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In Canada's eastern Arctic, police want more officers for communities

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

The chief superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut says increasing the number of officers in communities from two to three and adding more government attention to mental health would help make policing safer in the territory.

This comes after an armed standoff last week in the community of Hall Beach, a confrontation in the community of Igloolik where officers say an armed man threatened to kill them, and an incident in community Kimmirut where shots were fired at the detachment building while officers and a resident were inside.

Chief Supt. Steve McVarnock said police are easy targets in the community because of the work they do.

"Either we're being specifically targeted as the direct issue, or we're being used as a pawn or a tool to demonstrate anger."

He admits RCMP may not always have had good relations with Inuit communities, "leading from what happened in the '40s, '50s, and '60s up in this land, but there's been several generations since."

Now, the police are looking for solutions.

McVarnock said increasing the number of officers in the communities would make policing safer, and would also allow police to take a more proactive role in crime prevention.

He also said governments need to speak out more about safety in the communities and address the issues of anger and mental health.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.