Coroner’s inquest begins into RCMP shooting death of man in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut

coroner's inquest

A coroner’s inquest into the death of a 21-year-old man begins today in a remote hamlet in Nunavut, five years after he was shot and killed by RCMP.

Charles Qirngnirq was shot in December 2016 by an officer in Gjoa Haven, a community of about 1,400 people in western Nunavut.

RCMP said at the time they had received reports of a suicidal man with a rifle near the community’s airport.

A release said two officers tried to de-escalate the situation and asked Qirngnirq to put his weapon down, but he did not comply.

The inquest is to start with jury selection and is expected to run until Friday.

The jury is to determine the cause and circumstances of the death and make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

Since Jan. 1, 2020, there have been six serious encounters involving police in Nunavut, including the shooting deaths of Abraham Natanine in Clyde River and Attachie Ashoona in Kinngait.

Inquests have not yet been held for Natanine or Ashoona.

Earlier this year, Ottawa police cleared the officer who shot Ashoona as well as the officer who knocked down a man with a truck door during an arrest in Kinngait. That arrest was filmed and posted online by a community member and criticized by the federal Indigenous Services minister as dehumanizing.

Kinngait
Ottawa police cleared an RCMP officer who struck this man with a door during an arrest in Kinngait, Nunavut.

Ottawa police were also called in to conduct a review of Qirngnirq’s death.

Nunavut has a memorandum of understanding with the Ottawa Police Service to investigate all incidents in the territory involving police. A bill passed in the territory’s legislative assembly last springaims to create an independent oversight body of the Nunavut RCMP.

The inquest into Qirngnirq’s death is to be held at the community hall in Gjoa Haven. It will be led by the Nunavut coroner’s counsel Sheldon Toner and presided over by Nunavut chief coroner Elizabeth Copland.

The Canadian Press