Nunavut MLAs take more time to review police oversight bill
Justice minister says new legislation is urgent ‘to implement cultural safety’
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.