(The Canadian Press)

Indigenous leaders call for systemic review of RCMP practices

Culturally responsive policing practised by First Nations police forces has been working well, group says

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.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

RCMP

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

Just Posted

‘It’s just my job’: Off-duty Peachland paramedic saves choking girl downtown Penticton

Family vacationing in Penticton assisted by off-duty paramedic, who helps save 13-year-old

Evacuation alert for homes near Dry Lake fire rescinded

Fire status changed to Under Control, crews remain on site patrolling and extinguishing hot spots

Morning Start: The human body contains trace amounts of gold

Your morning start for Friday, August 7, 2020

COLUMN: Listen to those who know about COVID-19

Accurate information is essential when understanding the pandemic

Penticton man wakes to wildfire, forced to evacuate from home

A wildfire sparked off the side of Highway 97 near Penticton on Thursday

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Number of Kelowna-linked COVID-19 cases grows to 159

Interior Health reported four new cases region-wide on Friday, 18 remain active

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

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

Police watchdog deems Kelowna RCMP not responsible for man’s death

The man spoke to police after a car crash before leaving on foot; he was found dead six hours later

Central Okanagan adds 3,600 jobs in July: Statistics Canada

The region’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.2 percentage points to 10 per cent in July

Vandals target North Okanagan camper

COVID-19 ‘No camping’ warnings sprayed on local camper

Most Read