End of the RCMP?
Advisory board may mean more community input

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Apr 23/99) - Evolving self-government may mean the end of an RCMP presence in Inuvik.

In the short term, the RCMP will stay, says Beaufort Delta chief negotiator Bob Simpson, "then we may be, over a period of time, shaping up our own regional police force."

Simpson says many different models for policing exist in Canada, particularly for aboriginal peoples who often have tribal police on southern reserves.

"We'll still want to keep very high standards in policing so we'll probably be using the RCMP training programs," he says.

"We'll always have some sort of connection with them because it's a national police force and we want to make sure we're all part of some overall network."

So far, negotiators are drafting terms of reference and have created documents for discussion only, but the drive for more regional say on how to be policed is easy for many long-term residents to understand.

For example, Inuvialuit self-government negotiator Vince Teddy remembers stories from a caribou-hunting uncle about 30 years ago.

"Even before he went in the door (of his cabin) the RCMP came and arrested him and threw him in jail for what he done -- hunt and kill a caribou for food for his family," Teddy says of a time when his uncle broke a hunting regulation.

"My uncle didn't know about those laws because more than likely he wasn't informed. He wasn't even consulted (about the law's drafting) for another thing."

The first change in policing could be in creating a Beaufort Delta Regional Police Board.

Last month, W.M. Sweeney, the NWT's G division chief superintendent, wrote a letter proposing negotiators add the word "advisory" to the proposed board.

After outlining the structure of current authority in the Police Act, Sweeney writes "the federal government has long been sensitive to provide for a consultative role," showing how there would likely be little resistance to the board's creation.

In 1997, the RCMP created a territorial police board to advise them on policing services, but lack of funding and the creation of Nunavut killed that initiative, according to a terms-of-reference document from the self-government office.

"My mum tells me stories that she took care of the RCMP," says Teddy to show how police have long enjoyed positive past relations with residents.

"When they first came in (she) sewed their clothes, warmed them up and gave them food to eat."

If self-government discussions succeed, Simpson says the proposed advisory police board will likely evolve into a "governance body over the contractual arrangements over how policing would be done -- basically the role of the GNWT with the RCMP today."