Nunavimmiut want improvements to KRPF
Nunavik cops battered by rise in booze-fueled violence
KUUJJUAQ — Many Nunavimmiut want members of their regional police force to develop more competence and stability, and to get more on-the-job support.
At last week’s meeting of the Kativik Regional Government’s council, councillor Mary Palliser said cops in Inukjuak are afraid of dealing with violent, drunk teens on their own, and the force doesn’t provide enough back-up.
“They keep saying the KRPF is not organized,” Palliser said.
Joseph Annahatak, the mayor of Kangirsuk, told the KRG council his community is chronically short of police. He said there’s “no Inuk who wants the job,” and that cops brought up from the South don’t stay on either.
“He said he was overworked and stressed. He had to get away from the community for a while,” said Johnny Appahatak, the mayor of Aupaluk, about the recent loss of their sole policeman.
KRPF police chief responded by saying that the growing amount of booze-fueled violence in Nunavik is causing KRPF members to become stressed-out and overworked.
“We’re doing the best we can with what we have,” said KRPF police chief Brian Jones.
Jones said the KRPF would be better able to preserve law and order in Nunavik if there were less booze.
“This has been a rough year on our officers.”
– Brian Jones, chief of the Kativik Regional Police Force
Beer and spirits continue to pour into communities where alcohol is supposed to be controlled, despite the KRPF’s efforts to clamp down on southern suppliers who mail booze to Nunavik.
He said the sealift also moves liquor into the region.
“There are vehicles coming up [on the sealift] packed up with booze,” Jones said.
The total number of offences committed during the first eight months of 2001 are nearly equal to the number committed during the entire 12 months of 2000.
Jones said most of this crime is alcohol-related.
“This has been a rough year on our officers,” Jones said.
A man in Umiujaq shot at one new KRPF recruit, while rowdy young offenders roughed up constables in Puvirnituq. Another cop went on a mini-rampage around Kuujjuaq.
Over the past year, several long-time local police, who were Inuit or married to Inuit, ended up leaving the force.
These departures dropped the number of beneficiaries to 12 full-time and seven part-time — less than half the force’s manpower — frustrating the KRPF’s goal to have Inuttitut-speaking cops in every community this year.
To fill out the ranks, the KRPF is now recruiting increasingly younger Inuit, as well as inexperienced rookie cops from the South.
These imported cops receive four-month contracts because the KRPF is supposed to be an all-aboriginal police force and doesn’t want to hire non-Inuit permanently.
Several at the KRG council meeting said the turnover makes their communities uneasy.
Jones said the lack of housing and few adequate police stations drive cops away from the region.
Most police stations in Nunavik are trailers, bought second-hand from the provincial police force. These trailers are notorious for their poor ventilation and bad insulation: toilets regularly freeze up in winter, causing problems for police and detainees.
The KRG leadership, who negotiated a five-year funding agreement for the KRPF in 1998, is furious that the James Bay Cree have since received an additional $6.8 million to build seven new police stations and renovate two others for their native police force.
“Construction and operating costs being higher in Nunavik than anywhere else, the KRG is asking at the very least for the same treatment,” KRG chairman Johnny Adams recently told Serge Ménard, Quebec’s public security minister.
Last year the KRG wanted to build a new police station in Puvirnituq, but this couldn’t be built with the money Quebec was willing to pay, so the project was dropped.
“Our police officers’ working conditions, and prisoners’ poor conditions of confinement continued to deteriorate and are now unacceptably poor,” Adams wrote.
Ménard has so far brushed off Adams’ repeated requests for a meeting to discuss the KRPF’s increasingly difficult situation.
The agreement between Quebec, the federal government and the KRG on the regional police force isn’t up for renegotiation until 2003.