RCMP to provide Inuktut phrasebook to its officers

Book meant to address language barrier RCMP faces in communities

The RCMP’s new Inuktut phrasebook, seen here, is a pocket-sized translation book created by Pirurvik Centre to help officers communicate with Inuktut speakers in Nunavut communities. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

Since arriving in January 2019, Nunavut RCMP Chief Supt. Amanda Jones says she’s heard from MLAs and community members that her officers’ lack of Inuktut has been a barrier in the territory’s communities.

As a result, Jones reached out to the Inuit-language organization Pirurvik Centre to establish an Inuktut phrasebook tailored to the RCMP.

“It’s a tool our members can use,” she said.

“It gives them the opportunity to learn the language and speak the language and have a better understanding of [Inuit] culture.”

The book contains lists of basic words and phrases and their Inuktut translation.

“We wanted something that [was] using the language that we use,” Jones said of how the phrasebook tailors to the RCMP.

Phrases such as ‘do you need medical assistance,’ or ‘you’re under arrest,’ are examples she uses.

She also said that ensuring people understand their Charter rights is a critical reason for the handbook.

The handbook is barely larger than pocket-sized and is separated into sections from basic words to specific phrases about travel, the environment, family, community and others.

As well, each section comes with an illustration at the beginning. A breakdown of how grammar is used in Inuktut is provided at the end.

Jones said the phrasebook should make communication easier between Inuit and the RCMP.

She also hopes the attempt to improve language barriers will help increase Inuit recruitment to the force.

Currently, there are five Inuit RCMP officers in Nunavut.

In a recent training program aimed at recruiting Inuit to the RCMP, only one of 21 applicants eventually applied to join the service, Government of Nunavut Minister of Justice Craig Simailak said at a committee of the whole meeting June 9.

Jones said that program was designed to help Inuit pass the RCMP entrance exam. With a high pass rate, the program is viewed as a success, she added.

Pirurvik has made phrasebooks, including ones for health-care, so the process to create this one is similar, the organization’s director of production Chris Douglas said.

Douglas added that process identifies Inuktut words people working in a particular profession will need and puts those phrases into a book that can be published.

“The main idea is to have a very colourful and user-friendly publication that is easy to use,” Douglas said of the design.

He said the RCMP’s phrasebook was especially made to be carried as a pocketbook.

Douglas said creating the handbook is in spirit of the Inuit Language Protection Act, which establishes the right to communicate publicly in Inuktut.

“We’re happy to contribute in that way,” he said.


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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    Why don’t they just instead hire inuit to help out and answer the phone and translate for them instead?

    • Posted by Dave on

      I don’t think it is an easy process for the RCMP to hire anyone.

      I bet the security clearance you need to work for the mounties would tale 6 months. Really, you would potentially have access to a tremendous amount of private and classified information.

    • Posted by Not Everyone Speaks on

      Although I agree that more Inuit should be hired into the force, not all Inuit speak in Inuktitut and are fluent in the language. Some people may understand it a lot more than be about to speak Inuktitut. At least this is a little resource to help go in the right direction in terms of connecting and finding a common understanding between Inuktitut and English speakers

  2. Posted by Putting this out there on

    Does it also give some basic info on how things are said? so we can have RCMP that can say “Nunavut” (the right way) instead of saying “Nunavut” (the wrong way).

  3. Posted by Address the major problem here on

    A faction of RCMP officers are insensitive or ignorant to Inuktitut and Inuit culture. What percentage of inebriated people are difficult to RCMP?

  4. Posted by Tulugaq on

    That brings us back a long time ago when the colonial governments were tagging the “Eskimos” and telling them how to behave. Sure it’s an improvement and is necessary when most of police officers in a territory are unable to function normally in the language of 85% of the population! It’s like the whole court system that is unable to function in Inuktut and is a perfect illustration of how colonial Canada is. In other words, Inuit should be able to govern themselves according to their culture and traditions, this is an international right recognized under the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous people. Decolonization should be Nunavut’s goal.

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