Homegrown cops
Six Inuit join the thin blue line

Kerry McCluskey and Maria Canton
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Oct 25/99) - Six young Inuit men made history in Nunavut recently when they returned home after graduating from the RCMP academy in Regina, Sask.

With the intensive six-month training program behind them, the territory's first all-Inuit troop has laid the groundwork for those who wish to follow.

Iqaluit resident Const. Ben Williams was one of those graduates.

Coming from a long line of justice-minded relatives -- including Cpl. Lew Philip, the first Inuk to hold a rank above constable -- Williams said that being sent south with other Inuit made all the difference.

"It helped out so much. We understood that we were feeling the same things, like homesickness, and we encouraged each other to keep on going by telling each other that you're not alone," said Williams.

His mother, the assistant deputy minister of Justice, said her pride in her son and the five other graduates was overwhelming.

"Our minister (Jack Anawak) is very proud. We all are in the department and as a mother, I want to cry," said Rebecca Williams.

She also commented on the role the Inuit officers will play in convincing future generations of Inuit to join the police force, a point that C/Supt. Chris Bothe echoed.

"We have some role models here who can show people that they can do it. They have people who can first-hand explain to them what the problems are and how they did it," said Bothe.

"When you have people coming back successful, it encourages other people to take on the challenge."

Further, Nunavut's V Division top cop says a second Inuit troop will hopefully include a number of female cadets.

"We are trying to show (women) they can, and we want them to, participate," he said.

"We'd like to see a balance of female and male officers."

The recruiting process is a rigorous combination of written exams, fitness testing, interviews, field investigations and a medical exam. The Troop 2 constables first came together last March for the intensive week-long screening process.

"We worked very hard with recruiters from Ottawa to accelerate the process and have a troop sent to Regina right away," said Sgt. Marlene Anderson, Nunavut's staffing and recruiting officer.

"Because our first group was small, we had to be careful that everything was delivered as consistently as in larger troops."

Pond Inlet's Eric Ootoovak said the camaraderie among the Inuit pushed him through the program and put him in a position to get the extra help he needed from like-minded students.

"I could communicate with them and speak my own language," said Ootoovak, adding that the cultural similarities also made missing country food like muktaaq easier.

The new members are posted in various Nunavut communities and for their first six months of policing, will continue training with an experienced member.

"It's part of the standard six-month field coaching program," said Sgt. Anderson.

"It's designed to be an extension of the program at the academy."

Anderson says discussions are already under way to send a second troop early in the new year.

Const. Colin Allooloo, an Inuk member about to continue his policing in the NWT community of Edzo, offered a few words of advice to his fellow officers.

"They're going to be under a microscope. There are people that will say they're traitors to their culture," he said.

"Just take it one step at a time and if they want to follow their careers, they'll have a good time."

As the six new constables begin to influence policing in Nunavut, others are already heading to Regina. Last Friday, John Tagak and Ian Monteith left for the academy to join a regular 24-member training troop.

The constables

- Const. Ben Williams -- joined the RCMP from Iqaluit, will be posted in Rankin Inlet

- Const. Joe Baines -- joined the RCMP from Iqaluit, will be posted in Arviat

- Const. Pitsi Koockiakjuke -- joined the RCMP from Iqaluit, will be posted in Cambridge Bay

- Const. Kevin Sudlovenick -- joined the RCMP from Pond Inlet, will be posted in Rankin Inlet

- Const. Eric Ootoovak -- joined the RCMP from Pond Inlet, will be posted in Iqaluit

- Const. Richard Tatty -- joined the RCMP from Arviat, will be posted in Iqaluit

- Cadet Ian Monteith -- joined the RCMP from Iqaluit, has yet to graduate from Depo

- Cadet John Tagak -- joined the RCMP from Iqaluit, has yet to graduate from Depo