No housing, cops abandon Umiujaq
“No one gives a rat’s cahoots about the KRPF”
If you were in trouble last Thursday night or Friday in Umiujaq, you couldn’t call the police for help.
In fact, you probably couldn’t reach anyone in this Hudson Bay community of 350 people.
That’s because telephone service was down. And even worse, the Kativik Regional Police Force pulled its constables out to nearby Kuujjuaraapik, because the Umiujaq officers have no place to live and are fed up with the situation.
The KRPF withdrawal caused panic in Puvirnituq, where the Inuulitsivik health board, which is responsible for providing health services along the Hudson Bay coast, chartered a plane on Thursday night to send a security team for its nursing station in Umiujaq.
“We tried every way we could to land, but the fog was to the ground,” said Inuulitsivik’s executive director Noah Inukpuk, who is originally from Umiujaq. “We are worried about this. We have a serious concern about the security of our staff. It is very scary. “
Inukpuk finally managed to reach Davidee Soppa, the mayor of Umiujaq, who assured him that local Canadian Rangers would assist the nurses if necessary. Meanwhile, the hospital set up a temporary communications line to the nursing station in Umiujaq.
“We felt a little bit more comfortable,” Inpukpuk said in a telephone interview from Puvirnituq, although he said he was ready to try flying back to Umiujaq if the situation wasn’t resolved. “It’s important to find the police a place to live.”
However, Inukpuk knows his home community suffers from a severe lack of housing.
According to information from the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, Umiujaq has few empty social housing units. This means police must vie with desperate locals for social housing.
“People are really piling up into one house. Some have nine or 10 or 12 people, it’s not healthy,” Inukpuk said.
Next summer, Umiujaq is to receive six new social housing units. There’s been a new police station in the community since 2002, but no staff housing has been built for the officers who work there.
Last week, after being asked to leave a private residence, police in Umiujaq were to bunk down at the women’s shelter above the social services office, but social services didn’t want two constables to stay there during the day, because clients might feel hesitant to drop by.
Rather than move again, the decision was made to pull out to Kuujjuaraapik.
“It’s been going on for the year,” said Capt. Larry Hubert, chief of operations for the KRPF. “No one gives a rat’s cahoots about the KRPF. I suggested we leave. Since November, we’ve been moving on a daily basis.”
The same desperate housing situation for police exists in Kangiqsualujjuaq, where constables are staying in a vacant teacher’s home temporarily.
As police struggle to supply services to the region, they’ve asked for more and better housing. But the housing crisis comes just as the Kativik Regional Government has asked the KRPF to cut expenses and reduce its accumulated deficit.
The KRG, to which the KRPF reports, has renovated or built housing units for police in some communities, but not in all.
The lack of housing for the KRPF wasn’t perceived to be a problem when the force was set up 10 years ago. That’s because the majority of police were to be Inuit who would presumably have a place to live in Nunavik.
However, despite ongoing recruiting and training efforts, the numbers of Inuit who want to stay within the KRPF remains low. That’s why the KRPF has been hiring more non-Inuit who then find themselves with no housing or sub-standard housing in Nunavik.
Police agreed to return to Umiujaq after an offer was made to temporarily house them in a vacant room at the airport. But they planned to leave again if no permanent solution was found to their housing crisis.
Umiujuaq’s mayor said if they have to leave once more, he will understand, although he doesn’t want them to.
“We need them,” Soppa said earlier this week in a telephone interview when the calls were finally able to get through to the community again.
But to find housing for the police may be hard, Sopps said, because it may mean moving someone else to make room for them.
Soppa did not assign blame to anyone for the current housing crisis, but he said municipal leaders have been lobbying for years to get more housing in Umiujaq, without success.