Union leader slams GN for hiring police

Premier argues new police are essential for safety



IQALUIT — While Nunavut communities are applauding the news that the territory will get 14 new RCMP officers, one union official is irate about the announcement.

Doug Workman, the president of the Nunavut Employees Union, says his organization is angry with the territorial government on several fronts. The union questions the government’s priorities, he said, and wonders where it found the $3.5 million needed to pay for the police officers.

Premier Paul Okalik is surprised by Workman’s anger. The Nunavut government never anticipated that anyone would oppose a project aimed at protecting the safety of Nunavut residents, he said.

On Sept. 18, Okalik announced Nunavummiut will soon see 14 new cops working in the territory. With $3.5 million from the Department of Justice, additional RCMP members will be posted in Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk, Arviat, Grise Fiord, Kugaaruk and Kimmirut.

The RCMP will also open a detachment in Repulse Bay.

With the additional cops, every police detachment in Nunavut will now have a minimum of two officers.

But the Nunavut Employees Union, which represents GN employees, isn’t praising those moves.

“I don’t think anyone would argue, and I’m certainly not going to argue, that there’s not a need for some officers,” Workman said. “But 14? Where did that number come from?”

Workman also says the government’s actions don’t follow the Bathurst Mandate. The mandate sets out the principles by which Nunavut should govern itself, with the goal of making the territory healthy, productive and economically sound.

For Workman, that means the GN should pay for community-based programs and healing initiatives that get at the root of Nunavut’s social problems.

Gun-toting cops, he said, aren’t going to fix what’s wrong with the territory. “We’re not a police state,” he said.

“What should have been done? A more pro-active, a more preventative approach. We need a lot more social service workers, mental health workers and drug and alcohol abuse counsellors.”

Workman said the government could have used the $3.5 million to pay for more training and resources for those social workers and counselors.

“What should have been done?

A more proactive, a more preventative approach. We need a lot more social service workers, mental health workers and drug

and alcohol abuse counsellors.”

– Doug Workman, NEU

He questioned why the GN worries about single-officer RCMP detachments when many communities have only one social worker or counsellor.

“If they’re going to say there shouldn’t be any more one-person posts, then that should go for all front-line workers in those communities,” he said angrily, nearly jumping out of his chair in his office at the union hall.

The union also takes issue with the money Okalik is spending to bring in the new officers.

“We were told they have a $20-million deficit. How can you have a deficit and then find $3.5 million. Where was this money hidden? In a filing cabinet?” Workman asked.

When asked to respond to Workman’s comments, Premier Paul Okalik laughed.

Then becoming serious, he said: “I find it difficult trying to explain it to him, because I don’t see the need to explain public safety. I’m sure Mr. Workman would have a different view if he was in one of these communities that didn’t have any officers.”

The premier said many communities have demanded that the government pay for additional cops. “So, in terms of public safety, we really have no other choice whether to put money in or not.”

A RCMP officer was shot and killed in Cape Dorset in March at a time when only two of the detachment’s four officers were in the community.

Several others officers have been shot at in incidents in recent years. Okalik said it makes sense that the RCMP are provided with backup.

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