The Yukon RCMP has suspended its participation in a reality show about the force that started filming earlier this week, after an incident in which officers were filmed arresting an apparently intoxicated woman in Whitehorse Wednesday night.
In a press release Thursday, the RCMP said it "has been made aware of a number of public concerns" surrounding the filming of the television show, including reports from the CBC and other media "indicating that some members of the public are uncomfortable with the filming."
"Although questions have been raised about the production, we are thankful to note that comments about our members themselves and the work they are doing has been positive and supportive," the RCMP said.
After hearing from community leaders, community organizations and stakeholders, the RCMP says it is discussing the issue with the production company doing the filming in order to determine the most appropriate way forward.
"While those discussions are underway, the RCMP is suspending its participation in the production," the release said.
Former NDP leader questions show
The issue first came to light this week when former Yukon MP Audrey McLaughlin raised questions about the show after witnessing RCMP officers arresting an apparently intoxicated woman Wednesday night in Whitehorse while a camera crew filmed the incident.
"Don't the police have anything else to do?" she said. "There are two police cars, two officers, a whole film crew for this one poor unfortunate woman."
McLaughlin said there were many witnesses to the incident and others expressed their disgust.
One of them, Debbie Paquette, said it's unfortunate the RCMP would make a public spectacle of a distraught aboriginal woman.
In an interview earlier this week, David Gilbert, Yukon RCMP's director of organizational strategy, said non-RCMP members would only be filmed with their consent.
But Paquette said the apparently intoxicated woman would not have been able to provide informed consent. Paquette questioned how police and the show's producers will go about getting consent from the woman.
In the earlier interview, Gilbert said the show’s American producers were drawn by the small-town Yukon mystique.
"It's sort of that Mounties in the Yukon image that got them interested in the first place — policing but not policing the way people in the south would see it on other shows," he said.
"It's reality in the sense that it's not scripted or staged. We are not setting stuff up for the sake of getting drama, We want to show what's real."
Hilary Aitkin, program co-ordinator at the Victoria Faulkner Women's Shelter, said she thinks it's unlikely a reality show can accurately represent policing in the territory.
"Our main concern is that a show of this nature won't have a chance of showing the multitude and complexity of issues that women in our communities are facing like addictions, poverty, racism and sexism," she said.
"Just the way that a reality TV show is structured, there's no chance that the stories can be told in a full way."
Aitkin added policing should not be used as entertainment.
Gilbert said a six-part series was planned, with more if the show is successful.