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Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a national representative Inuit organization have agreed on a plan to improve the relationship between the police force and Inuit communities.

The Mounties and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), a non-profit organization in Canada that represents more than 65,000 Inuit across Inuit Nunangat and the rest of Canada, see the plan as a starting point for a collaborative relationship and to help build trust.

Many of the priorities come from recommendations made by the National Inuit Action Plan on missing and murdered Inuit women, girls and gender-diverse people following the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

In recent years, the RCMP have faced increased scrutiny over the conduct of officers toward Indigenous people. In 2020, the RCMP faced criticism after a video captured an officer striking an Inuk man with his truck in the small community of Kinngait.

The RCMP have agreed to work with ITK on specific measures, such as data sharing on deaths by suicide, suicide attempts and suicidal ideation, and mandatory cultural training for officers working in Inuit Nunangat. Inuit Nunangat means “the place where Inuit live” and is comprised of four regions: Inuvialuit, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and Nunavut. The RCMP provide policing services to more than 70 per cent of communities across Inuit Nunangat.

“Inuit have long faced discrimination, neglect and violence within the criminal justice system,” ITK president Natan Obed said in a joint statement with the RCMP. “Our communities’ interactions with police have been strained. With this new workplan in place, we hope to build a new relationship based on respect and mutual trust.”

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said the force is committed to working with ITK in “implementing this workplan to repair, rebuild and enhance our relationships with communities in Inuit Nunangat.” The force has also committed to regular consultation with Inuit leadership to monitor progress on the stated agreement.

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In their agreement, the RCMP also intend to focus on increased Inuit representation and improve access for Inuktitut speakers. As well, there is an intention for the force and ITK to collaborate on input for the federal Indigenous justice strategy.

Justice Minister David Lametti was mandated in January, 2021, to develop, in consultation with Indigenous partners, provinces and territories, an Indigenous justice strategy to address systemic discrimination and overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system.

On the agreement with the RCMP and ITK, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the road of reconciliation means fostering new relationships which address past wrongs, make a difference in the present and meet future challenges.

“The new partnership between the RCMP and ITK is such a relationship – advancing Inuit-led approaches, rebuilding trust and improving policing for Inuit communities,” the minister said.

In January, 2021, the RCMP and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada agreed to implement a plan, known as the Pinasuqatigiinniq agreement. Pinasuqatigiinniq is the Inuit term for working together collaboratively.

At the time, Rebecca Kudloo, then president of Pauktuutit, said the agreement between the Mounties and her organization would help with an “urgently needed cultural shift” in policing practices.

The agreement followed a 2020 report by Pauktuutit on violence against Inuit women that noted the history of the RCMP’s involvement in relocating Inuit to permanent settlements, transporting Inuit children to residential schools and slaughtering Inuit sled dogs.

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