RCMP to begin using body-worn cameras in Iqaluit next month

Pilot project could be first step towards police using devices across territory, says Nunavut’s justice minister

Four months after various levels of government and political figures from within Nunavut and beyond called for the use of body-worn cameras on RCMP officers, the RCMP announced yesterday, Oct. 21, that the devices will be deployed in Iqaluit next month as part of a pilot program that will help inform a broader national initiative. (File photo)

By Dustin Patar

(Updated on Oct. 22, 10:30 a.m.)

Beginning in November, RCMP officers in Iqaluit will be equipped with body-worn cameras as part of a national pilot project.

The news comes after an increasing number of calls for the devices were made by all levels of government within the territory and beyond.

“I’m very excited about this program,” said Nunavut’s justice minister, Jeannie Ehaloak, on Wednesday, Oct. 21, having been given the news by federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair earlier in the day.

“We hope this pilot project initiative is successful, and that it can be used as a model going forward in the rollout of body-worn cameras across our territory.”

According to an accompanying RCMP news release, the goal of the pilot project “is to evaluate processes and best practices with existing technology in remote regions, and to engage the community on perceptions and satisfaction with this technology.”

When asked how he would measure whether or not the cameras are effective at strengthening trust within the community, Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal replied, “First of all, you’ve got to actually begin the project.”

Vandal then acknowledged that every program and initiative is evaluated.

“That will really be the true test,” he said.

“But based on previous projects, previous evidence and consultation, we’re convinced that this initiative is going to be critical to strengthening trust and transparency, which is equally important and by having more transparent interactions between public and police, you’re going to enhance accountability.”

Ehaloak also said that she was “very confident” that the cameras would increase transparency.

The RCMP news release announcing the cameras provided no details on how they would be used.

In Nunavik, where the Kativik Regional Police Force has been piloting a body-worn camera pilot program since January, the internal procedures on the use of the cameras are not available to the public.

According to Erick Laming, a Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation PhD candidate in criminology at the University of Toronto, this isn’t unusual.

“In Calgary, they’ve had cameras for over a year on all officers and we can’t even get access to that policy publicly, we’d have to go through an FOI [freedom of information request],” he said in June.

“So if we don’t even know what the policy says publicly, how can we trust what’s going on?”

When asked who would have access to the footage, Ehaloak said she had “no idea” and that, as of yesterday, she was only told about the launch of the project.

Following an incident captured by KRPF officers equipped with body-worn cameras in June, a commanding officer concluded, “I’ve viewed the body-camera footage and the actions of the police officer are appropriate and within our policies.”

For Laming, this level of oversight is troubling.

“If you implement body cameras without a proper civilian oversight agency, it’s counterproductive because it’s still the police investigating the police when it comes to reviewing the footage,” he said.

Currently, in Nunavut, external police forces are called in to investigate RCMP-related incidents, such as the one in Kinngait in June, though this may change soon with the introduction of Bill 53, an Act to Amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Agreement Act, during the current sitting of the legislative assembly.

Promoted by Ehaloak in June, the amendment could mean the territory will see a new model for civilian oversight of the RCMP.

According to Ehaloak, Blair also committed to supporting the Government of Nunavut with financial resources if the program expands across the territory.

The Iqaluit pilot program is meant to help inform a broader national body-worn camera initiative.

Aside from strengthening trust, transparency and accountability, Vandal sees the program as a small step towards tackling the systemic racism in government institutions, including the RCMP.

The broader Canada-wide initiative is meant to encourage improved police and public behaviour, increase the timely resolutions of public complaints, and enhance evidence gathering and prosecutions.

According to the RCMP news release, part of the challenge of such a national program is the management of all of the footage recorded by the cameras, particularly in communities with limited infrastructure.

To meet those management needs, Public Services and Procurement Canada has posted a request for information to gather vendor details, which will then lead to a contract bidding process that is expected to happen early in 2021.

Following yesterday’s announcement, the Nunavut RCMP will also be hosting a community consultation on the cameras later today.

While Ehaloak was not aware of the meeting and Vandal did not have details as to who was attending, Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson’s office indicated that the meeting, which is not open to the public, would be for the same group that attended two similar meetings, including one on June 19.

To date, there have been no community consultations open to the public.

But now that a community has been selected and a timeline has been established, the RCMP may have the information needed to begin broader public consultations.

“It’s important for any leader or agency that is looking at engaging the public to have a certain level of basic information at hand before they do that,” said Claudine Santos, the director of parliamentary affairs for Patterson’s office.

“Otherwise the consultation process will become frustrating for participants and the facilitator.”

Correction

An earlier version of this story said that Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal was not aware of the community consultation meeting, when in fact he was aware of the meeting but didn’t have details regarding who would be attending.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Pingback: "political criminology" – Google News: RCMP to begin using body-worn cameras in Iqaluit next month – Nunatsiaq News | FBI Reform
    • Posted by Bemused on

      I suspect the people who will be clamoring the most to have all footage available will be the ones most angry with footage showing their family, friends, and even themselves acting like idiots being made available.

      • Posted by Finally on

        Finally! There will be no more questions. No more rumors of what happened when the RCMP were forced to use leathal force. It will highlight the stuff they deal with on a daily.

        Those who are yelling for this cause they think the cops are out to get them will be the ones it mostly impacts the most in the way of charges that stick. Judges won’t be as forgiving when it is on video

  2. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    Well it is about time. Now the GN must ensure that the pilot project turns into standard daily procedure, and that all the footage becomes available to the public.
    .
    Quite simply public oversight of the police is needed. The current situation of police investigating themselves, (RCMP internal, or OPP>RCMP) is unacceptable.
    .
    There are “a few bad apples” in just about any police force and they need to be removed. And when it come to the use of force we should be tasking the police to use the minimum amount of force necessary to deal with the situation.
    .
    Policing is a difficult job, and it is inherently dangerous. Police are given extraordinary powers to do their job, and they often need to use these powers to protect the vulnerable in society. That doesn’t mean that they can do whatever they like, and knowing that there will be a visual record of any incident should help all of us, police and civilians.

    • Posted by Observer on

      “…that all footage becomes available to the public”? Really. So if your daughter was sexually assaulted, you’d be cool with everyone being able to see her when she’s found? Or, you know, family being happy that the video of the police discovering the body of a relative whose head is blown apart with a self-inflicted shotgun blast being freely available to anyone who wants it? Or do you want to think about that a little more?

      • Posted by Calm down buddy on

        I’m sure there are laws that prevent that sort of media from being released to the public. Mind of the same way that the names of underaged offenders and victims aren’t released to the public. Calm down

        • Posted by Observer on

          Which part of the word “all” are you having trouble with, exactly?

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