Nunavut RCMP struggle to get Inuit cadet program off the ground

For more than a year, RCMP in Nunavut have been working to create the Inuit Cadet Development Program. Now, plans are stalled because of a lack of capacity at Nunavut Arctic College.

Former RCMP officer Lew Philip says current efforts to recruit Inuit aren't good enough

Flags representing Nunavut dot the RCMP's mess hall at its Iqaluit headquarters. A program meant to attract more Inuit to the force has been put on hold. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Prospective Inuit police officers will have to wait a bit longer for a new year-long police foundations course aimed at improving Indigenous representation within Nunavut RCMP. 

The Inuit Cadet Development Program has been in the works for more than a year and has gotten support from senior management within the RCMP and territorial government.

But Chief Supt. Mike Jeffrey says it can't move any further because of Nunavut Arctic College's "lack of capacity" to start new programs. 
Chief Supt. Mike Jeffrey says the RCMP is now developing a one-on-one mentorship program to encourage Inuit to enter law enforcement. (CBC)

"They're looking at building capacity, because you have to find teachers for this program and also a place to house the candidates," Jeffrey said. 

The program would be similar to police foundations programs at colleges in southern Canada, but it's designed to overcome some of the challenges RCMP face in finding suitable Inuit candidates.

RCMP fills gap with mentorship

In the meantime, Jeffrey says Nunavut RCMP has shifted its focus toward one-on-one mentorship programs, where officers in communities would reach out to people in the community, assess their skills and then set up a training program to target any weaknesses. 

That program is about six months out.

Const. Lurene Dillon, with Nunavut's community policing division, says a lot of the RCMP's current programs focus on engaging youth.

Ten young people from across the territory are set to participate in national RCMP programs this year: four will go to camp at depot, where new officers are trained, and six will take part in a first responders course. 
Const. Lurene Dillon says Inuit RCMP members play an important role as guides for new recruits. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Dillon says Inuit RCMP staff will be there to support them before, during and after the programs.

"Joining the RCMP is not the easiest hill to climb," she said. "People that are coming from communities that are quite small and then thrown into maybe Regina [for depot], which is a big city."

Former Mountie wants cops to do more

Retired officer Lew Philip says if the RCMP is serious about building a police force that better reflects Nunavut's population, it will need to work harder. 

During his law enforcement career, Philip worked in recruitment for three years and hired 10 Inuit officers.

Right now there are 11 Inuit officers and all of them work in the Iqaluit detachment.

"But I had to work really hard for it. I had to keep visiting communities and continually talk to the recruits," he said in Inuktitut. 
Retired RCMP officer Lew Philip says the police force needs to do more to attract Inuit. (Travis Burke/CBC)

"If the RCMP were doing their job right, they would have more Inuit working there by now."

Philip says having more Inuit RCMP means more than improving employment statistics. It means creating an environment where unilingual residents can feel safe going to the RCMP for help. 

Inuit officers help new recruits

Jeffrey and Dillon agree that Inuit staff will go a long way toward improving the negative perception of law enforcement Inuit in some communities have. 

The territorial government recently approved funding for six Inuktitut-speaking staff to work as front-desk personnel at detachments. 

"This will help us [with language challenges] and also help the transient RCMP," said Dillon. 

"It's difficult in a Northern community, because we have so many members that come for a short period of time and they build these relationships and then they go."

The RCMP has also designated two supervisory roles — a corporal and a sergeant — as Inuit-only positions. Both are currently filled.