Iqaluit residents sound off about crime in Nunavut
GN working on crime prevention strategy
More than 50 people crammed into a room at the Catholic parish hall in Iqaluit May 1 to complain about crime in the Nunavut territory’s capital.
RCMP officers, an Iqaluit bylaw officer, Department of Justice officials and Nunavut MLAs also participated in the community meeting, which was aimed at gathering public opinion for the Government of Nunavut’s new crime prevention strategy.
A question started off the meeting: what types of crime and unhealthy behaviour are happening in Iqaluit?
“I don’t know where to start,” an older woman said through an interpreter.
As a microphone circulated throughout the room, people sounded off one by one about what irks them — sexual assaults, vandalism, drug dealing, spousal abuse, bullying, prostitution and public urination, to name a few.
All comments are being collected, and the new crime prevention strategy will flow from it, said Rebekah Williams, the assistant deputy minister of the GN’s justice department.
“Once that is done, then we would like to have something that communities can use. You can open something and say, ‘Oh, I can try this in my community,’” Williams said.
“Community justice committees, hamlets, they all should have it so it can be implemented in the community. Or they can use those models in their communities, if it fits their communities,” Williams said.
“It’s an extra tool we’re trying to build.”
Williams said public meetings have been held in all 25 communities now.
The department has also met with other groups, such as youth and elders.
“What you see here is a fraction of who we talked to,” she said, pointing out that there weren’t enough chairs for the public, and many participants had to stand.
Jean-Guy Lalonde of the RCMP talked about which crimes cops usually see on a day-to-day basis.
“We see a lot of violence, family violence. Assaults, aggravated assaults. Assault with weapons. Sex assaults. Aggravated sex assaults. Mischief. These are all common offences that we deal with on a daily basis,” Lalonde said.
“I could carry on with a list of about 100 different crimes that we have to deal with on a daily basis,” he said.
Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes said speeding snowmobilers and truancy — kids being absent from school — are also issues in the community.
“Parents have to be responsible for keeping their children in school where they belong,” Hickes said.
“And stores, I’ve heard recently that in some communities, stores won’t even serve children during school hours,” he said.
“It takes a community to gather together and resolve some of these issues.”
The public divided into groups and gathered opinions after the first question.
Williams said the new strategy, which has to be approved by Justice Minister Paul Okalik, could be implemented within the next six months.