Indigenous leaders call for systemic review of RCMP practices

Indigenous leaders call for systemic review of RCMP practices

OTTAWA — Canada’s national police force has a shattered relationship with Indigenous Peoples and must re-examine how it treats individuals, especially those who are homeless or dealing with addiction issues, the head of a national Inuit organization said Thursday.

“I think what we’re seeing is policing through stereotypes,” Natan Obed, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, told MPs on the public safety committee.

“Without a relationship between the RCMP and the community, Inuit aren’t seen as people but we’re seen through all the negative lenses that perhaps the general Canadian society thinks of when they think of Inuit and what it’s like to police Inuit.”

This leads to over-policing and under-policing: excessive use of force in some cases, while Indigenous women are murdered or going missing with little to no police follow-up, he added.

The committee is probing the issue of systemic racism in policing in Canada, following a number of serious and violent incidents between the RCMP and Indigenous Peoples this year, including several in Nunavut.

“What we know paints a distressing picture of the systemic nature of police violence and discrimination against our communities,” Obed said.

“What is clear is that systemic racism and racism itself kills,” he said, calling for action.

Virtually all of the witnesses, including First Nations and Inuit leaders, as well as a number of social policy experts, urged Ottawa to launch an independent, civilian review of RCMP practices as a first step in addressing the problem.

Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations said there is an urgent need for less punitive and more restorative options for policing.

He called zero-tolerance policies on use of force, greater use of body cameras and for the federal government to create a national strategic plan for First Nations justice.

“Really what we’re looking for is more restorative justice and more looking towards rehabilitation and alternatives to jails,” Teegee said.

Given the generations of history of distrust between many Indigenous Peoples and the Mounties, the onus is on the force to try to rebuild this relationship, said Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.

This should include a more trauma-informed and culturally sensitive approach and an attempt to communicate in their traditional languages, Kotierk added.

A number of calls also emerged for more First Nations and Inuit RCMP officers and for longer deployments, particularly in northern communities.

But these ideas could be more challenging to implement, according to some of the experts, as many First Nations and Inuit might wish to travel elsewhere, rather than don the RCMP uniform in their own communities.

“To ask an Indigenous person to train in a colonial form of policing to police their own communities is really to ask them to adopt an internal identity struggle before they even have their first day on the job,” said Robert S. Wright, a social worker and sociologist who also spoke about disproportionate police violence against Black Canadians.

Terry McCaffrey of the Indigenous Police Chiefs of Ontario said culturally responsive policing practised by First Nations police forces has been working well, despite chronic underfunding.

He urged Ottawa to follow through on its promise to designate First Nations policing as an essential service.

“The IPCO services have made the effort to ensure that our policing services align with the values of our community, instead of trying to force our communities to align with conventional policing values,” McCaffrey said.

“Communities want accountability from the police. Indigenous police forces are accountable to our communities and not just when there’s a tragedy.”

As the government moves forward to address public outcry over systemic racism in policing, any reforms or reviews must involve First Nations, Inuit and Metis at the outset to help guide and inform outcomes, the witnesses told the committee.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2020.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Indigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP investigate possible drowning at Pigeon Lake: Man and woman found dead on shore

Bodies recovered from Pigeon Lake’s northeastern shores.

134 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday

First day over 100 cases since July 31

Lacombe resident creates labyrinth near Breton

Marsha Duggan encourages others to use their imagination

1 in 7 Albertans have been tested for COVID-19

56 additional cases Thursday, 1,107 active cases remain in the province

#EndBikeTheft campaign comes to Lacombe

CACPC and 529 Garage partner to register bikes in central Alberta

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gather in Wetaskiwin

Protestors gathered along 56 St Wetaskiwin, Alta. August 4, 2020 for Indigenous Lives Matter.

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

13-year-old charged in death of boy, 10 in Maskwacis

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 13-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

‘Caught up in the frenzy:’ Oilers 50/50 draw breaking ticket sale records

Previous record was held by Toronto Raptors fans when a 50/50 raffle reached $2 million

Alberta jury trials to resume next month at offsite locations due to COVID-19

About 12 locations across Alberta may host the trials in halls, hotels and community centres

Alberta school curriculum to focus on basics, keep out political bias: minister

NDP education critic says the kindergarten to Grade 4 changes should have been implemented a year ago

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Walmart to make face masks mandatory for customers across Canada

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

Most Read