Inuit women in Canada's North encountering 'racialized policing,' report says
'It goes well beyond a few individual officers holding stereotypes about Inuit,' says Pauktuutit president
A national organization representing Inuit women in Canada is calling for a radical shift in the way police work is done in the North, as a report to be released Thursday has uncovered "systemic racialized policing" in the Arctic.
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada and Elizabeth Comack, a sociology and criminology professor at the University of Manitoba, co-authored the report, which examined how police respond to violence against women in Canada's traditional Inuit territory, known as Inuit Nunangat.
An executive summary of the report provided to The Canadian Press says that interviews with about 45 Inuit women, and nearly as many service providers, revealed many women encounter such high rates of gender-based violence they have come to expect it in their lives.
The authors hone in on actions of police officers responding to cases of domestic violence in these regions, with women sharing they are often not believed when reporting abuse.
Sometimes, the summary of the report says, the women reporting the violence, rather than their abusers, are the ones removed from their homes.
"Racialized policing persists in Inuit women's encounters with the justice system and it goes well beyond a few individual officers holding stereotypes about Inuit," said Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.
"Police can respond more effectively to gendered violence by adopting a 'decolonizing framework' that helps officers move from being an outside force to becoming more integrated with northern communities they serve."
Women in Nunavut are the victims of violent crime at a rate more than 13 times higher than women in Canada as a whole and are 12 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than in other provinces and territories, according to data cited by the report.
Also, in 2016, Nunavut had the highest rate of female victims of police-reported family violence in Canada, with the Northwest Territories coming in second.
Victimized by police protocols
Inuit women from across Inuit Nunangat — including Nunavut, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Northwest Territories, Nunavik in northern Quebec and Nunatsiavut of Newfoundland and Labrador — told the study's authors they feel victimized by police protocols when they do report incidents of abuse.
The summary also notes police dispatching systems in the North are often inadequate.
The authors also found the fact that officers spend limited time in particular communities, as well as their lack of knowledge of the Inuit language, has created a perception that police are outsiders — and a widespread feeling of distrust.
Participants did note the challenges faced by police officers in the regions, including having to respond to high-risk situations of domestic violence.
The summary of the report says some police officers were also interviewed.
Officers in Nunavik, for example, pointed to initiatives to try to address some of the locals' concerns. That includes improved cultural training and a call centre with Inuktut speakers.
The report comes with 15 recommendations, including a cultural shift in policing to adapt more to Inuit tradition and history in these regions. That should involve police officers becoming more connected and integrated into their communities, the report says.
It also calls for more female police officers, more Inuit civilian positions with each police department to help with healing and translation and for the RCMP to revisit its two-year postings for northern officers.