RCMP officers need more support and training, according to a report a Hay River MLA cited during his comments in the Legislative Assembly.
Rocky Simpson, the MLA for Hay River South, asked the Minister for Justice on Tuesday how his department is supporting RCMP officers, amid “bad press” for police elsewhere.
“In my five years in this Assembly, no one has ever said they want less RCMP,” said R.J. Simpson in response. “Every community, every Member says they want more RCMP in the community and that they appreciate their efforts.”
The NWT has the highest concentration of RCMP officers in Canada. There are 416 RCMP officers per 100,000 people. The next highest is Nunavut with 354 per 100,000.
A 2019 Auditor General report into the RCMP’s training for active shooter situations found RCMP officers were inadequately prepared.
“RCMP officers don’t always have the equipment and the training they need to protect themselves and the public,” read the report.
The police have been put under a spotlight in recent months, with Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S calling attention to systemic racism within police culture.
The RCMP has not been above controversy, with questions over their actions in Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests and more recently their handling of confrontation between Mik’maq fishers and non-Indigenous lobster fisherman in Nova Scotia.
NT RCMP spokesperson Julie Lalonde said there are regular conversations between the GNWT, the RCMP and communities about improving training for officers.
“The RCMP is built on a foundation of well-trained police officers and as the police of jurisdiction in the NWT — ongoing training remains a priority,” she said in an email.
“The NT RCMP is committed to continue to work with our partners to deliver professional, efficient and effective police service in the Northwest Territories.”
The GNWT’s justice department increased the funding for RCMP training in 2019-20 by over $200,000 annually to improve the training offered to RCMP officers. The total spent on training was $323,000.
When it comes to making changes in the future to training or the number of officers, a number of factors are considered, including sustainability, calls for service, community population and infrastructure requirements, according to Ngan Trinh, spokesperson for the Department of Justice.
“The RCMP have significant levels of mandatory training to maintain, and the GNWT has supported them through our contract to ensure they have what they need,” said Trinh. “A large portion of the Department of Justice budget goes to policing.”