Nunavut's top cop says it will likely take 'many generations' to build a police force that reflects Nunavut's diversity, but the RCMP is working to improve negative public perception and mentor promising young Inuit.
A new CBC investigation surveyed police forces across the country to compare how diverse they are compared with the populations they serve.
In Nunavut, 12 per cent of the police force is racially diverse, compared to 88 per cent of the territory's total population. That makes the territory the least reflective jurisdiction in the country.
Mike Jeffrey, commanding officer for Nunavut's RCMP, says the force has to overcome a number of challenges.
"There is a small group of the population that are currently graduating with a grade twelve education and that are interested in a job in law enforcement," he said.
For those who do graduate, Jeffrey says many pursue post-secondary education and receive competing job offers from other government departments seeking to increase their own Inuit employment statistics.
On top of that, Jeffrey says there is a "security issue."
"If you want to be a police officer, or in law enforcement, you have to have demonstrated that you were living a lifestyle that would promote the law enforcement mentality of desire," he said.
"We don't want people who are taking drugs, or who would have committed a crime in the recent past."
In many communities, Jeffrey also says RCMP need to do a better job of improving the image of law enforcement.
"There are some people, I've been told, who don't see law enforcement as something they want to do because of previous encounters they would have had with law enforcement or through their families, historical issues."
Right now, all 11 Inuit RCMP members are based in Iqaluit. About 150 people work for Nunavut RCMP, although that includes both sworn officers and civilian staff.
A look at the rest of the North
Police forces in the remainder of the North are also falling behind in terms of reflecting the diversity of the populations they serve.
In the Northwest Territories, 12 per cent of RCMP officers are racially diverse. That's well below the 58 per cent of the territory's total population who are Indigenous or from another minority group.
Yukon fell toward the middle of the pack in the CBC investigation.
Fifteen per cent of Yukon's RCMP members are from a diverse group, while its Indigenous and visible minority residents make up 29 per cent of the territory's total population.