'The stars have aligned': All-Inuit team of RCMP makes up Iqaluit's Friday night shift
Historic shift gives retired Inuk RCMP officer 'goosebumps'
'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 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."
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."
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.
- Nunavut RCMP chief says boosting Inuit recruitment will take 'many generations'
- Nunavut RCMP plan recruitment program for Inuit officers
That's why it's even more important to actively recruit more Inuit for the RCMP, according to Akavak.
"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