'The stars have aligned': All-Inuit team of RCMP makes up Iqaluit's Friday night shift

On Friday, a team of seven Inuit RCMP officers worked a night shift together - a rarity and a first for some Inuit officers working in Nunavut.

Historic shift gives retired Inuk RCMP officer 'goosebumps'

Const. Jamie Savikataaq was one of seven Inuit RCMP officers making up an all-Inuit night shift in Iqaluit last Friday. (CBC)

'Twas the night when "all the stars have aligned," said Const. Stephan Kilabuk.

On Friday, all the RCMP officers patrolling the streets of Iqaluit were Inuit. A team of seven Inuit RCMP officers working a night shift together is a rarity and a first for some Inuit officers working in Nunavut. 

"Tonight just happens to be one of those nights," said Kilabuk.

A group of current and retired Inuit officers gathered together in the Iqaluit station to celebrate the historic moment, and in between answering emergency calls and dispatching responders, they had some "good laughs," a trip "down memory lane," and some country food. 

The menu included maktaaq (beluga blubber), pipsi (dried fish), and some frozen caribou among other dishes. 

A group of current and retired Inuit RCMP officers gathered in Iqaluit on Friday night to mark the all-Inuit night shift. (Top row, left to right) Sgt. David Lawson, Const. Jamie Savikataaq, Const. David Aglukark, Sgt. Denis Lambe, S/Const. Mosesie Ikkidluak, Const. James Mearms, Const. Joe Baines, Const. Stephan Kilabuk. (Bottom row, left to right) Retired Sgt. Jimmy Akavak, Inuusiq Akavak, Retired Cpl. Lew Philip. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

'A great idea'

Nunavut currently has 142 RCMP officers, according to Sgt. David Lawson. Eleven of those are of Inuit background, all of whom are based in Iqaluit.

The Inuit officers are stationed in various unit or sections within the capital, and are sometimes transferred to other locations.  

"So we wanted to put a shift together consisting of all Inuit members," said Const. Jamie Savikataaq.

When they realized all of them happened to be around, the officers decided to "give everybody a night off" to organize an all-Inuit team for the night, said Savikataaq.  

"It was a great idea," said Kilabuk.

"We all have this particular, I think, bond…. That's something you can't get with every other group you work with and tonight makes that special."

Inuit RCMP officers had some country food during their shift Friday, including pipsi (dried fish). (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Retired officer had 'goosebumps'

"Someone had called my wife and told her I'm invited to [an] all-Inuit night shift," said Lew Phillip, a retired corporal with Nunavut's RCMP.

"That gave me goosebumps and I said to myself, 'Whoa, alright. It's all-Inuit unit tonight.'" 

A few retired Inuit officers were invited to join the unique gathering.

"I was surprised," said Jimmy Akavak, a retired sergeant who was also there. "It hardly ever happens."

An all-Inuit RCMP officer team works Friday night in Iqaluit. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Least racially representative RCMP division in Canada

Nunavut RCMP is currently struggling to recruit more Inuit to the police force.

Compared to the 88 per cent of the territory's population which is racially diverse, only 12 per cent of Nunavut RCMP represents that diversity, according to a CBC investigation looking at police diversity in Canada.

This makes Nunavut RCMP the least reflective in Canadian law enforcement of the population it serves.

That's why it's even more important to actively recruit more Inuit for the RCMP, according to Akavak.

Inuit RCMP officers enjoy some char chowder during their all-Inuit shift Friday. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

"They help with many situations, maybe standoffs or interviews," he said. "Inuktitut is a big thing to have."

Kilabuk said that when he responds to a call and speaks a bit of Inuktitut, it tends to de-escalate the situation.

"It's worked for me, and I think people find comfort in [the language], and that's a good thing," he said.

With files from Jordan Konek