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All-Inuit shift a hit in Iqaluit
As members of their communities, officers are role models

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, December 5, 2016

IQALUIT
Inuit RCMP officers took to the streets of Iqaluit for a Friday-night shift Nov. 18.

"To my knowledge, this is the first time it's happened where an all-Inuk shift was here in Iqaluit," said Const. Jamie Savikataaq.

"It was a good night," adds Const. David Aglukark. "Having Inuit responding to their calls, because of language and faces people are familiar with."

Savikataaq, on the force for 14-and-a-half years, said it was a big deal for him.

"Because there's so few of us Inuit members here in the division and we're all in different units and sections. Currently there's only two Inuit members on detachment that respond to calls. The rest of us are in different units, where we're not on the road," he said.

"We are all rescheduled from our units to work detachment."

Not only was it fun for the Inuit members to work together, but people noticed, adds Savikataaq.

"People start looking around and go, 'These are all Inuks.' It was a pretty positive response."

As Savikataaq says, "you want the police force to represent the population it serves."

He gives as an example French-speaking communities in southern Canada where the majority of members are French.

All Inuit members are Inuktitut speakers, and that can be an asset for people in distressing situations.

"Especially in those situations because they tend to go to their first language," said Aglukark. "It makes it that much easier for them to communicate with us.

"From my point of view it was a big deal for the community to see. Not only the community, but the young people. For them to see there are Inuit members at work. And maybe give them a chance to show an interest in joining our outfit," said Aglukark, who has been with the force for 19 years.

A role model in their home community of Arviat is exactly what inspired Aglukark and Savikataaq to join the national police force. Other members come from Pangnirtung, Kimmirut and Iqaluit.

"We had a special constable in our community when I was growing up. He was from the community. That opened my eyes to looking at that kind of career when I grew up. He was well-respected local," said Aglukark. "Not only in the uniform, but well-respected in the community, as well."

"Same thing," adds Savikataaq.

"And just seeing Inuit members like David, a few years older than I am. Seeing the positive side of things, the respect, I wanted to be like them," said Savikataaq.

Both constables are involved as community members in Iqaluit.

"This is home. I'm out in the community, whether it's just for a walk, or to go to the store. It's visible," said Savikataaq. "Not just in uniform. Being out and about."

Inuit recruits have been low in number for quite a few years.

Const. Stephan Kilabuk is the last Inuk recruit, and he joined about 12 years ago, says Savikataaq.

Aglukark says he thinks that has much to do with the process.

"It's quite hard to get through our application process," he said. "It's changed quite a bit in the last year or two. Basically there's an exam at the beginning you have to pass. That's a stumbling block we're running into for our local applicants."

The Friday evening shift was also a bonding experience.

"We were talking about it after the shift. We think it should be more than a one-time thing, for sure," said Aglukark.

"Everybody enjoyed the night and it brought back old memories and we talked about ideas. Everybody certainly liked it and I think we'll probably try doing it again," adds Savikataaq.

"We all understand the impact that we can have, not just as RCMP officers but as Inuit members and being from the North and Nunavut. We are role models. And if we can show kids out there that with hard work you can succeed not just as an RCMP officer but to become a nurse or a doctor or a mechanic or whatever it is. Never give up."

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