Nunavut RCMP quietly installs video cameras at all detachments
But MLAs, legal aid agency, don't seem to know about it
In response to requests for improvements to prisoner safety and police accountability, Nunavut’s “V” Division has quietly installed video cameras in all of the territory’s 25 RCMP detachments, the Nunavut government’s Justice Department says.
But MLAs and Nunavut’s legal aid agency, which deploys front-line workers in all communities, don’t seem to know about it.
The Government of Nunavut provided “V” Division with $1.575 million to install video cameras at detachments throughout the territory, the Justice Department said in response to a media request earlier this year.
“Cameras have been installed in all detachments,” a justice spokesperson wrote in an April email.
Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone raised the issue Oct. 2 in Nunavut’s legislative assembly.
“Do all RCMP detachments have surveillance equipment installed and do they have audio capabilities?” Lightstone asked Madeleine Redfern, the chair of the board that oversees the Legal Services Board of Nunavut, during a meeting of the standing committee on government operations.
“It’s my understanding they don’t have videos in all detachments,” said Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main, the chair of the committee.
“That should be verified. It is our understanding that not all video footage has the audio as well. And even in the detachments where there is video, it’s not in all areas. Often it’s just in the cells, and incidents can happen outside the cells,” Redfern said.
Lightstone asked legal aid representatives a series of questions about the increasing number of complaints by Nunavummiut of police misconduct.
Lightstone quoted from a 2015 letter by legal aid to the justice minister raising concerns about a pattern of complaints from clients, mostly Inuit, alleging excessive force by RCMP across Nunavut.
“There is value in having cameras in all detachments,” Redfern said in response to one of Lightstone’s questions on Oct. 2.
“In our experience, and from our research, having those video cameras on the [RCMP] vehicles, on the police themselves, does often change the behaviour, not only of the police, but also does sometimes change the behaviour of the accused. It’s important that that type of technology be considered and be made available in this territory,” Redfern said.
“I completely agree… that [for] an individual, being recorded would influence their behaviour,” Lightstone replied.
The 2015 letter from the legal aid board to the justice minister, and a subsequent letter in response by Nunavut RCMP commanding officer Michael Jeffrey, were both unearthed by an investigation into Iqaluit resident Bernard Naulalik’s allegations of repeated excessive force.
In August, the Toronto Star published that investigation, which included video footage from the Iqaluit detachment showing police using force against Naulalik on three separate occasions.
“The [justice] minister is responsible for the policing contract and, in our view, as the contracting authority with regards to the police, we felt that if there was any change to be effected, that change could be directed by the minister,” the legal aid organization’s chief operating officer, Jonathan Ellsworth, told legislators Oct. 2.
“This issue is not to be tolerated, it’s not to be swept under the rug,” Ellsworth said.
The issue of cameras in Nunavut’s RCMP detachments is not new: a jury recommended installing cameras after a 2011 coroner’s inquest into the 2009 death of an Iqaluit woman.
The jury of a 2015 coroner’s inquest went further, recommending “V” Division “immediately” install cameras within all Nunavut detachments, cells, police vehicles and on-duty officers.
Nunatsiaq News sent the Justice Department and “V” Division a request for more information about the video camera installations.
Those questions included whether any video cameras included audio capabilities, where the cameras are installed, and what, if any, timeline exists for outfitting police vehicles and on-duty officers with cameras.
The Department of Justice did not respond to any of the questions by Nunatsiaq News’s deadline.
The Nunavut RCMP pointed to its feasibility study on body cameras, which in 2016 concluded the technology is inadequate and the cost prohibitive.
The RCMP did not answer any of the other questions by deadline.