“The warmer weather has seen an increase in public intoxication. The Iqaluit RCMP is committed to working alongside the City of Iqaluit in combatting this issue by increasing patrols and enforcing the Nunavut Liquor act with a zero tolerance policy,” Iqaluit RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Darrell Gill stated.Kira Wronska Dorward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

In an effort to combat public intoxication in the summer months, the Iqaluit RCMP have increased their visibility around the city. Residents should expect to see an increased police presence.

This will also include ATV patrols for a police presence in areas not easily accessible by vehicles.

A zero-tolerance policy for public consumption is in place, and all open liquor will be seized.

“The warmer weather has seen an increase in public intoxication. The Iqaluit RCMP is committed to working alongside the City of Iqaluit in combatting this issue by increasing patrols and enforcing the Nunavut Liquor act with a zero tolerance policy. Patrols have already begun with public safety as a priority,” said Iqaluit RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Darrell Gill.

“An open line of communication” and a collaborative approach at the Legislative Assembly

The measure comes after much discussion in the community, City of Iqaluit Council, and the Legislative Assembly about the issues surrounding public intoxication and violence.

Adam Lightstone, who previously, along with other Iqaluit MLA Janett Brewster, named the situation a “crisis” in the May 23 session, and joined their voices in asking for a “whole-of-government” approach, specifically naming the dire findings of the Auditor General’s 2023 report. Minister for Family and Social Services Margaret Nakashuk indicated that her department had been consulting elders in various communities, and also wished to include the Inuit organizations in “further actions”. Subsequently, the City of Iqaluit released a press release on May 30 asking the public, the Government of Nunavut (GN), and the RCMP to work collaboratively within Nunavut’s capital to find a collective solution.

“The Government of Nunavut and the RCMP have a significant challenge and responsibility to maintain public safety across our territory,” commented Lightstone, as these discussions continued in the Legislative Assembly on May 31. The MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak then asked for details concerning the budgeting for Nunavut’s police force, as well as the number of officers currently employed, which would fall under the umbrella of the Department of Justice at the GN.

MLA Karen Naturak, the then-Minister of Justice, responded that “the department and the RCMP work collaboratively on the budget to ensure that they have the proper resources. The RCMP submits a multi-year financial plan based on call numbers and detachment needs that identifies projects needed in each community. The department may seek supporting materials or ask questions to ensure the projections are fully supported. Once these written resources are received and the multi-year plan is complete, the department and the RCMP will work together on the business case for the Assembly based on the identified needs. I can assure the member that the department is responsible for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police resources needed, and regularly brings forward their business. Over the last five years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have increased from 167 to 206, and the overall budget has gone from $45 million to $70.3 million.”

Lightstone responded that ” as has been experienced here in Iqaluit, public intoxication, crime, violence, and vandalism has steadily increased in severity year over year…the RCMP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, are stretched thin…While attending emergency calls, they are far too busy to stop their vehicles and jump out and dump out open containers of alcohol…the RCMP detachment here in Iqaluit is struggling to meet the demand, and our public safety is suffering the consequences.” He then inquired as to how many extra RCMP officers had been requested to meet this increasing demand.

Naturak then revealed that two new officers had been hired in Iqaluit, “including a First Nations and Inuit policing officer.” 

She also added that, “We can get relief members if the commanding officer deems it’s necessary, but we can bring it to the department if it’s a concern. I would like to add that since the last questioning, I have asked the department to meet with the Iqaluit MLAs with the RCMP.”

At this point in the session, MLA Savikataaq brought up the language barriers that many in other communities, such as his riding of Arviat, face in their day to day interactions with the RCMP. “People speak Inuktut a lot and the RCMP need assistance, or when they speak with locals, some may speak in English or Inuktitut, but they may not fully comprehend sometimes. The need in havingan Inuktut speaker in the office would improve things a lot, even if that individual is not an RCMP officer.” 

Savitkataaq also added that “As my colleague, Mr. Lightstone, was concerned about the number of RCMP officers in Iqaluit, I, too, am concerned about the number of RCMP officers in Arviat. To my knowledge, they have been short-staffed for quite a while now.”

Naturak acknowledged her colleagues concerns. “The police are trying to hire Inuktitut-speaking people, but we will have further discussions with the RCMP to see if they can hire Inuktut-speaking people sooner, because there is a big need for Inuktut-speaking workers in the RCMP in Nunavut and the fact that we need more Inuit RCMP officers is there as well…We have a shortage of RCMP officers everywhere in Nunavut, just like we have a shortage of nurses. We are working on the matter because we need to have police everywhere in Nunavut, and we will keep on working to get that to happen. We will keep encouraging the RCMP to do just that.”

Ultimately, the situation will require further monitoring and a collaborative approach by all community members. Lightsone made it clear that this was his ultimate goal. “The warm weather of the spring and summer across Nunavut brings increased crime severity to our communities. I would like to thank the minister for the notice of the upcoming invitation to meet with our local RCMP detachment. I found this exercise to be very beneficial when we last met with the previous Minister of Justice with the RCMP and the Iqaluit MLAs. I would hope that we can arrange this meeting to occur before the summer, and then again have a post-meeting in the fall to discuss what worked and what didn’t over the summer months. I would also like to give the minister notice that I will have an open line of communication with the minister to share any concerns over the public safety that I receive from Iqalummiut. I would like to ask, when the minister sends out this invitation to meet with her staff as well as the RCMP, if she would also extend an invitation to the mayor and city councillors as well.”

By Kira Wronska Dorward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 24, 2024 at 05:15

This item reprinted with permission from   Nunavut News   Iqaluit, Nunavut
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