Inuit employees of health care services, social services, community services, and justice services. The participants were recruited in several ways. We recruited the police officers with assistance from the KRPF, which authorized us to contact many of its employees. We recruited Nunavimmiut with assistance from the municipalities, which identified for us people interested in talking about the subject. Finally, we recruited public-sector workers by targeting some job positions and then working with different organizations to contact the people who held those jobs. A template of interview questions, which is provided in Appendix 2 of this report, was used for the interviews, which lasted an hour on average. Around two thirds of the interviews were in English and a third in French. One interview was conducted in Inuktitut with an elderly woman.

At the beginning of each interview, a consent form was provided and read to the participant to inform him or her about the measures for confidentiality. Some participants nonetheless consented to be identified in this report. This is why some names are mentioned. Codes were used for the other participants. The list of codes is provided in Appendix 1 of this report. Each code begins with a letter that refers to the participant’s category: “P” for police officers, “N” for Nunavimmiut, and “I” for public-sector workers. For the last category, a second letter is used to distinguish Inuit workers from non-Inuit workers: “I” for Inuit, “Q” for Qallunaat.

There was a total of 33 individual interviews. The “Nunavimmiut” category had 15 participants (nine in Kangiqsujuaq, three in Akulivik, and three in Kuujjuaq). With the latter, we preferred interviewing in person to make contact easier and increase mutual understanding and trust. We interviewed nine participants from the “Police officer” category, including two Inuit. We also had informal discussions with KRPF officers, thanks to KRPF assistance, thus improving our understanding of the issues. It is important to note that the officers recruited for the present project generally had positive experiences with work in Nunavik; however, their opinions do not necessarily represent the views of all KRPF officers. The “public-sector worker” category mainly includes workers from social, community, and health care services and from justice-related jobs. There were nine interviews with them.

Workshop

A workshop was held from October 29 to 31 in Kuujjuaq, partly in the Makivik boardroom and partly in the Kativik Regional Government boardroom. It was oriented toward discussion and exchanges of views among participants from different walks of life with a view to proposing concrete possible solutions. It brought together a total of thirteen participants from police services, from social services, from the Youth Protection Director, from the Legal and Socio-Judicial Service of the KRG, and from the Elders’ Committee of Kuujjuaq. During the three days, discussion focused on three main themes: the role of police officers, relations between officers and Nunavimmiut, and cooperation with police services and other services. Simultaneous translation made discussion possible in English and in Inuktitut. The workshop program is presented in Appendix 3, and a summary of the discussions in Appendix 4.

Although the topics of discussion sometimes stirred up feelings of sadness or anger, the participants said they were satisfied with the opportunity to talk with people from different services and think about solutions together. Unfortunately, despite the general interest expressed in this project, several people we wished to hear had to decline our invitation or cancel. Keep in mind that the region’s public-sector workers and leaders have great responsibilities, are all very busy, and travel a lot in the course of their duties.

Project limitations

Lack of time was the most serious problem we had during this research. After securing financial support in May 2019, we had to wait for ethical approval from the human subject research ethics committees of Université Laval. Thus, participant recruiting and data gathering could not begin until late August 2019 and ended in November of the same year. During four months of data gathering and two months of analysis and writing, we could not get as much involvement as we wished from the partners, associates, and participants in the different stages of the project. In addition, because of the project’s geographic and demographic context, and because of time and money limitations, we did not do all of the interviews we had wished to do (45 interviews originally planned). In particular, we were unable to travel to the community of Inukjuak, as planned in the project proposal.

The time limitations of the project were not only a logistical and administrative challenge but also an impediment to use of participatory and decolonized research practices. For some twenty years now, Indigenous people have questioned longstanding academic research practices that emphasize only what the researcher needs, while ignoring their own wellbeing and interests. For this reason, they have worked with researchers to develop ethical decolonized practices that make them real partners (Basile et al. 2014). Inuit have recently expressed their willingness to become true research partners, and no longer just objects of study (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami 2018). The Inuit of some Canadian regions have also drawn up research guidelines (Nunavut Research Institute 2012), even though this is still not the case in Nunavik. We believe that researchers interested in Indigenous communities or their environment need to question and change their practices to promote trust and better balance. Projects proposed by researchers and funded by governments should take into account the interests expressed by the people directly affected and, above all, provide their lives with concrete, positive benefits. Thus, the feeling of weariness toward research, which is quite palpable in Inuit communities, may diminish, and both sides may begin to work together. Obviously, all of this will take time. To carry out a research project in Nunavik, you have to take time into account. It is very difficult to work on a project during certain periods, such as summer or the holiday season at the end of the year, when many workers go on vacation and the public administrations are operating at a slower pace.

The research did not enable us to identify, as much as desired, the specific experiences of Inuit women and the factors that make them more vulnerable to violence. Analysis of the gathered data did not reveal major differences between male and female victims in their relations with police services. Furthermore, lack of time kept us from dealing with this point in greater depth.  Nonetheless, and to alleviate this shortcoming, we should state that this subject has been largely covered by two recent reports by Saturviit, Inuit Women’s Association of Nunavik (Laneuville 2015; 2017).

To conclude, because the project has greatly interested Nunavimmiut, we would have very much wished to go farther in our analysis of policing issues and solutions. Many aspects of the data we gathered were not dealt with as fully as they should have been. Nonetheless, in this report, we have been able to identify keys to understanding and concrete ways to go about improving police services in Nunavik villages.

Bringing police services to Nunavik

To understand contemporary tensions between Inuit and police services in Nunavik, we need to go back to their historical roots. The history of the police presence in Nunavik is part of the colonial relationship that the Canadian government has long had with Indigenous peoples. Before the first police forces arrived in northern Québec, Inuit had their own mechanisms for maintaining order and resolving conflicts.Footnote5 Instead of favouring punitive measures, as in the Canadian model of justice, Inuit societies tried above all to preserve social harmony by encouraging dialogue, positive reinforcement, and integration of individuals into family groups. Whenever natural social regulation, like rumours, mocking, or social pressure, were no longer enough to keep an individual from doing wrong, he could be isolated from the group or cut off from the ties of solidarity that, in normal times, helped him survive in the harsh Arctic climate. An individual could also be abandoned or even put to death if he represented a real threat to the group. Typically, household heads and elders would meet to make such decisions and carry them out.

During the 20th century, when the federal government and then the provincial government gradually extended their administration over the northern territories, different institutions for law and order were imposed on Inuit, such as the justice system and police forces. The authorities ignored social mechanisms for conflict resolution that already existed informally in Inuit societies, and they sometimes even declared them illegitimate or overruled them.Footnote6 Some Inuit were judged by Canadian law for actions taken following a decision by their group, such as the killing of Robert Janes in 1920 (Grant: 2002).

An ambiguous relationship gradually developed between Inuit and police forces in Nunavik, as elsewhere in the Canadian Arctic. As three police forces came and went in Nunavik, and as key events succeeded each other, the police officer became a singular and paradoxical figure in the eyes of Inuit, a character who helps and punishes, and who protects and threatens. Ambiguity still runs through relations between Inuit and police officers in Nunavik.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The same year of its creation, in 1920, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)7 established a network of posts throughout the Northwest Territories. The RCMP had three goals: establish Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic at a time when Norway, Denmark, and the United States were pushing their Arctic claims; monitor the activities of foreign whalers and traders; and enforce Canada’s laws throughout its Arctic territories. From the outset, the development of Canada’s police force was intended to ensure not only peace within national territory but also a “political project of colonization” (Jaccoud 1992: 29).

Thus, in 1920, the Port Burwell post was established on Killiniq Island, at the mouth of Hudson Strait. Officially located at that time in the Northwest Territories, the post was nonetheless less than a hundred metres from the mainland and, hence, the province of Québec.Footnote8 Besides monitoring the entrance to Hudson Strait, the mission of the RCMP detachment was to carry out long reconnaissance patrols by dogsled along the entire shoreline of Ungava Bay. To this end, the officers hired special Inuit constables whose role was to assist them with the dog-teams (Rasing 1994: 97). Inuit began to deal with the police at that time (Baril 2019).

In 1935, the RCMP decided to close that post during the winter and open a year-round one at Port Harrison (Inukjuak) on the east coast of Hudson Bay. The decision, which came into effect the following year, was made The same year, the Canadian Department of Transport erected a radar station at Port Harrison to assist shipping in the region. The post had two officers whose role was to patrol the entire Hudson Bay shoreline as far as Cape Wolstenholme, the northernmost point of Québec. Patrols were done by dogsled, with the assistance of Inuit constables, for census-taking, mail delivery and, beginning in 1945, distribution of family allowances (Dorais 1996:19).

In 1943, the RCMP opened a second post in northern Québec, this time at Fort Chimo (Kuujjuaq), on the banks of the Koksoak River, south of Ungava Bay. The detachment, which was near the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post and the Catholic mission, was established during the Second World War, when the US Air Force built an airport on the left bank of the river for the Crimson Project (Gagnon 2002). In addition to their usual responsibilities, the detachment’s officers were mandated to oversee the American servicemen.

In 1956, the RCMP established a new post at Poste-de-la-Baleine (Great Whale River, Kuujjuaraapik) (RCMP 1957: 11). Although very little is known about it, we know that the Americans were building military infrastructures in the region as early as the mid-1950s and that a federally operated school was established there in 1958.Footnote9 The responsibilities of the officers must have been similar to those of their colleagues at the other two posts in the region.

Thus, in the mid-20th century, the RCMP were patrolling the east and west coasts of northern Québec. The posts remained open until the Québec government decided to take over its northern territory. The Fort Chimo post was closed on January 20, 1961 (RCMP 1962: 26), followed by Port Harrison in October of the same year (RCMP 1963: 29). Although it is not known exactly when the Poste-de-la-Baleine post was closed, it is known that the SQ took over in 1961.

We have few details about the nature of relations between Inuit and RCMP officers at that time in the region of northern Québec. We do know, however, that RCMP officers patrolled the areas surrounding the more remote posts and villages once a year, that they helped resolve conflicts and arrested offenders in major crime cases, that they could act as justices of the peace, and that they enforced hunting regulations. They were also intermediaries between the government and Inuit, since they also managed the civil status registers, issued identity cards, administered different assistance programs, like family allowances in the late 1940s, and distributed mail and collected data on Inuit conditions of life. The relations that developed between Inuit and the police over the years are thus very ambivalent. From the outset, Inuit helped the police get around and find food in the harsh Arctic climate, thus favoring cooperative relations (Baril 2019). For their part, when they distributed mail or family allowances, the police played a role that Inuit judged positively. In some cases, they could seem like protectors or saviours.

Nonetheless, Inuit did perceive the police with some fear, and several key events made that feeling worse. In 1928, a poster was put up in all of the Arctic posts with a stern message: if an Inuk killed another man, the police would come to arrest and kill the murderer. The poster was taken down four years later following criticisms of the RCMP officers for undermining trust (Grant 2002: 225). In particular, the Inuktitut version explicitly used the word “kill” (Cancel 2011: 98-99). Thereafter, Canadian law enforcement, in the form of several arrests, imprisonments, and several trials, was often much misunderstood by Inuit, who felt mistrustful of the police and unfairly treated.Footnote10 To be more exact, a mixture of fear and respect characterized Inuit feelings toward the police, as expressed clearly by the Inuit concept of ilira-. Rosemarie Kuptana Footnote11 explained its meaning:

Inuit use ilira to refer to a great fear or awe, such as the awe a strong father inspires in his children of the fear of the Qallunaat previously held by Inuit. This fear, or ilira, developed very early in our initial encounters with explorers, missionaries and traders. […] Qallunaat could make the difference between success and disaster, sustenance or hunger, and Inuit responded to their desires and requests as if they were commands. In this cultural setting, a challenge to the authority of the Qallunaat or defiance of their requests was almost unthinkable. (Kuptana 1993: 5-7)

This fear of the police could even lead to fanciful stories. An Inuk from Ivujivik remembers that in the early 1950s the children of his age believed they would be put to death if they ever touched the yellow stripe on the vertical seam of an RCMP officer’s pant leg (Hervé 2015: 211).

In Nunavik, two especially significant events of the 1950s and 1960s would crystallize feelings of fear and anger toward the police: the forced High Arctic relocations and the sled dog slaughter. In 1953, seven Inukjuak families were pressured into moving to the High Arctic, specifically to Resolute Bay and Grise Fjord.Footnote12 RCMP officers coordinated the relocation and, to convince families to leave the region, they lured them with promises of good hunting grounds and better conditions of life. They also promised to bring the Inuit back to their home territories the following year if they so wished, a promise the government never kept. John Amagoalik, from Inukjuak, explained how the RCMP were perceived at the time:

I think it’s also important for people to understand that when the RCMP made a request to you in those days, it was seen as something like an order. You are ordered to do this. The RCMP had a lot of power. They could put you in jail. John Amagoalik. (Tassinari 1995)

Despite the government’s apologies in 2010, the history of the relocations is still resented by the numerous families who were broken up. For many Nunavimmiut and especially the people of Inukjuak, which was also the site of one of the first police stations in Nunavik, that major event of the community’s history is still a source of much suffering and caused a profound loss of trust.Footnote13

It was also during the 1950s that sled dogs were slaughtered in Nunavik. Though still needed for travel and hunting, they were becoming uncontrollably numerous with more and more being brought to the new Inuit villages. To ensure the safety of village residents, the government took measures that varied from one community to another. In some places, the measures led to a mass slaughter that was carried out by RCMP and SQ officers or sometimes by Inuit (Lévesque 2010). Inuit were not consulted about the policy or its implementation, both of which were very poorly understood. For them, the loss of the dogs not only limited their access to the land and its resources but also was perceived as a great loss because the dogs were considered to be full-fledged members of society.Footnote14 After tabling of the final report by Justice Croteau, who examined the allegations of dog slaughter in Nunavik, Footnote15 the Québec government acknowledged in 2011 the harm suffered by Inuit during that episode. With Inuit fearing the police and developing feelings of mistrust and injustice, those two major events resulted in a perception of the police officer as a nasty person. Inuit would call him a pulisialuk, literally “the big bad officer” (Hervé 2015: 211).Footnote16

The federal government became aware of strained relations between police officers and Inuit at a fairly early date. In 1947, to promote a more positive image, the Department of Mines and Natural Resources published a book in which the officer is described as “the Eskimo’s friend.” The Inuktitut translation that accompanied the “Inuit ikajuqtinga” illustration literally meant “he who helps Inuit” (Hervé 2015: 213), and emphasis was placed on the fact that police officers were in charge of distributing family allowances. Later, a new context emerged, one of anticolonialist movements, which made the federal government question its relationship with Indigenous people and especially the police officer’s role. In general, cracks began to appear in the political model through which the Canadian state imposed its domination over Indigenous peoples. That context, in 1967, saw publication of the Laing Report, which stressed the lack of trust that Indigenous people had in the police. To maintain good relations with them, it advocated using Indigenous officers (Aubert and Jaccoud 2009: 106).Footnote17 In 1971, a DIAND task force assessed the Band Constable Program and noted that Indigenous people were overrepresented in prisons and penitentiaries. The task force also attributed the strained relations between Indigenous people and the police to differences in culture and language (Aubert and Jaccoud 2009: 109). In 1973, for the first time, a broad consultation was organized to survey how Inuit viewed the justice system. The discussions led, among other things, to the observation, once again, that relations were strained between Inuit and the police and to promotion, as a solution, of development of the Special Constable Program of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was in this context that the conventional police forces would gradually become more and more Indigenous.

Sûreté du Québec and introduction of Inuit constables

Beginning in the 1960s, the Québec government gave itself the means to take over the entire northern region, which the federal government had previously administered. In 1963, it created the Direction générale du Nouveau-Québec with a mandate to administer the region. It was in this context of taking over “its” North, that Sûreté du Québec (SQ) officers were sent to what was then called Nouveau-Québec.Footnote18 In 1960, an SQ police station was opened in Kuujjuaraapik and another in Kuujjuaq the next year. The two detachments conducted regular tours of the other villages, which were just being formed in the early 1960s, and would also go to them sporadically in exceptional cases, such as crimes.

As early as the late 1960s, with publication of the Laing Report, the federal government was planning to develop an Indigenous constabulary on Indian reserves and in Indigenous communities. The new system had the aim of taking over police services on Indian reserves while perpetuating the conventional methods of the state police (Aubert and Jaccoud 2009: 104-107).Footnote19 The role of the Indigenous constables was to act as cultural mediators with Indigenous communities, while legitimizing the existing authorities (Aubert and Jaccoud 2009: 106). In 1973, policies on Indigenous policing reached a major turning point in Canada, with attempts to transfer administrative power gradually to the Indigenous peoples.Footnote20 At the same time, the SQ underwent major reforms to modernize and professionalize its police force. Realizing the limitations of a repressive police force, Québec initiated a policy of community policing (Dupont and Pérez 2006: 78), which naturally led to the development of an Indigenous police.

In 1972, the Choquette ReportFootnote21 listed Inuit criticisms of SQ policing practices: strained relations, lack of patrols, illegitimacy of the forces of law and order, a very high crime rate, and the cultural distance between the Inuit community and Québec’s court process (Jaccoud and Spielvogel 2018: 16). The report’s author recommended increasing the number of police officers and also providing Inuit with better access to justice services. In 1975 came the signing of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA), the first major modern treaty between the James Bay Cree, the Inuit, and the federal and Québec governments. Following that agreement, negotiations were finally undertaken with the SQ for training of Inuit constables (Aubert and Jaccoud 2009: 111). Indeed, the JBNQA provided for creation of a regional police force (Chapter 21), whose members would be trained at the provincial government’s expense. The agreement also called for changes to hiring criteria to encourage recruiting of Inuit officers.Footnote22 Those measures were implemented under the Act respecting northern villages and the Kativik Regional Government (Chapter V-6.1 art. 370), passed in 1978, which created the main public administration of the region, which still oversees the regional police force. In 1979, the Kativik Regional Government (KRG) gave the SQ a twofold mission: provide Nouveau-Québec with a police service for another two years while training Inuit recruits to create a regional police force.Footnote23

As early as 1979, 12 Inuit were recruited from Nouveau-Québec villages for a training program created in partnership with the SQ.Footnote24 Once trained, these special constables, still under SQ authority, would work under the supervision of regular SQ officers based in Kuujjuaq and Kuujjuaraapik. Although they carried out their duties only over a limited territory, the special constables technically had, under Québec’s Police Act, all the powers of police officers (Aubert and Jaccoud 2009: 111). The SQ dispatched trailers to each Nunavik village to serve as police stations and as officer quarters.

Although creation of this special force symbolized a transfer of power to the villages, persistent problems soon showed the limitations of the system. The first year of training had 110% turnover, and in the second year two more Inuit left the training program. In 1983, five Inuit decided that police work was not for them, and two others were dismissed because they had broken the law.Footnote25 Several challenges were identified: the difficulty that Inuit had with arresting members of their own family or community; the feeling of isolation working alone in a village; the lack of equipment; the language barrier, since the training was in English; and finally the fact that Inuit special constables had no insurance protection against injuries or death in the course of their work.Footnote26 In 1985, new efforts were made to train new Inuit special constables.Footnote27

Despite being Inuit, they eventually were viewed as being merely the extension of an external authority and seemed no more effective in helping maintain or re-establish peace in the villages. In 1986, a new report on police services for Indigenous people in Canada described an identical situation and ascribed it to the persistence of “Western urban models of policing that led to the various programs for Indigenous communities” (Solicitor General Canada 1986: ix). A former Inuit constable (P3) confirmed this feeling of being the “façade” of an external authority. He also deplored the difficult working conditions, the isolation, the lack of material and equipment, and the pittance he was paid for the number of hours he put in. The last reason, on top of the difficulty dealing with family members and relatives, and in particular arresting them, made him quit his job.

Read More: https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/rvw-plc-prctcs-lvl/index-en.aspx

ILR5

NationTalk Partners & Sponsors Learn More