Cape Dorset gun violence subsiding: RCMP

The Nunavut hamlet of Cape Dorset has returned to normal after a spate of gun violence gripped the community in mid-October.

The Nunavut hamlet of Cape Dorset has returned to normal after a spate of gun violence gripped the community in mid-October.

RCMP and residents in Cape Dorset had to deal with at least two violent incidents in October, including a shootout with two gun-toting teenagers and an armed standoff with a man who was later charged with killing his brother.

In response to the violence, the RCMP brought in Inuit officers to Cape Dorset to conduct a firearm-safety education campaign.

"Firearms are a concern, obviously. It's definitely a way of life for people in Nunavut, and we totally respect that," Nunavut RCMP Chief Supt. Steve McVarnock told reporters Tuesday in Iqaluit.

"Given the mix of alcohol and firearms, it is a lethal combination."

The Inuit officers visited about 300 households in the community of 1,200, talking to residents about safe gun use and storage. They also licensed firearm owners and distributed trigger locks to those who wanted them.

McVarnock said the education campaign went so well in Cape Dorset that the RCMP plans to expand it across Nunavut.

"We are going to roll this out to all the communities," he said. "We obviously were making Cape Dorset the first priority, given what's happened in that community."

New officers coming

The Oct. 13 shootout, in which police returned fire after two youths opened fire down a residential street, resulted in one of the teens being wounded.

And on Oct. 10, a 19-year-old man was charged with second-degree murder, assault and several firearms-related charges following the 3½-hour armed standoff at a home in Cape Dorset. The body of the man's slain brother was found after the standoff.

In addition to those cases, RCMP charged an 18-year-old man with second-degree murder in a separate suspicious death in Cape Dorset.

Officers from outside Nunavut are investigating the incidents.

McVarnock said two new Mounties will be moving to Cape Dorset to help replace the four officers who left the community due to the high stress levels they experienced from dealing with the violent incidents.

The four officers were sent away for a medical intervention, which the RCMP says is a typical practice following stressful and high-risk situations.

"We have already identified two constables that are being transferred into Cape Dorset on a permanent basis.  They will be coming in within the very near future," McVarnock said.

"One of those constables is an Inuit member from outside Nunavut right now, who was actually asked to transfer to Cape Dorset."

Inuk officer will help: mayor

Cape Dorset Mayor Cary Merritt said the presence of an Inuk RCMP officer is very important in the predominantly Inuit community.

"I think it gives people a sense of somebody they can talk to, somebody that can understand and communicate with them better, particularly in their own language," Merritt told CBC News.

"Sometimes there's language barriers, so it's going to make them feel a lot more comfortable, a lot more willing to communicate and discuss with the RCMP and liaise a lot more freely with them."

Merritt said the situation in Cape Dorset has dramatically improved in the weeks following the violent incidents, in part because of the firearm safety education campaign.

Gun safety is only part of the solution, however. He said the hamlet is working on programs for young people, which the RCMP have identified as a high-risk group.