Should Nunavummiut lock up their guns in a single storage facility in each community?
That’s the prospect Justice Paul Bychok raised during a July 11 sentencing in a case involving armed robbery in Iqaluit. Bychok said there are an “alarming” number of firearms offences in the territory.

photo courtesy of Ana Leishman
Instructor Glen Brocklebank, right, talks with course participant Rob Humby on how to ensure a firearm is safe to handle during a firearm safety course in Chesterfield Inlet on Feb. 4, 2017.

“Far too many angry, intoxicated or mentally ill persons are grabbing firearms and putting at grave risk the lives and safety of others,” the judge said.
Bychok referenced a previous suggestion from fellow judge Neil Sharkey that Nunavummiut should be able to “store their firearms in a safe, secure and readily accessible hamlet facility.” He said perhaps it’s time to revisit that idea.
Nunavut News/North contacted people in positions of power, authority and influence to get their thoughts on the issue. These are the questions asked of them, and their responses follow below:

  1. Do you agree that unsafe use and storage of firearms and firearms-related crimes are a troubling issue in Nunavut?
  2. Would you endorse central storage locations for firearms in each community? If not, why not?
  3. Do you have any other suggestions in regards to improving safe use and storage of guns in the territory?

James Eetoolook
Vice-president, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
“Nunavut Tunngavik Inc has always been a strong supporter of safe use and storage of guns in Nunavut and has reinforced the Government of Nunavut’s initiatives in trigger lock and public awareness campaigns. It is up to each community to engage hunters and community members to decide whether adapting central storage units are the proper precautions to manage their firearms.”

Stanley Anablak
President, Kitikmeot Inuit Association
1) Yes, people need to be educated of safe use and storage of firearms.
2) No, as this is a burden to those who hunt for living and cumbersome and a hassle if a hunter is (leaving) early in the morning and no (one) is available to assist the hunter.
3) Yes, each household should receive free trigger lock for safety reasons.

William MacKay
Deputy minister of Justice and deputy attorney general of Nunavut
1) The Department of Justice agrees that the unsafe use and storage of firearms and firearms-related crimes is a serious issue in Nunavut. Our department is committed to addressing this issue through our Nunavut Crime Prevention Strategy to support and encourage community based prevention programs. Our department also supports the ongoing firearm safety programs between the RCMP and the Department of Health.
2) The Department of Justice is not the lead department for firearm safety initiatives; we are not in a position to speak to this issue.
3) The Department of Justice encourages the communities to get in touch with their local community justice outreach worker to learn more about the Nunavut Crime Prevention Strategy to see how they can access funding for crime prevention and public safety, which include firearm safety.

Dr. Kim Barker
Chief medical officer of health
1) The Department of Health is working with the RCMP to promote and provide free trigger locks to all gun owners in Nunavut. There is a Firearms Safety Campaign that Health collaborates with the RCMP, which encompasses the distribution of trigger locks and cable locks, and the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC). In 2016, Health and RCMP trained and certified approximately 40 new instructors from across Nunavut to teach the Canadian Firearms Safety Course. These trainers can now facilitate the CFSC in their home communities, thereby increase knowledge about safe handling, storage, and use of firearms, and the number of Possession and Acquisition Licenses.
Health is translating the CFSC course books into Inuktitut in partnership with Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit [IUT] linguists and terminology team.
2) The Department of Health is supportive of initiatives to protect Nunavummiut and promote hunter safety and firearm safety. Of course, a central firearms’ storage depot in communities would need the support of Inuit organizations, communities, including gun owners/hunters/wildlife officers. The department’s ongoing work with RCMP recognizes the value of safe use and storage of firearms through safety courses and the trigger lock program.
3) The Department of Health procured 11,000 trigger locks to continue the door-to-door campaign which started in 2016 to provide free trigger locks to gun owners. The goal is to visit every home in Nunavut by 2018.

Sgt. David Lawson
RCMP V Division media coordinator
“The RCMP does not comment from statements made in court. The Nunavut RCMP does support and work with the Government of Nunavut on their initiatives for gun safety and overall public safety. The Nunavut RCMP will continue to support the GN’s initiatives and promote public safety in every aspect while taking into account the boating, camping and the hunting culture of Nunavut.”

Limited or no response

Sima Sahar Zerehi
Director of communications, Qiqiktani Inuit Association
“QIA will be deferring to NTI on this issue as it is a territorial matter.”

David Ningeongan
President, Kivalliq Inuit Association
Did not respond

Jeannie Ehaloak
Mayor of Cambridge Bay
“No comment.”

Robert Janes
Mayor of Rankin Inlet
Did not respond

Kimberly Masson
Executive director, Embrace Life Council
“In speaking with (Embrace Life Council president) David (Lawson), we are declining comment on these questions as, while we want all Nunavummiut to be safe and healthy, Embrace Life Council really has no policies or protocols developed around firearms.”

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...