A training program aimed at recruiting Inuit to the RCMP has seen one of the 21 people who went through that program apply to the force, according to Nunavut’s justice minister Craig Simailak.
He told the legislative assembly’s committee of the whole on June 9 that the Nunavut RCMP has one Inuk “at the security and suitability stage” of the application process.
The four-month program, called the Assisted Application Training Program, was done in partnership with the Department of Family Services and Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corp. through Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
The program was designed to prepare Inuit to take the RCMP’s entrance exam, a requirement to enter the force’s six-month training academy in southern Canada.
It saw two groups of Nunavut Inuit: one in Iqaluit in 2020 and another in Rankin Inlet in 2021.
There were seven applicants in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic created some challenges for this group — they were sent back to their home communities to continue their training remotely when the territory locked down.
While six out of seven passed the RCMP’s entrance exam, all except one ended up withdrawing from the application process or were asked to leave “due to various issues, including failure to comply,” Simailak said.
In 2021, 14 participants from Coral Harbour, Rankin Inlet, Arviat, Chesterfield Inlet, Kugaaruk, Baker Lake, and Sanikiluaq trained in Rankin Inlet.
Of those 14, 10 successfully passed the RCMP’s entrance exam, but eight withdrew “for personal reasons,” Simailak said.
Of the remaining two, one is training to become a dispatcher, and the other has started in an administrative role, according to Cpl. George Henrie, who leads the Nunavut RCMP’s recruiting unit.
Henrie, who is one of the Nunavut RCMP’s five Inuit members, said there are “huge barriers” for people across the territory who want to apply to the force.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the RCMP to move most of its application process, including its entrance exam, online.
“The biggest barrier is lack of internet,” Henrie said in an interview.
“A lot of people don’t have computers at home anymore, just have cellphones. But the application process, including the exam, has to be done on a computer with a secure internet connection.”
RCMP applicants also need a first aid and CPR certification and an unrestricted driver’s licence.
“That’s very hard to do in a small Nunavut community, especially when you don’t have a full-time motor vehicles examiner,” he said.
In the past, Henrie said he has lent his personal truck to applicants in Iqaluit so they can take their driving exam.
Another issue is that the exam is not available in Inuktitut. This creates a further barrier for applicants who are unilingual or speak Inuktitut as their first language.
“It is a really long, tedious process,” Henrie said. “We’re also competing with other agencies in Nunavut that offer high salaries, the mines, the GN, the municipalities.”
Henrie said the RCMP is currently looking to apply for funding to launch a third year of the training program.
As well, two applicants from 2021 are heading down to the police academy at the end of the month for an Indigenous training academy.
“There is still some interest, so we’re still waiting patiently to see if they want to pursue a career in the RCMP,” he said.
Jessica Young, Nunavut’s assistant deputy minister of public safety, also told the committee that the RCMP and the department are discussing “the potential to look at special constable programs that had existed before” and options for community safety officers.