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Nunavut RCMP says it's addressing serious concerns over strip searches raised by watchdog

The Nunavut RCMP says it has 'taken steps' to address some troubling concerns raised on Thursday by an independent review body over how the Iqaluit detachment treats people who have been detained.

Report released Thursday calls out Iqaluit detachment for removing bras

Chief Superintendent Amanda Jones says the Nunavut RCMP continues to work to ensure people who have been detained are 'treated with respect and dignity.' The comment comes in response to a report released on Thursday by an RCMP watchdog group. (Submitted by the RCMP)

The Nunavut RCMP says it has "taken steps" to address some troubling concerns brought forward by an independent review body over how the Iqaluit detachment treats people who have been detained.

On Thursday, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, an independent oversight body, released a public report and said there are issues with the way the national force justifies strip searches and that it needs to better train members on the controversial practice.

The report specifically calls out police at the Iqaluit detachment for removing bras during strip searches.

"The commission found that the RCMP's national personal search policy (including cell block searches) is unclear and inadequate," the report notes. 

The findings follow up on a 2017 report that found "significant shortcomings" in the RCMP's personal search policies, which included strip searches.

"The commission is particularly concerned with the inadequate supervision of members, lack of articulation on files, and overall lack of knowledge of what constitutes a strip search at the Iqaluit detachment. Interviews revealed that bras are routinely removed and searches are video-recorded."

Course on trauma-informed approach made mandatory

The Nunavut RCMP says it has taken steps to address the concerns including updating "best practices and procedures regarding strip searches," and ensuring "adequate supervision and documentation in compliance with jurisprudence," according to a news released issued Friday morning in response to the report.

As well, it added a "method to track such searches to ensure compliance."

The release notes that in July, RCMP made an online course, "Using a Trauma Informed Approach," mandatory for all members in Nunavut. It also said it's providing training in mental health first aid in an Inuit-specific context to all members new to the division.

"We continue to work to help ensure persons who are detained are treated with respect and dignity, in compliance with the law, while helping our members to better support those in need as it relates to addictions, mental health, self-harm and vulnerable persons," said the commanding officer of the RCMP in Nunavut, Supt. Amanda Jones, in a statement.

A Supreme Court case from 2001 ruled that strip searches are "inherently humiliating and degrading."

With files from Catharine Tunney

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