Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik February 09, 2018 - 11:30 am

Nunavik police ask for money, training to prepare for cannabis legalization

Quebec's police academy cannot keep up with demand

SARAH ROGERS
The KRPF is negotiating a new funding agreement with the federal and provincial governments, which it hopes will include money to train more officers to detect impaired drivers in Nunavik—particularly as recreation marijuana use is legalized later this year. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
The KRPF is negotiating a new funding agreement with the federal and provincial governments, which it hopes will include money to train more officers to detect impaired drivers in Nunavik—particularly as recreation marijuana use is legalized later this year. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

Time and money pose a challenge for Nunavik’s police force in its efforts to prepare officers to respond to new federal legislation coming this year that will legalize the possession and sale of recreational cannabis.

Many expect this will increase cannabis use in the region.

One Kativik Regional Police Force officer has begun the first portion of a five-week training session to prepare officers to detect drivers who are under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.

The training is required for officers to produce the evidence they need to convict impaired drivers, which includes a breath or saliva test done on the spot.

Currently, the only place Quebec police officers can receive this training is at its police academy, École nationale de police du Québec.

“Now the situation is that there is so much demand [for that training] they are restructuring the program,” said Michel Martin, the KRPF’s outgoing chief.

“Every police agency in Quebec is asking to send members, but they just don’t have enough instructors.”

The Nunavik police force, like agencies across the country, is ramping up for changes expected later this year, when the federal government legalizes marijuana.

Quebec’s own legislation includes a strict zero-tolerance rule for driving under the influence of marijuana, or any drug. Drivers who fail that test would have their licences suspended for 90 days.

A major element of the training involves teaching officers how to use breathalyzers or saliva screening devices on the job.

Another part of the training focuses specifically on recognizing the symptoms and behaviour of marijuana or other drug use, Martin said.

But even when Quebec’s police academy is equipped to offer that training to more officers, the cost to train officers in each of its 14 communities would be prohibitive, he said.

The KRPF is currently negotiating a new funding agreement with the governments of Quebec and Canada, which share the cost of financing the police force in proportions of 48 and 52 per cent, respectively.

Though Martin wraps up his role as chief on Feb. 12, making way for incoming KRPF chief Jean-Pierre Larose, he will stay on as a negotiator for the force until an agreement is reached.

Under the new agreement, the KRPF has asked for money to train at least one member in each of Nunavik’s communities to detect impaired drivers.

That’s crucial for officers to be able to convict impaired drivers, Martin said, given the three-hour window in which an officer can test a driver after they’re stopped.

Nunavik’s current police funding agreement expires at the end of March 2018.

The federal Bill C-45 is set to become law this summer, though Quebec—like other provincial and territorial government—has tabled its own legislation on how the substance will be regulated in the province, expected to be passed this spring.

Bill 157 would create the Quebec Cannabis Society, which would sell the product to adults at least 18 years old as an arm of the province’s liquor body, the Société des Alcools du Québec.

The new entity will be able to sell 30 grams of marijuana at a time. But as it stands, Quebecers will only be able to smoke cannabis at certain areas and they will not be able grow their own plants at home.

The KRPF put out its own release Feb. 7 warning of the dangers of driving after using marijuana.

“A driver under the influence of cannabis will be slower to react,” the release said.

“The chance of a crash or of an accident is therefore increased, putting at risk the passengers, pedestrians, dogs, and other drivers. Other abilities affected by drug impairment include coordination, attention, judgment and decision-making, which are all greatly important for driving.”

The KRPF has said there’s already an influx of marijuana in the region ahead of the legislative changes expected later this year.

On Jan. 27, officers seized 1,500 grams of cannabis from a person arriving at the Puvirnituq airport, contained in vacuum-sealed baggies—with an estimated northern value of about $60,000.

Police arrested a suspect who was charged with possession of the drug for the purpose of trafficking.

The Government of Nunavut has drafted it own proposal for regulating marijuana in the territory, which it’s presenting to Nunavummiut as part of community consultations this winter.

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