Nunavut MLAs take more time to review police oversight bill

Justice minister says new legislation is urgent ‘to implement cultural safety’

Bill 53 was set to receive its third and final reading during this legislative sitting, but MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone said the standing committee on legislation has flagged “outstanding issues” with the bill that require more review. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

Nunavut MLAs say they need more time to consider proposed legislation that would change the way police-related incidents are investigated in the territory.

Bill 53, an Act to Amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Agreement Act, adds provisions to allow independent investigations to look into police-involved civilian injuries or deaths in the territory, along with the terms to create such a body.

The bill received its second reading last October and was referred to the standing committee on legislation for review. The committee was set to report back to the legislature this sitting in order for the bill to receive its third and final reading, but the committee has flagged “outstanding issues” with the legislation.

It’s not clear what those issues are.

“[The bill] is significant and is important to all Nunavummiut,” committee member Adam Arreak Lightstone told the legislature Feb. 25.

“The standing committee has and is doing its due diligence in reviewing the bill and its many clauses, but we definitely do need some more time to give our full consideration to the bill before we are comfortable with being able to vote on it.”

On Feb. 25, MLAs voted 11-8 in favour of extending the bill’s review period by another 120 days.

Justice Minister George Hickes and his fellow cabinet ministers opposed the delay, saying it was “critical” to have the new legislation in place as soon as possible.

The department has already requested a budget of $250,000 to enter into an agreement with a new civilian oversight body, he told the legislature.

“The impact of delaying the passage of this bill during this government means we will continue to lack the necessary powers to implement cultural safety and community consideration through civilian oversight and police reviews, as we will be bound by our existing act to use a contracted police force to review serious incidents,” said Hickes.

In response to calls for reform, Nunavut’s Justice Department had been exploring a civilian oversight body — rather than one led by the police — to review complaints of excessive force by police in the territory.

As it stands, 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.

But the new legislation shows the GN wasn’t prepared to close the door on third-party police force investigations, which are still included as an option in Bill 53.

In the case where an outside police force is retained to investigate incidents in Nunavut, the legislation would allow for the hiring of a civilian monitor to oversee the work of a police service and ensure the investigation is impartial.

The bill also creates a new position to ensure that Inuit and community-based knowledge are considered as part of the investigative work, through the role of the cultural adviser.

The legislation would mandate a new investigative body to produce a report, but doesn’t suggest whether and how those findings would be made public.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    Ridiculous on the part of this committee. How much time do they need? What are they doing? Six months since the the second reading and they still have issues? Hmmmm!

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  2. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    Civilian oversight is a necessity. There is incident after incident where the police use excessive force, or blatantly break the law when interacting with members of the public.
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    I think that we need a chance in mindset, that in any confrontation the minimum amount of force should be used to deal with the situation.
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    I will concede that excessive use of force is more prevalent in the U.S. but instances also exist in Canada, and it is mainly apparent in multiracial communities.
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    We should not, and can not have the police investigating themselves. Now I do think that overall the RCMP does a very hard job and they do it very well. The vast majority of members are an asset to any community in which they live and work. Many (most) spend a lot of their own time assisting with youth programs or other community based work.
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    There is also a need for “police expertise” when investigating violent crimes, shootings, or injury to the public. Only a police officer may understand, and be able to explain, all the nuances in a situation such as a standoff or shooting.
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    By all means have the OPP or Ottawa Police included on any investigatory body but it must be under civilian control.
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    We are all after the same objective, keeping the peace and making sure that everyone gets home alive and uninjured at the end of the night.

  3. Posted by not so on

    “DELAY” seems to be the word of this sitting by the MLAs. Can we suggest to the MLAs they punch a few evenings and weekends so they can get caught up on their workload? The delay to PPD alone will hit every wallet in Nunavut. It is time to stop grandstanding asking for tent cities by the military and having Twitter wars over vaccines that are coming and get some “QUALITY” work done for Nunavut. Pretty sad if you can’t keep up!!!! October is just around the corner…….

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    • Posted by Northern Inuit on

      I bet you $5 they will blame this pandemic for not wanting to put Nunavumiut at risk by going to the polls and extend their term one more year. maybe one more years salary will offset any potential increase PPD will have to pass onto us because of their delay in Iqaluit

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  4. Posted by Observer on

    “…its many clauses?” The whole bill is only 6 pages long and less than 1600 words in English. Take out the definitions and boilerplate, and it’s only about 1100. It takes EIGHT MONTHS for the members to try and understand that? It shouldn’t have taken more than a month to get questions answered on all those clauses. All 35 of them.

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  5. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    seriously, how much time does it take to read the reports given to these Committees?

    what have they been doing during the pandemic closures? obviously not working from home and reading their reports. I guess if a high percentage of GN Workers did the same during ‘working from home’ our fine group of MLA’s had to do the same. Disney Plus and Call of Duty online anyone? wait, maybe it was PUBG

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  6. Posted by Excop on

    Civilian isn’t going to be the answer everyone is looking for. Overall, it won’t change much as to what is released to the public and WHY decisions were made.

    Civilian oversight will present new challenges and issues which other provinces are experiencing. This will be an oversight body from the South.

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