After more than a year of negotiations with Canada and Quebec, the Kativik Regional Police Force (KRPF) has signed a new funding deal.
KRPF Police Chief Jean Pierre Larose said the force, which patrols 14 communities in Nunavik, will receive $146 million over five years to improve policing services in the sub-arctic region of Quebec including equipment, infrastructure and recruiting 24 new officers.
“I’m a little bit stuck because we are without some candidates right now, so it’s kind of a little bit disappointing but we will manage, we’re looking outside the box to have alternative solutions”
Larose said all police forces in Quebec are struggling to recruit right now.
Since taking over the job of police chief in February of 2018, he has been vocal about what he calls the chronic underfunding of the KRPF.
In November of 2018, he testified at the Quebec Inquiry into Indigenous relations that the KRPF paid 33,000 hours of overtime in 2017, the equivalent of 16 full time officers.
From July 2016 to the end of 2018, the KRPF killed and seriously injured people at a rate that was 55 times higher than Montreal police.
Nunavik has a population of about 13,000, but also has an astronomical crime rate.
But not everyone in Nunavik thinks more officers is the only solution.
Although the KRPF is officially an Indigenous police force, the majority are non-Inuit and don’t speak Inuktitut – the first language of people in the communities.
In July of 2018 APTN Investigates spoke with Minnie Nowkawalk, whose 23 year old son, Alakagiallak Nowkawalk, died after a three day standoff with police in Inukjuak.
It was ruled a suicide – but she’s among many who say an Inuktitut speaking officer or negotiator would have helped diffuse the dangerous situation.
“There was absolutely no help between my son and the police,” she said in between sobs.
“Both sides were lacking help.”
Nowkawalk has an ally in the Quebec report released by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
It’s calling for governments to provide money so that Indigenous communities can appoint independent liaison officers.
Larose says the KRPF has every intention of making it happen.
“I asked the elected officials in all communities to identify some Inuit who would be interested in working with us,” he said.
“Especially in crisis situations, so this is a work that is ongoing”
Larose also adds that the KRPF have recently hired three Inuit youth for the purposes of crime prevention, with the hope that they will at some point do the training to become officers.
Meanwhile, so far in 2019, there have been no serious injuries or deaths involving the KRPF.
And now, for the first time in years, there is optimism from the police that more resources will keep it that way.