APTN National News
Nunavut’s top RCMP officer says there is more to a fatal shooting in Hall Beach Nunavut than was shown on a Facebook live stream.
Nunavut RCMP shot and killed Jeremy Nivviaq on May 1, the third fatal Nunavut Police shooting since December.
In the half hour before the shooting, Nivviaq live streamed on Facebook, saying he hoped to kill himself by having the police shoot him.
In the press release that followed the shooting, Nunavut RCMP quoted the video, writing that Nivviaq was “wanting to die by police.”
They also wrote that a firearm was found on the scene, and that they would not be taking any further questions on the shooting, as it was under investigation.
A close viewing of the video shows that Nivviaq carried what looked like a replica weapon with a bright yellow stock. He hid that toy weapon under a blanket to convince police it was real. The video ends before the RCMP arrived.
But Jeffrey told reporters that there was another weapon found at the scene – the firearm mentioned in the press release – not just the one seen in the video.
They would not release any further details about the alleged weapon.
On May 4 police did speak to media, inviting reporters in two at a time.
APTN National News asked why police did not mention the toy gun in their release.
Jeffrey refused to comment saying there was an ongoing investigation. Jeffrey confirmed that he had seen parts of the Facebook video, but not in its entirety, and not with the freeze framing needed to spot the toy rifle under the blanket.
Jeffery did explain why he felt it was necessary to release the statement about the victim wanting to die by police.
“We put out some information about, that I, we, knew of. It was known to us at that time, through information we received from the original witnesses who made the call, that the individual had talked about trying to commit suicide by a police officer. So we did put out that information, to reassure the public that it was not an isolated case of an officer engaging an individual randomly, to put a little bit of context behind it,” said Jeffrey.
“So we did put out that information, to reassure the public that it was not an isolated case of an officer engaging an individual randomly, to put a little bit of context behind it,” said Jeffrey.
Police had released a press statement on May 2 where they quoted Nivviaq’s Livestream video, saying he wanted to die by police. However, that statement never referred to the toy gun.
Instead it referred to a firearm. Police refused to comment further. This led to confusion among those Nunavummiut who had seen only the toy weapon in the video.
This comes at a time when police oversight is over rising concern in Nunavut. Paul Ookalik has raised it in house . There is a meeting this month. In addition there have been three recent fatal police shootings in Nunavut.
Jeffrey says he has no details on investigations into those shootings.
“No, I can’t. In the three shootings, they’re all investigated by an independent external investigative body, which in this case is the Ottawa Police Service,” he said. “That’s a body that’s been identified by the Government of Nunavut as the external investigative body of Nunavut. When an incident like this happens, we step back completely.”
To date, no one has been charged or disciplined in the three police shootings since December.
“We are still awaiting the official results (from the Ottawa Police Service investigation),” said Jeffrey.
He added officers involved in shootings are put on administrative duties while their mental health is assessed, and the officer is transferred out of the community.
Jeffrey couldn’t confirm when the investigations into the three shootings will be completed.
“At this time, I don’t have a timeline. It’s completely independent of the RCMP,” he said.
The process of having all investigations into police misconduct in Nunavut handled by the Ottawa force has come under fire in recent months by Nunavut politicians.
Former premier and justice minister and Iqaluit MLA Paul Okalik has been vocal, saying he wants the process changed.
In an interview with APTN National News, Okalik said he wanted a new system studied.
“I want to see a review of perhaps aboriginal policing in our smaller communities so that we can recruit our own, and serve smaller communities with local police forces, that can so a job that is currently the job of the RCMP,” said Okalik.
Jeffrey’s RCMP division falls under Nunavut’s Justice Department, the contractor for the more than 140 RCMP employees in Nunavut.
Jeffrey did confirm that the Government of Nunavut is looking at other outside police forces to conduct these investigations.
With three shootings since December, Nunavut residents are wondering what accounts for the increase.
Jeffrey said it is not a change in tactics from his officers.
“I’ve been the commanding officer for about three years, and the number of gun complaints that we get, it happens once about every two days,” he said. “When you look at a situation like this, you have to look at the totality of the environment the police are in, in Nunavut,” said Jeffrey.
That environment? Lots of firearms and lots of people in emotional distress.
Nunavut RCMP receives about 20,000 calls a year.
“We have one of the highest suicide rates in the country, about 9 times the national average,” said Jeffrey. “In about a third of those cases, firearms are used in the commission of the suicide. We have one of the highest emotional and mental distress calls in the country, so 7 percent of our calls are in relation to people with emotional stress.”
Nunavut RCMP has less lethal options. Every detachment in Nunavut has Tasers available to the officers.
A spokesperson for Independent Member of Parliament for Nunavut Hunter Tootoo said more resources are needed.
“The shootings are very tragic and unfortunately serve as a reminder of something that I have long advocated for – the need for more Mental Health Resources in Nunavut,” Tootoo’s spokesperson wrote in the email.