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Nunavut considers civilian oversight of RCMP excessive force complaints

“One police force should not be investigating another police force,” says Iqaluit MLA

By SARAH ROGERS

Iqaluit-Manirijak MLA Adam Lightstone wants to see the results of investigations into excessive police force made public, and conducted by civilian review boards. (FILE PHOTO)


Iqaluit-Manirijak MLA Adam Lightstone wants to see the results of investigations into excessive police force made public, and conducted by civilian review boards. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavut Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak says her department is open to looking at a civilian oversight body—rather than one led by police—to review complaints of excessive force by police in the territory.

But for now, Ehaloak said she feels confident in the process currently in place, where those incidents are reviewed by an outside police force.

In Nunavut, the government holds contracts with the Ottawa Police Service and the Calgary Police Service to investigate incidents in which civilians in Nunavut are seriously injured or killed during a police altercation.

“I am confident of the impartiality and professionalism of these investigations,” Ehaloak told the legislative assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 23, in a minister’s statement.

“Serious incidents could be reviewed by a civilian oversight board. The department is open to considering what options might be available to us.”

Ehaloak’s statement responds to questions raised during standing committee hearings earlier this month, where MLAs heard from the Legal Services Board of Nunavut about an increase in excessive force complaints against Nunavut RCMP officers.

The Government of Nunavut also faces a lawsuit from a Nunavut man, Bernard Naulalik, who says RCMP officers beat him up during two separate arrests in 2016.

The Calgary Police Service is investigating both incidents.

On Oct. 24, Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone asked Ehaloak if her department would table copies of the agreements the GN has with those two police forces.

Lightstone also asked the justice minister why the results of those police oversight reviews are not made public in Nunavut.

Ehaloak didn’t say whether the department could release that information.

“I think it is crucial that the results of those investigations are made public,” Lightstone told the legislature.

“Another one of the most significant issues that has been raised in our territory’s current approach to police oversight is the concern that one police force should not be investigating another police force.”

As a first step, Lightstone asked the minister if her department could look at civilian oversight agencies currently in operation in other jurisdictions.

“I can commit that we are looking at options,” Ehaloak responded.

In the meantime, Ehaloak said that serious incidents and complaints can also be reviewed by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, an independent agency created through Parliament to handle public complaints made about the conduct of RCMP members.

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