(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

District of Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen recently photographed the town’s original cemetery — now completely overgrown — among the trails behind the Vanderhoof Museum and Visitor Centre. (Gerry Thiessen photo)
Mayor, historical society examine ways to mark Vanderhoof’s original cemetery

“It is a part of our history and we don’t want that history to evaporate,” Thiessen said.

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

There have been 23 cases of reported cases of COVID-19 in the Nechako Lakes Health Area

’Herbert’ Shane Hartman with his daughter Isla. (Shane Hartman Facebook photo)
Love for daughter and drumming leads to author’s first book

Shane Hartman spent very spare moment writing and illustrating Isla’s New Drum

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A full moon rises over Mt. Cheam on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rare full moon, Daylight Saving makes for a uniquely spooky Halloween – despite COVID-19

We can’t host costume parties but this weekend is still one for the history books

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

A study by SlotsOnlineCanada notes there is at least 88 hours of top-rated horror movies for Canadians to consume this Halloween. (Unsplash)
Spooks and Chill study reveals Canada’s favourite horror flicks

88 hours of top-rated horror movies can fill COVID-19 Halloween

Most Read