The N.W.T. RCMP says language is hardly ever a barrier to getting police help, and that it has not used an emergency interpretation service available to it in at least five years.

The recent trial of a youth for murder in the death of Charlotte Lafferty raised questions about the RCMP's ability to handle calls from people who speak aboriginal languages and little English.

The first person to alert police to the attack happening in Fort Good Hope was Barthy Kotchile. Like many elders in his region, Kotchile's first language is North Slavey, one of the Northwest Territories' 11 official languages, and he speaks little English. 

The N.W.T. RCMP says it has a private contractor available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide emergency interpretation for people who speak aboriginal languages.

But it says it can take time — it couldn't say how much time — to get an interpreter on the line to help.

In an email, it says it has not used the service in at least five years.

The RCMP refused to do an interview about its ability to handle emergency calls from aboriginal people who do not speak English. It says even if they don't have much English, callers have been able to give enough information for police to respond.

According to the RCMP, the first officer was on the murder scene within about 20 minutes of Kotchile's call.