Nunavut’s top cop defends RCMP mistaken arrest

‘Would you prefer us just to say that there’s somebody out there with a rifle, pointing it?’

Ashevak Montague had just left his Iqaluit home on Saturday Sept. 26, to go hunting. His mother, Iqaluit Deputy Mayor Janet Brewster, estimates he had only been outside for 15 seconds when four Iqaluit RCMP pulled out high powered rifles and ordered him to the ground.

Montague had a rifle slung over his back and was wearing camoflague, like you do when you go hunting.

Brewster said her son had his firing bolt removed, like safe hunters do when still in town. Problem was – moments earlier- Iqaluit RCMP received a report of a man wearing camo, pointing a rifle at people outside a nearby convenience store.

According to Stats Canada, 65 per cent of all Inuit hunt, fish or trap annually.

Plenty of them wear camo and carry rifles. The description the RCMP received of the suspect could have matched many of those hunters.

APTN News asked Nunavut’s top ranking RCMP officer, Chief Superintendent Amanda Jones, why her department would issue such a vague description.

“That’s the only description we had. If we don’t have any other description, we can’t provide that, so that’s what the members have to go on, and that’s what they end up releasing,” said Jones.

Nunavut RCMP are contracted by the Department of Justice in Nunavut. Jeannie Ehaloak is the minister.

“I was saddened to hear that this had happened,” said Ehaloak. “I think RCMP should take into consideration that; you’re in the North. You’re going to see people walking around with guns.”

Jones was unwavering.

“Would you prefer us to just say that there’s somebody out there with a rifle, pointing it?” asked Jones. “It is the only description we had to give the public. Going back to the public, if you’re providing information [to the RCMP], be as detailed as you can, so we can go find the right person.”

Images of the arrest were shared widely on social media. What stands out are the ones with the RCMP members holding high powered carbine rifles.

“If you have immediate danger to public and self, somebody else with a firearm,” explained Jones. “Where you have someone with a firearm and you’re not sure what type of firearm they have. It could be a high powered rifle or a .22. In order to meet that, they would bring out their carbines.”

Ashevak Montague did everything police asked and was released in time to actually make his hunting trip, but not before being cuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser. Even after he was on the ground, following directions, the photos show that RCMP kept their weapons trained on him until he was cuffed.

We asked, “When do you point your rifles away.”

“When you have the person secured,” said Jones. “Just because somebody is on the ground with their hands behind their head doesn’t mean they’re secure, right? They can easily jump up, they might have something in their pockets. We don’t know if there is another gun somewhere, or a knife or anything. Until that person’s hands are behind their back and in handcuffs.”

Nunavut RCMP still haven’t located the person who was allegedly pointing a rifle at convenience store shoppers, and the investigation into that incident continues.