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Break-in blow up at school

Jillian Dickens
Northern News Services

Arctic Bay (Dec 12/05) - The absence of community groups is being blamed for 11 break and enters that hit Arctic Bay's Inuujaq school this year.

Mayor Niore Iqalukjuak says that since groups such as the Elder's Committee, the Youth Justice Committee and the Caregiver's Committee went stagnant over the spring and summer months, youth have suffered.

"We've felt these organizations have been too inactive in the community," said Iqalukjuak.

"Once the elders become more active and vocal they can encourage the youth to go to them for advice," said Iqalukjuak.

"There was vandalism... door knobs, doors and a window was broken, and filing cabinets were busted up," said Iqalukjuak.

Information on what, if anything, had been stolen was unavailable.

Cpl. Aletha McDonald said one adult and four youth have been hit with "an array of charges," in connection with the 11 break and enters.

These charges include: break, enter and theft; break, enter and mischief (damaging property) and a separate offence of mischief "which is unlawfully interfering in the lawful use of property," said McDonald.

The school had to be closed for 10 half-days and one full-day while RCMP investigated the scene after each break-in.

One youth's charge is being processed through the Community Justice Committee because the young offender had no previous record, said McDonald. This way, the youth and the crime is dealt with on a community level, without getting the courts involved.

One accused appeared in Iqaluit for a show cause hearing Dec. 5. The remaining youth will make their first court appearance Feb. 27 in Arctic Bay. None of the people charged attend the school.

Although the traditional justice system is being put to work, Iqalukjuak says that's not the point.

"With 11 break-ins, we are thinking it's not just for fun any more and they are asking for help, even though this is not a good way of doing it," he said.

"It hurts the community. People are going on the radio pleading with people not to break into the school."

Iqalukjuak has also asked the department of education to list Inuujaq school as a top priority for the installation of security cameras supposed to be installed in every school by Christmas.

"Although I've been told that even those would not have deterred the perpetrators," said Iqalukjuak.

Wende Halonen, who works with the department, said Inuujaq school is slated to have the cameras in place by the end of January.

Ron Elliott, Nunavut Arctic College instructor and active community member, said another reason is the lack of a community hall and youth centre.

He said at this time the school gymnasium is also being used as a meeting room for any AGMs or other business that needs to be taken care of. That means whenever there is a meeting the gym is closed for youth sports or whatever, said Elliott.

An interagency meeting with the committees listed above, plus the RCMP and members of the territorial justice and health department met Dec. 2 for many reasons, and one was to encourage more community activism.

The meeting went well, said the mayor. People agreed the community must take charge and pool resources to make a difference.

Another meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13.

On Dec. 14, members of the Nunavut Youth Consulting group (a youth-run action committee) will organize a youth strategic planning meeting. The recent break-ins and ways to help youth will be discussed.

In the spring and summer, many people replace regular routine with hunting, camping and other land-based activities, therefore dissolving committee activity. Generally in the fall committee activity resumes, but this year was different.

Over the summer two elders died and "some people got sick," said Iqalukjuak. "There are contributing factors as to why everything went stagnant."

On a positive note, Iqalukjuak says this spike in offenses shows community groups really do make a difference.

"We want to make it known they are another resource."