Each officer will be paired with elder to learn customs

Two Ottawa cops to pound the beat in Nunavut

By CHRIS WINDEYER

Two Ottawa police officers will trade the streets of the nation's capital for the icy roads of Clyde River and Hall Beach.

Const. Louise Lafleur and Sgt. Brad Hampson signed the papers Feb. 29 that officially makes them Mounties for a month, as they cover short-staffed RCMP detachments and get first-hand exposure to Inuit society.

"They're our property for the next 30 days," joked Marty Cheliak, the RCMP's commanding officer in Nunavut, at a ceremony in downtown Iqaluit.

Standing alongside Vern White, Ottawa's chief of police, Cheliak said the Ottawa officers will learn about Inuit culture, history and traditions. Lafleur and Hampson will each receive copies of Inuit Perceptions, a manual for qallunaat Mounties coming to Nunavut.

Cheliak said each officer will also be paired with an elder who will help teach them about Inuit culture.

Ottawa has an Inuit population of 1,500 to 2,000, concentrated mostly in the gritty Vanier district. Lafleur and Hampson will essentially become Inuit specialists for the Ottawa Police Service, passing on knowledge from their Arctic experiences to fellow officers.

"Every experience you get as a police officer allows you to put one more tool in your toolkit," White said.

Lafleur said she and Hampson are also equipped with laptop computers they'll use to tell their Ottawa colleagues about police work in the Arctic. Both officers also completed an Arctic survival course in Hay River last month.

The pair will appear in their Ottawa police uniforms and have the same duties as regular Mounties.

Paul Okalik, Nunavut's premier and justice minister, said the exchange program will be good for Inuit, whether they live in the North or in Ottawa.

"We appreciate your interest very much, particularly as you deal… with Inuit in unfortunate situations, so we appreciate your openness and applaud you for your efforts in trying to learn more about Inuit," he said.

White said 31 Ottawa police officers applied for the program. He chose Lafleur and Hampson because "both of these officers are considered tremendous officers on our streets in Ottawa."

"If I readvertised this [posting] today I'd have 60 [applicants]," White said. "Our officers are very interested in this."

The program will also send at least one Inuk Mountie to Ottawa, though Cheliak said V Division is too short-staffed to spare anyone right now. He couldn't say when a Nunavut Mountie would go to the capital.

Cheliak said the program has nothing to do with the death of Douglas Scott, the young Mountie who was shot to death in Kimmirut last October. Scott's shooting prompted calls for mandatory backup for officers in small detachments.

But Cheliak said groundwork for the exchange program began the month before Scott's killing.

"It's taken this long to get through the bureaucratic red tape," he said.

Pingoatuk Kolola, charged with first-degree murder in connection with Scott's slaying, was to appear in an Iqaluit courtroom this past Tuesday.

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