Nunavut MLAs pass territory’s new police act
‘This is a massive step forward for policing oversight across Nunavut,’ says justice minister
Nunavut MLAs passed the territory’s new police act earlier this week, legislation that will allow the territorial government to engage independent investigative agencies to look into serious incidents involving the RCMP.
“I think this is a massive step forward for policing oversight across Nunavut,” Justice Minister George Hickes told the legislature Monday as Bill 53, An Act to Amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Agreement Act, received its third reading.
The bill was initially set to pass at the winter sitting, but MLAs voted in February to extend the bill’s review period by another 120 days to deal with outstanding issues.
Over the spring, the bill was amended to include the following requirements:
- to ensure Inuit and community-based knowledge are considered during an investigation, a cultural adviser must be appointed “in most circumstances”
- the Justice Department must make public a written reason why an investigative body is not contracted to investigate a serious incident
- the justice minister must make public copies of any agreements made between the Government of Nunavut and any investigative bodies
- the Justice Department must consult with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner on any proposed agreements with independent investigative bodies or other entities
- the government must commit to work towards the long-term goal of establishing a Nunavut-based civilian oversight body.
Cathy Towtongie, co-chair of the standing committee on legislation, noted Monday that the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP is in the process of doing a systemic review of policing activities in Nunavut, the final report from which will offer more insight into how the territory can improve transparency in law enforcement.
Towntongie also said the standing committee “strongly encourages” the department to communicate with agencies in Nunavik, the Northwest Territories and other jurisdictions with large Indigenous populations to help identify best practices in the area of police oversight.
Other MLAs welcomed the amended legislation, noting that until the territory has its own civilian oversight body, the role of the cultural adviser will be crucial.
“I, myself, will support the bill because it incorporates Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit [knowledge] and people will now know where to turn to in Nunavut,” said Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk.
“Those complaints will not just go on and on, and the people of Nunavut will know what’s happening.”
Currently, the Nunavut RCMP has agreements with the Ottawa and Calgary police services to conduct third-party investigations of incidents involving the police that lead to serious injury or death.