Ottawa police can't be trusted to investigate Nunavut RCMP, argues MLA
'To have a police force, investigate our own police, with those views is very troubling,' says MLA Paul Okalik
Former Nunavut justice minister Paul Okalik wants the territory to terminate its contract with the Ottawa Police Service and start its own civilian police oversight group, saying a sergeant's racist comments show the southern police force "cannot be trusted."
Right now, the Ottawa Police Service is contracted to conduct independent, external reviews of the Nunavut RCMP for cases involving potential police wrongdoing.
Okalik says that shouldn't happen anymore.
"In our own territory, we represent the majority," Okalik told CBC News. "And to have a police force, investigate our own police, with those views, is very troubling."
Late last month, celebrated Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook was found dead in Ottawa.
- Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook found dead in Ottawa
- Ottawa police now calling officer's posts about Annie Pootoogook 'racist'
A few days later, Sgt. Chris Hrnchiar commented on an Ottawa Citizen article about her death, saying "much of the Aboriginal population in Canada is just satisfied being alcohol or drug abusers."
Investigations shouldn't be 'shrouded' in mystery
The incident sparked widespread condemnation from the Inuit community both in Ottawa and across the Arctic, who were concerned that Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau didn't initially call the remarks racist.
Okalik says Nunavut "held Ottawa police in good regard up until this latest event," but the comments were so inflammatory that action must be taken.
"I would like to see that we have a civilian body to investigate the force," he said. "It would be independent."
Okalik added that there are many qualified people in the territory, including former RCMP officers who understand the unique challenges of providing policing in the North.
'Concerns about police investigating police'
The RCMP has an external investigation or review policy that covers cases in which:
- a "serious injury or death" involves an RCMP employee, or;
- an RCMP employee "may have contravened a provision of the Criminal Code or other statute and the matter is of a serious or sensitive nature."
"I understand that process. I understand there's some concerns about police investigating police," said Keith Peterson, Nunavut's minister of justice.
But Peterson would not go so far as to confirm the territory will establish an oversight body.
"I'm not going to commit to anything. I want to do the research." he said. "It's the proper way for governments to proceed."
For now, Peterson says officials in the justice department are looking into how other jurisdictions handle external police investigations.