Nunavik leaders hear sobering reports from region’s police
"We don’t want you to face armed situations," KRG councillor says
KUUJJUAQ — It’s been a difficult year for the Kativik Regional Police Force.
Crime rates in Nunavik remain high, while the region’s police force has faced three violent stand-offs since the spring — one ending in the shooting death of its constable Steve Déry.
That hasn’t built much morale within the force’s more than 60-strong members, half of whom have handed in their resignation since the beginning of the year.
But it also hasn’t stopped police chief Aileen MacKinnon from focusing on how the force continues to serve the region.
“In spite of the high number of officers who have left the force, we have been able to maintain minimum numbers in each community,” MacKinnon told the Kativik Regional Government councillors at their Sept. 11 meeting, “and we continue to receive applications from graduates of [Quebec’s police training school in Nicolet].”
“What would also help is having more Inuktitut-speaking officers in the community, and that’s something you can help us with,” MacKinnon told council.
The force recently hired a woman from Quaqtaq who plans to train in Nicolet.
If the force is able to retain Maryam Ilgun, she’ll be only one of three Inuit officers in Nunavik — a highly valued addition to the force.
The KPRF’s report shows why Sgt. Sammy Snowball was busy through the summer doing outreach and crime prevention activities, with MacKinnon introducing a group of young cadets who told council Sept. 11 about their training activities over the summer.
Nunavik’s cadets program is funded through the Ungaluk crime prevention program as a way to promote policing in the region.
KRG chair Maggie Emudluk acknowledged the efforts the KRPF has made to recruit more Inuit officers, calling the cadets “role models” to young Nunavimmiut.
“We want to show other youth; if you can do it, they can do it too,” Emudluk said.
The KRPF is still working to set up a 911-call centre for the region, a centralized system that would respond to calls in English, French and Inuktitut. They hope the system will better respond to the needs of unilingual elders in the region.
MacKinnon said the force is looking to work through an already-established centre such as the Sûreté du Québec dispatch to cut back on costs.
In the meantime, police have still been busy responding to the 7,259 criminal incidents reported in the first half of the year — up just slightly from the first half of 2012.
Of that number, 1,926 were assaults: three quarters of those were alcohol and drug related, while 221 were assaults against a police officer.
Calls involving firearms have increased by eight per cent — 26 reported in 2012 to 28 reported in 2013.
But police managed to make a major marijuana bust over the summer, arresting a number of traffickers and seizing an estimated northern value of $348,000 of the drug in Puvirnituq alone, statistics tabled at the meeting showed.
From May until July, the KRPF seized more than $64,000 worth of bootlegged alcohol from across the region.
“Bootlegging has a huge impact,” commented Aupaluk councillor David Angutinguak. “In my community, the children are taken, we always have detainees. Our community has such a problem with alcohol that our offices are empty.”
Councillors said they were also shocked at the prices Nunavimmiut are paying for drugs and bootlegged alcohol. A KRPF hand-out showed a 1.75-litre bottle of vodka, priced at $50 in Montreal, sells for $600 in Nunavik.
A gram of marijuana was priced at $12 in Montreal, compared to $50 in the North.
“We have no control,” said Kuujjuaq councillor Jennifer Watkins. “We have children going hungry because their parents are buying expensive booze.”
“Even adults who are going hungry will worry more about getting drugs than feeding themselves,” added Puvirnituq councillor Aisara Kenaujuak.
But councillors took a moment to extend their gratitude to the KRPF for the work it does across Nunavik in often difficult circumstances.
“We know you put your safety on the line, and we thank you for your protection,” said Akulivik councillor Eli Aullaluk. “We don’t want you to face armed situations [and] we don’t want to hear about police officers shot to death.
“The people around this table are your supporters.”