Federal safety minister supports call to fund RCMP body camera pilot project in Nunavut

Support for a call to see RCMP in Nunavut wear body cameras now comes from the federal minister responsible for public safety in Canada.

In a Senate Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday Conservative Sen. Dennis Patterson asked Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of public safety, if he would support funding for a Nunavut RCMP body camera pilot project.

Blair responded with two words: “Yes sir.”

This follows a meeting last week between RCMP and Inuit, federal and territorial leaders in which all agreed body cameras are a necessary step toward establishing a trusting relationship between RCMP and Inuit. That June 19 meeting was organized by Patterson.

The rate of police related deaths in Nunavut is proportionally nine times the rate of police related deaths in Ontario. The most recent incident was in Clyde River in May. Inuit leaders in the territory have called for a review of policing in the territory, with an eye toward police brutality and systemic racism.

The Amherstburg, Ont., police department is the first in Canada to deploy police-worn body cameras to its 16 front-line officers. A body camera pilot project for Nunavut has received support from Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. (CBC/The Fifth Estate)

“There was a clear consensus … that the accountability and transparency linked with bodycams would be an important first step to rebuilding the trust relationship between the RCMP and residents of Nunavut,” Patterson said Thursday of the discussions last week.

“It was agreed that Nunavut would serve as an appropriate pilot project for the rest of the country. However territory wide deployment of body cameras is not possible without significant federal financial support.”

No dollar figure has been attached to the cost of deploying body cameras in Nunavut, but in the northern Quebec region of Nunavik, where a body camera pilot project is already underway, it is estimated that it would cost $100,000 to deploy body cameras to the region’s 14 communities. It would also cost another estimated $25,000 per year in maintenance.

Nunavut has about 80 front-line RCMP officers. Federal funding for the pilot project is important in cash-strapped Nunavut where, similar to other provinces and territories, the territorial government is on the hook for 70 per cent of RCMP costs under contracts with the federal government.

In a press release last week, RCMP said that they are in the early stages of researching technical solutions for Nunavut’s unique needs. The RCMP did not give a timeline for a Nunavut pilot project.


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