By Jeff Pelletier
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Nunavut RCMP’s commanding officer reflected on the service’s complicated history in the territory Tuesday as the national police force marked its 150th anniversary.
Chief Supt. Andrew Blackadar said he’s looking toward a future in which the Nunavut RCMP includes more Inuit recruits across the communities.
RCMP detachments across Canada marked the 150th anniversary with all sorts of events. The Iqaluit detachment opened its doors for a small community gathering where Blackadar took questions from reporters.
The RCMP’s history in Nunavut, and before that when it was still part of the Northwest Territories, dates back seven decades.
RCMP staff gathered at the Iqaluit detachment to celebrate the force’s 150th anniversary on Tuesday. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)
Blackadar acknowledged that, in that time, officers have played a role in what are now considered infamous historical incidents, such as dog slaughters and forceful relocations of Inuit in the territory.
“We’ve had challenging times in Nunavut, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
“The RCMP were involved, and I think that’s something that we have to work with in terms of reconciliation in the territory, and we have to make right with the people.”
Blackadar was not the only RCMP member to speak about “challenging times.”
Canada’s top Mountie, Commissioner Mike Duheme, said in a statement “the RCMP has played a role in some of Canada’s most difficult and dark moments.”
Also in a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the RCMP “will continue to support healing and reconciliation, as it continues to keep our communities safe now and into the future.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon said she joins Canadians in expressing her “deepest appreciation to RCMP across the country.”
The RCMP considers May 23, 1873, to be its start date.
On that day, the service was established under the name North-West Mounted Police following an act in Parliament. In 1920, it was renamed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
While reflecting on the past, Blackadar said the future of the RCMP in Nunavut involves working with communities and following an
Inuit advisory board’s lead to increase Inuit recruitment.
Currently, only about seven of approximately 150 RCMP regular members in Nunavut are Inuit, he said.
That number does not account for the civilian side, more than half of whom are Inuit.
He said the RCMP is working to make recruitment easier in communities where there might be technological barriers.
He said representatives are going to places such as Arctic College and conferences to promote recruitment, and are beginning to send potential officers to the RCMP’s Saskatchewan academy, also called the Depot.
“I want to see the community and the RCMP working together towards reconciliation,” Blackadar said.
“I want to see us recruiting more Inuit to different ranks, the regular member ranks, but also to our civilian side to our public service side so that we can have more Inuit involvement in, in the RCMP.”
Jeff Pelletier is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with NUNATSIAQ NEWS . LJI is a federlly funded program.