Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut May 26, 2016 - 9:59 am

Western Nunavut town under brief lockdown May 25

False gun scare, coupled with distressed high school student, produce lockdown

Kiilinik High School, shown here, was in a brief lock-down during the afternoon of May 25 as police dealt with a distraught teenager and reports of a gun-toting man near the school. (FILE PHOTO)
Kiilinik High School, shown here, was in a brief lock-down during the afternoon of May 25 as police dealt with a distraught teenager and reports of a gun-toting man near the school. (FILE PHOTO)

(Updated, 4:38 p.m.)

Cambridge Bay was in a brief period of upheaval during the afternoon of May 25, when two situations led to the lock-down of the high school and then of other offices in this western Nunavut community of 1,800.

“Everything is okay now” — that was the word from the mayor of Cambridge Bay, Jeannie Ehaloak, to people in a Facebook posting late in the afternoon of May 25.

“Someone thought there was a person carrying a gun around town. It was the environmental tech students putting their gear away,” she wrote.

As well, there was what Ehaloak called an “incident at the high school.”

The RCMP and people who spoke to Nunatsiaq News about what happened that afternoon offer two varying versions of what took place and when — although they agree on the basics, that there was a lock-down, that police were called in to deal with a call about a man with a gun near the high school and that a student in the school was in crisis.

Sources in Cambridge Bay say that a report had come into the police saying a man with a gun was lurking outside the Kiilinik High School — that man turned out to be someone who was passing a rifle to its owner somewhere near the school and Nunavut Arctic College.

But that sighting led to the lockdown of the community’s schools and the offices of the hamlet and the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

Meanwhile, sources say Kiilinik’s 200 students and staff had already been locked in their classrooms after a young girl at the school was found concealing a razor blade in her sleeve.

Refusing to hand it over, she then went into a washroom and refused to come out.

The school’s crisis team attempted to defuse the situation but were unable so police, who then chased the girl, were called in, the sources close to the situation told Nunatsiaq News.

The town’s fire alarm siren also went off at the same time causing additional unease about everyone’s safety.

That, said the hamlet’s fire chief Keith Morrison, was coincidental, with the siren activated due to an emergency call of someone reporting smoke in another part of the community, “nowhere near the school, and totally unrelated to the events there.”

“It was quickly determined that the smoke had been caused by teenagers setting of an emergency smoke flare and the alarm was cancelled,” Morrison said May 26.

Within an hour, the lock-downs were lifted.

Cst. Lurene Dillon, the RCMP’s media spokesperson in Iqaluit, said the RCMP did receive and respond to a call from Roman Mahnic, the high school principal, that a man with a gun was outside the school.

But officers made no arrests in the case of the gun-carrying man, who turned out to be a well-known local resident.

“The gun complaint was unfounded meaning no one was charged with a crime,” Dillon told Nunatsiaq News.

Police did not intervene in the case of the girl.

That’s because Dillon said the girl had already gone home by the time police arrived to lift the lock-down, as according to standard protocols.

“There was a student that was upset,” Dillon confirmed, who said police were aware of the “problem.”

But there was “no interference” by police or seizure of any object from the girl who had left the school, she said, when police arrived.

“The school report of a child in the school allegedly with a weapon was not what was discovered by the investigators,” Dillon said. “The officers [did] attend the school but the child was not there, the child was located outside of the school without a weapon.”

If the girl had carried a razor, police would have apprehended her under the Mental Health Act, Dillon said.

Nunavut schools have “Safe Plan” drills with protocols on how to deal with potentially violent incidents and keep everyone safe.

“What matters is that the community is safe and that the hold and secure or lock down procedures were conducted without incident,” she said.

In this case, despite the differing details on what took place, Dillon said “the school is safe, the students are safe, and the student that went home is being cared for.”

Earlier this month, a lock-down at Nakasuk Elementary School in Iqaluit ended without incident after police seized a knife from a student.

Assistance is available to youth in crisis at the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line 1-800-265-3333 (Inuktitut, English) or the Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868.

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