IQALUIT, NUNAVUT – Nunavut is not closing the door on creating its own police oversight body and new legislation would allow it to start hiring civilian investigative groups, the territory’s deputy justice minister said .
A bill that passed second reading in the Legislature last week seeks to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Agreement Act to add provisions for independent investigations into serious acts involving police officers.
Nunavut currently has agreements with the Ottawa and Calgary police forces to conduct such reviews in the territory.
Stephen Mansell, Nunavut’s deputy justice minister, says the bill is an important step towards “police investigations of police” in the territory.
“Over the past two years, Nunavummiut have told us that while it is positive (that) it is not the RCMP investigating the RCMP, in general there is movement in Canada away from the police. investigating the police, ”Mansell told The Canadian Press.
The bill “gives us the power to go ahead and create new agreements with civilian investigative bodies”.
If passed, the law would allow the government to contract a civilian body to investigate serious circumstances involving police officers.
For now, Mansell said, these civilian investigators would be based in southern Canada.
“We are not closing the door on a made-in-Nunavut solution,” he said. “But we would intend to contract a civilian body from another jurisdiction to begin with, then look at the long term.”
The bill would not exclude contracting a police force. The government would make a choice depending on the circumstances, specifies the bill.
If a police force was hired to conduct an investigation, a civilian controller could be appointed “to assess the impartiality of the investigation”.
“The Civilian Comptroller can advise the contracted police force of his concerns and can make any recommendation to the contracted police force he deems appropriate to address the concerns,” the bill says.
He also proposes the creation of a post of “cultural advisor” to help an agency or a police force under contract.
Mansell said the adviser would ensure that investigators, who would likely not be based full time in the territory, have “a cultural understanding of the communities in which they work.”
“This would be an advisory role that would work hand-in-hand with the agency conducting the survey to ensure that it is culturally relevant and provides the necessary cultural skills for these investigators when come to Nunavut.
Since January 1, there have been six serious actions involving police, including two deaths, which Ottawa police have been called in to investigate.
In February, Attaché Ashoona was shot and killed by an officer at Ashoona’s home in Kinngait. Ottawa Police concluded that there were no grounds for criminal charges against the officer.
In June, a video surfaced on social media showing what appeared to be a constable using an RCMP truck door to run over a drunken man in Kinngait during an arrest. The man was then severely beaten by a fellow inmate in his cell. This investigation is continuing.
Mansell could not comment on whether the results of investigations by civilian bodies would be made public, but said the Justice Department was “definitely in favor of sharing the results of serious incident investigations.”
“As we did not have any (agreements) with civilian investigators, I cannot say with certainty to what extent we would be able to ensure that this information would be shared.”
He said the ministry hopes the bill will pass this session.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 27, 2020.
This story was produced with financial assistance from Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship