Jan. 6, 2021: The Tyee – Erin O’Toole, leader of the Conservative Party is opposed to any prisoner receiving a COVID-19 vaccination before the rest of the population. About 600 prisoners (4% of the total prison population) have been prioritized as vulnerable due to pre-existing conditions and/or age. Given that 30%+ of all federal prisoners are Indigenous (42% for Indigenous women). Perhaps O’Toole should listen to the health experts rather than his conservative “tough on law” agenda that ignores the racist and discriminatory policies that are directly accountable for the high incarceration rates.
As of Dec. 31, 2020 Indigenous Watchdog has reported the following updates to investigations into excessive use of force by the RCMP and other police forces as well as other systemic racism issues.
This is a clear – and unfortunate – example of reconciliation in action.
|RCMP||What is the issue||Outcome|
|BC||RCMP spying on Indigenous and climate advocates||BC Civil Liberties Association launch lawsuit against RCMP Commissioner for delays in releasing report|
|BC||Arrest of Wet’suwet’en land defenders on their territory||RCMP were enforcing an existing court injunction granted to Coastal Gas Link. No consequences. BC Government is silent|
|Alberta||Attack on First Nation Chief Allan Adam||Charges against Chief Adam dropped. Province opened an online survey as part of review of the Police Act|
|Manitoba||Indigenous woman knocked out in RCMP station||No formal investigation launched by the RCMP who pressured women to withdraw charges|
|New Brunswick||Shooting deaths of two Indigenous people in 8 days||Government refuses to call an independent investigation, fires Minister of Indigenous Affairs who supports calling one|
|Nunavut||Inuit man knocked down by moving truck open door||No charges against RCMP officer driving the truck who was making a lawful arrest. Determined to be an accident|
|Nfld & Labrador||Nunatsiavut Govt calls for investigation into death of 23-year-old Inuk woman||RCMP concludes nothing suspicious despite multiple requests for an independent investigation|
|Other Police Forces|
|Winnipeg||3 Indigenous people killed including a 16-year old girl||Under investigation by Manitobas Child and Youth Advocate and Manitoba’s Independent Investigation Unit|
|Vancouver||Issues with independent review of street checks||Government has appointed a former Information and Privacy Commissioner to review the Street Check report|
|Montreal||Montreal street checks disproportionately target Indigenous people||City of Montreal releases its “Reconciliation Strategy for Indigenous People:. Has full support or AFNQL|
|Toronto||Death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in the presence of 7 Toronto police officers||No charges laid against any of the 7 police officers. Report acknowledges systemic racism. Police spend $34M on body cameras and enhance mobile crisis intervention team|
|OPP||Arrests of Indigenous journalists at 1492 Land Back Lane protest||OPP have refused comment. Provincial government is silent.|
|Systemic racism issues|
|Ontario||Barbara Kentner death after being hit by trailer hitch||Initial second-degree murder charge reduced to manslaughter. Brayden Bushby convicted|
|BC||Injunctions criminalize Anuk ‘nu’at’en||Anuk ‘nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law) is being broken by the RCMP, Coastal GasLink and the government of Canada|
|Quebec||Release of “Racism in Quebec: ZERO Tolerance“||Government refuses to accept that systemic racism exists in Quebec despite the 142 recommendations of the Viens Commission that states that it does|
Advancing Reconciliation = 3
Roadblocks to Reconciliation = 12
April 20, 2020 – First Nations leadership across BC is united in calling for immediate action to protect incarcerated peoples amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 outbreak at the Mission Institution is now the third largest outbreak in the Province of BC, with the first inmate tragically passing away on April 15, 2020. Senior health and corrections officials have verified that almost 40% of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Mission Institution are among Indigenous inmates despite Indigenous people making up just 5% of the population in BC.
Jan. 21, 2020 – (Toronto Star) The same urgent calls to action are raised in the final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), as well as two recent parliamentary committee studies on Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system. These bodies have called upon the federal government to implement measures recommended by the Office including:
- Transfer resources and responsibility to Indigenous groups and communities for the care, custody and supervision of Indigenous offenders.
- Appoint a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections.
- Increase access and availability of culturally relevant correctional programming.
- Clarify and enhance the role of Indigenous elders.
- Improve engagement with Indigenous communities and enhance their capacity to provide reintegration services.
- Enhance access to screening, diagnosis and treatment of Indigenous offenders affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
- Develop assessment and classification tools responsive to the needs and realities of Indigenous people caught up in the criminal justice system.
As Dr. Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator concluded: “It is not acceptable that Indigenous people in this country experience incarceration rates that are six to seven times higher than the national average. Bold and urgent action is required to address one of Canada’s most persistent and pressing human rights issues.”
“Access to Elders and healing lodges have shown to be effective in reducing offenders’ likelihood of reoffending. These and other culturally-based programs and supports must be made accessible in a timely manner in order to ensure successful rehabilitation. This report illustrates clearly why First Nations-led restorative justice systems are a critical component to closing the gap in the quality of life for First Nations citizens. Actions speak louder than words.”
Office of the Auditor General of Canada: Report 3 – Preparing Indigenous Offenders for Release. Correctional Service Canada. November 29, 2016
Justice Calls to Action
There are 18 Justice Calls to Action. To find out more about each Call to Action, including government responses and progress to date, visit the links below.
|Call to Action #25||Affirm independence of RCMP from government civil litigation|
|Call to Action #26||Review and amend their respective Statutes of Limitations|
|Call to Action #27||Ensure lawyers receive cultural competency and Indigenous rights training|
|Call to Action #28||Mandatory law school course on Aboriginal people and the law|
|Call to Action #29||Settlement Agreements for those excluded from the TRC process|
|Call to Action #30||Commit to eliminate overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody|
|Call to Action #31||Provide stable funding to implement alternatives to imprisonment|
|Call to Action #32||Amend Criminal Code to depart from mandatory minimum sentences|
|Call to Action #33||Develop culturally relevant FASD prevention program|
|Call to Action #34||Reform criminal justice system to address needs of people with FASD|
|Call to Action #35||Eliminate barriers to creation of new Aboriginal healing lodges|
|Call to Action #36||Deliver culturally relevant services to inmates on social issues|
|Call to Action #37||Provide more supports for Aboriginal programs in halfway houses|
|Call to Action # 38||Commit to eliminate overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth in jail|
|Call to Action #39||Develop national plan to publish data on Indigenous criminal victimization|
|Call to Action #40||Create funded and accessible Indigenous-specific victim programs|
|Call to Action #41||Appoint public inquiry into MMIWG|
|Call to Action #42||Commit to recognize and implement Aboriginal Justice Systems|
In addition to the above 18 Justice Calls to Action, the Reconciliation Calls to Action included 3 Calls to Action for “Equity for Aboriginal People in the Legal System” that are more focused on broader justice themes of Indigenous legal systems, treaties and title claims. They have been included here to keep all the Justice related Calls to Action consolidated in one place.
Equity for Aboriginal People in the Legal System Calls to Action
|Call to Action #50||Fund establishment of Indigenous law institutes|
|Call to Action #51||Publish legal opinion on Aboriginal and Treaty rights|
|Call to Action #52||Adopt “acceptance and burden of proof” principles on Aboriginal claims|
Current Problems and Issues in Justice
Systemic Racism in RCMP Policing
Release of RCMP’s Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC)report on the RCMP’s investigation and interactions with Colten Boushie’s family after his death in 2016
Mar. 22, 2021: RCMP’s Civilian Review and Complaints Commission – released the CRCC’s report that made 47 findings and 17 recommendations to address the deficiencies identified in the RCMP’s investigation and interactions with Colten Boushie’s family after his death in 2016. Some issues were of significant concern, like the failure to protect the vehicle Mr. Boushie was sitting in when he was shot. This, in conjunction with an unreasonable delay in obtaining a search warrant for the property, led to the loss of evidence as a result of inclement weather. There were also deficiencies in the RCMP’s interactions with some of the witnesses.
The CRCC’s investigation found that the RCMP members who notified Mr. Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, of his death treated her with such insensitivity that her treatment amounted to discrimination. The RCMP members’ actions included questioning Ms. Baptiste about her sobriety, smelling her breath, and looking inside her microwave to verify her statement that she had put her now-deceased son’s dinner there.
The CRCC made additional findings about the conduct of the RCMP members who attended Ms. Baptiste’s home on the evening of Mr. Boushie’s death in a separate report relating to a public complaint made by the family.
In its public interest investigation, the CRCC also found that the attendance of RCMP members at the funeral hall where Mr. Boushie’s wake was being held was unreasonable and contributed to a further deterioration of the RCMP’s relationship with the family. The CRCC noted that many of the deficiencies in the RCMP’s investigation, as well as some of the deficiencies in the next-of-kin notification of Mr. Boushie’s mother, were the result of internal communication failures involving instances where RCMP members did not adequately convey important information to other RCMP members.
Another primary observation was the lack of attendance of the Major Crimes Unit (MCU) at the crime scene. In the CRCC’s opinion, this was a contributing factor in many of the issues raised in its report. The more serious oversights or omissions could have been diminished or avoided had there been an on-site MCU presence.
The RCMP Commissioner accepted without debate almost all of the CRCC’s findings, including the finding relating to the discriminatory treatment of Ms. Baptiste. The only exceptions related to more technical and less central findings. The RCMP Commissioner agreed to implement all of the CRCC’s recommendations. In response to the recommendation for increased mandatory cultural awareness training, the RCMP Commissioner provided a long list of programs that the RCMP has implemented, and is still implementing.
Mar. 23, 2021: Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – The AMC expresses outrage at the information in the report by the CRCC into RMCP conduct in the killing of Colten Boushie. The report advised that Ms. Baptiste, as a First Nation woman, was racially discriminated against by RCMP members when they came to notify her of her son’s murder…These reported actions are symptomatic of systemic racial discrimination against First Nations by the RCMP…The AMC is further extremely concerned at the actions taken in destroying key evidence knowing that this matter would be examined in civil court at a later date. This obstruction of justice by members of the RCMP concerning Colten’s murder is unacceptable to the Chiefs in Manitoba and must be dealt with decisively. Subsequent statements from RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki dismissing the destruction of evidence as ‘not criminal’ is simply a deflection and a further example of long-standing systemic racism as evidenced through this dismissive tone at the top brass.
Mar. 24, 2021: Public Safety Canada – Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, issued a statement indicating that The Commissioner of the RCMP has implemented 16 of the recommendations, and is on track to fully implement all of them by April 2021. All employees of the Saskatchewan RCMP will have completed a mandatory Cultural Awareness and Humility course by April 1, 2021. This is a step in the right direction, but we expect that the RCMP will take further, ongoing steps to educate themselves on how best they can best protect our communities all across the country.
Mar. 24, 2021: CBC – First Nations chiefs and mayors in the Saskatchewan region where Colten Boushie was killed in 2016 say more needs to be done to combat racism. Following the release this week of an RCMP watchdog report into the shooting death of the 22-year-old Red Pheasant Cree Nation man, they’ve issued a group statement vowing to work together on justice and reconciliation. The letter is endorsed by Leslie, Semaganis, Lucky Man Cree Nation Chief Crystal Okemow, Sweetgrass First Nation Chief Lorie Whitecalfe, Moosomin First Nation Chief Brad Swiftwolfe, Saulteaux First Nation Chief Kenny Moccasin and North Battleford Mayor David Gillan. They say they hope to soon expand their working group to include other regional First Nations and towns, as well as the Métis Nation and rural municipalities
Delays preventing the release of a civilian watchdog report into RCMP spying on Indigenous and Climate advocates” in BC
Nov. 10, 2020: BC Civil Liberties Association – BCCLA is launching a lawsuit against RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki “for inexcusable delays preventing the release of a civilian watchdog report into RCMP spying on Indigenous and climate advocates”. “In February 2014, the BCCLA filed a complaint against the RCMP contending it illegally spied on the democratic activities of organizations and Indigenous nations opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. The complaint further alleged the RCMP improperly shared the information it collected with oil companies and the National Energy Board. The BCCLA argued the RCMP’s secret surveillance created a chilling effect and violated constitutional rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and privacy.
The RCMP watchdog, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC), launched an investigation into BCCLA’s complaint in 2014 and completed its interim report in June 2017. It forwarded the interim report to the RCMP Commissioner for response. The CRCC cannot prepare a final report available to the public and the BCCLA until the RCMP Commissioner responds.
Over three years later, the RCMP Commissioner still has not provided her response. The RCMP Act requires the RCMP Commissioner to respond to CRCC interim reports as soon as feasible. In 2019, the RCMP specifically committed to responding to CRCC reports in a 6-month timeline.
The BCCLA’s lawsuit claims the RCMP Commissioner has breached her obligations under the RCMP Act and violated the BCCLA’s Charter right to freedom of expression by failing to respond.
19-year old Indigenous women is punched in the face and knocked unconscious and denied medical attention for a full 15 minutes after hitting her head against a wall and a concrete floor
Nov. 9, 2020: CBC – Genesta Garson a 19-year-old member of Tataskweyak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba “was knocked unconscious at an RCMP detachment in Thompson, Man., and despite the act being caught on video, no formal investigation was launched. She was picked up on suspicion of being intoxicated by two community safety officers. During a disputed altercation, Greer was punched in the face. Despite smacking ger head against a wall and a concrete floor no medical assistance was provided for over 15 minutes until an ambulance arrived to take her to a local hospital.
After the incident RCMP officers made multiple visits to her home in Split Lake, 140kms north of Thompson, asking her to sign a form withdrawing the complaint her lawyer had filed with the RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission
The incident highlights three issues:
- Community Safety Officers need independent oversight
- do not fall under the jurisdiction of the province’s police watchdog, which investigates when an officer may have caused the death or serious injury of a person, or have contravened certain laws.
- RCMP officials say oversight for safety officers falls to the City of Thompson and, if there were criminal allegations, the RCMP would investigate.
- Though the region has a fraction of Winnipeg’s population of 700,000, figures provided by the RCMP show that people in the North are detained under Intoxicated Persons Detention Act (IPDA) at a rate six times greater than those in the capital.
- The IPDA is disproportionately applied against Indigenous people
- Given the treatment Genesta received at the RCMP detachment, multiple visits by different RCMP officers to her home could be seen as applying undue pressure on her to withdraw the charges
The RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission issued its Final Report on the RCMP’s actions in managing the Indigenous protests over shale-gas exploration in New Brunswick in 2013
Nov. 12, 2020 – The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission of the RCMP issued its Final Report on the RCMP’s actions in managing Indigenous protests over shale-gas exploration by SWN Resources Canada in New Brunswick in 2013. After reviewing the RCMP’s response to the interim report’s findings on the 21 specific complaints, the CRCC Chairperson noted “with concern, however, that the RCMP has expressed reluctance to take action with regard to some of these findings and recommendations, and as expressed in the Kent County report, I encourage them to do so without delay… Canada’s ongoing reconciliation with Indigenous people includes protecting the rights of those whose voices have been diminished by systemic sources of racism in our society”.
The RCMP’s own views about the appropriateness of its members’ actions should not be allowed to govern in a case where the independent oversight body has reached a different conclusion, and no further factual information or explanation is being offered by the RCMP. Such a process would amount to giving the RCMP carte blanche to come to its own conclusions about its members’ actions.
In its response, the RCMP acknowledged a number of the Commission’s findings, including several of those critical of its actions. Furthermore, the RCMP agreed to implement several of the Commission’s recommendations:
- including sensitivity and awareness training related to Indigenous culture and sacred items;
- better information sharing with crisis negotiators; and
- refreshers for RCMP members on law and policy for search and seizure.
However, the Commission has serious concerns about the RCMP’s response to some of its findings and recommendations. Those concerns are discussed in the preface to its report. Of note, while the RCMP indicated that it supported 8 of the Commission’s 12 recommendations, it believed 3 of those required no further action. This concerns the Commission, as these included recommendations concerning roadblocks, exclusion zones and limits to police powers. The Commission made recommendations about these issues because there were concerns about the RCMP’s actions in this case.
Executive Summary and Select Findings and Recommendation:
- The role of the RCMP in enforcing the law and legal injunctions: No fault found. The RCMP was not acting as SWN’s private security
- Was their approach in crisis management philosophy a “measured approach” Yes
- Were Surveillance and Searches consistent with Charter Rights. No. There were some unjustified actions
- Open-source intelligence gathering: recommendations on tightening operational practices and policies
- Freedom of expression, Association and Peaceful Assembly: recommendations to limit unreasonable enforcement of injunction powers
- Sensitivity to Indigenous culture, ceremonies and sacred items: All RCMP members review Native Spirituality Guide and any involved in Indigenous policing receive Indigenous cultural training
- Alleged bias against Indigenous protestors: No evidence to support Indigenous protestors being treated more harshly than non-Indigenous
- Tactical operation on Oct. 17, 2013: RCMP had legal authority to conduct the tactical operation but continuing negotiation beforehand would have been advisable
- Crisis Management Team (CMT): Isolating the CMT from information about around operational planning strategy was a mistake
- Arrests: With some exceptions, these actions were justified
- Use of Force: the use of force was generally necessary in the circumstances and was proportional to the conduct encountered by the members.
- Contingency Planning: Could have been better prepared to account for operational challenges: armed and/or belligerent protestors, more awareness of negative impact on children in school bus witnessing potential violence
- That, in addition to the Privacy Act and the RCMP’s existing policy and training, the RCMP provide clear policy guidance setting out defined and reasonably constrained intelligence and law enforcement parameters with respect to the collection of personal information from open sources such as social media sites, the uses that can be made of it, and what steps should be taken to ensure its reliability.
- That RCMP policy treat personal information and supporting documents obtained from social media sources containing personal information (such as screen captures of social media sites) as a separate category of records. This category of records should be kept for no longer than strictly necessary to provide intelligence for the event or purpose for which it was collected where it is established that there is no criminal nexus or national security dimension. Additionally, where an intelligence assessment or other product generated from open sources is to be retained, RCMP policy should require the anonymization or destruction of any personal information within that assessment where there is no connection to criminal activity or to the RCMP’s national security mandate (such as where the personal information relates to lawful dissent).
- That the RCMP develop policies providing that personal information obtained with respect to public order events like protests and demonstrations should be destroyed as soon as practicable and in accordance with applicable law once it is determined that there is no criminal nexus or that the information is otherwise no longer necessary for the purposes for which it was collected.
- That members involved in public order policing operations be provided with a review of law and policy related to search and seizure, including the warrant requirement and the legal grounds establishing exceptions for warrantless searches.
- That the RCMP provide members who are engaged in the policing of public protests/public order policing with detailed, accurate interpretations of the conditions of any injunction or unique legal provisions that they are expected to enforce, obtaining legal advice as necessary.
- That decisions to restrict access to public roadways or other public sites be made only with specific, objectively reasonable rationales for doing so, and if legally permissible, be done in a way that interferes with the rights of persons in as minimal a fashion as possible, for example, a buffer zone that is as limited in size as possible and an exclusion that is as short in duration as possible.
- That, particularly when policing a public protest, members be cognizant of the limits of their powers, specifically in relation to curtailing protesters’ ability to assemble and express themselves in a lawful manner.
- That the RCMP require all members to review the RCMP’s Native Spirituality Guide, and that all members involved in Indigenous policing, including members of tactical troop/public order units involved in policing protests by Indigenous persons, be required to attend a training program that is specifically aimed at understanding Indigenous cultural issues.
- That the RCMP initiate collaboration with various Indigenous stakeholders with a view to developing a context-specific, practical procedure providing guidance to members with regard to the handling of sacred items in various contexts.
- Although there are reasonable rationales for maintaining separation between negotiators and operational planners, the RCMP should give consideration to more fully informing Crisis Negotiation Team members of the overall strategy being pursued, to avoid regrettable misunderstandings, which can damage relationships between the RCMP and members of the public.
- The RCMP should consider drafting a policy that is specifically tailored to the Crisis Negotiation Team’s role in the circumstances of public order policing.
- That, in situations such as public order policing when RCMP members may be required to arrest persons using plastic tie wrap handcuffs, the restraints only be applied with as much force as is necessary to safely restrain the arrested person.
AFN calls for sweeping changes to the RCMP
Feb. 16, 2021: Toronto Star – A mandatory online training program called “Cultural Awareness and Humility” that was rolled our last fall for all RCMP members and touted by the commissioner as an example of the force’s efforts to modernize misses the mark on many levels according to experts who have reviewed the program for the Star, including:
- Lack of content addressing institutionalized racism. The training only emphasizes implicit biases and reforming individual attitudes and behaviours
- Role of RCMP in colonization was given short shrift – just three paragraphs
- A section dealing with how to avoid stereotyping in communication was too simplified
- Some sections contained outdated or confusing terminology
- A participant is simply given a certificate without needing to demonstrate any real change
- Courses could use a primer on Aboriginal jurisprudence and knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal rights.
- One page on the vulnerability of Indigenous women and girls is summed up in three paragraphs and glos0ses over the MMIWG
Jan. 27, 2021: NationTalk – RCMP reconciliation efforts aim to improve community safety and well-being, to enhance investigative standards, and to deliver the highest quality policing services. Efforts are also implemented within the organization to support the over 1,900 Indigenous employees of the RCMP and to inspire a culturally engaged, trauma-informed workforce.
Dec, 29, 2020 – Vision150 is our plan to modernize the RCMP. Our vision responds to the expectations set out in the Commissioner’s 2018 mandate letter and forms the core of our strategic direction. Vision 150 Tracker tracks progress on four themes: People, Culture, Stewardship and Policing Culture.
Tracking Progress for Policing Services: All the following are ON TRACK except when indicated as COMPLETE
- Ensure transparent oversight of serious incidents (Employees, communities, partners and other stakeholders have trust and confidence in the RCMP)
- Establish an Indigenous Lived Experience Advisory Group (Enhance the trust and confidence of partners and communities) COMPLETED
- Establish an Office for RCMP-Indigenous, Co-Development, Collaboration and Accountability (Improved relationships with and outcomes for Indigenous people)
- Implement local policing models that meet community needs (Improved collaboration with partners, communities, and other stakeholders)
- Implement national and divisional reconciliation strategies (Improved relationships with and outcomes for Indigenous people)
- Increase the use of restorative justice (Improved relationships with and outcomes for Canadians)
- Partner with Indigenous women’s groups (Improved relationships with and outcomes for Indigenous people)
- Support greater integration of community, health and social services (Enhanced relationships with partners, communities and stakeholders)
Oct. 27, 2020: Toronto Star – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations listed the following expectations First Nations chiefs have of the federal government in the wake of multiple incidents across Canada where Indigenous peoples were put at risk due to the actions and inactions of the RCMP.
- Civilian oversight with genuine disciplinary powers
- The Minister of Public Safety and the commissioner be responsible for delivering ant-racism training and education that produces results
- The minister must deliver organizational and systemic change within the RCMP from the top to the bottom to effectively address and eliminate discriminatory practices and mindsets
- Minister of public safety must work with First Nations to articulate clear expectations and actual performance standards for non-discriminatory, anti-racist policing
- Body cameras: They must be on at all time and officers must face discipline or dismissal for having switched off their cameras
- Zero tolerance for excessive use of force
- Better recruitment and training protocols: Racism and bias needs to be identified and called out early; officers need to be taught how to properly de-escalate conflicts
- Increased wages and incentives for experienced officers to stay in rural detachments: Encouraging more mature police to remain in the detachments where they know the people and the problems will inevitably lead to calmer more respectful relations both ways
RCMP remove Wet’suwet’en women protestors conducting ceremony on traditional lands at request of Coastal GasLink
Oct. 15, 2020: Coastal GasLink called in the RCMP to remove a group of Wet’suwet’en women and community members who are holding ceremony at a proposed drill site for Coastal Gaslink’s pipeline. Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) – UBCIC stands in solidarity with the Indigenous land defenders who are protecting the Wedzin Kwa, the river that sustains and gives life to their Nation, from test drilling. These land defenders are lawfully exercising their right to steward their unceded territories and strengthen their cultural ties to their lands through the sacred responsibility of prayer, smudging, and ceremony. The presence of the RCMP and the threat they represent – surveillance, intimidation, arrest, discrimination, and violence – undermines the authority and self-determination of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who have full jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en lands.
Given the forthcoming provincial election and renewed statements from political leaders regarding the importance of reconciliation and advancing Indigenous relations, it is worrisome that systemic violations of fundamental Indigenous and human rights continue to occur over major energy projects such as the CGL pipeline and the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX). Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the myriad of additional challenges First Nations are facing, the Province can no longer afford to deem industrial projects like the CGL pipeline and the TMX as essential services and adopt a “business as usual” approach. The health and safety of Indigenous communities must be prioritized.
Indigenous land defenders and community members cannot be criminalized and targeted for asserting their Title and Rights and conducting ceremonial and cultural traditions; this stands in acute opposition to the provincial government’s obligations under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
Excessive use of force in the RCMP arrest of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations Chief Allan Adam
June 11, 2020: Toronto Star – A day after the Alberta RCMP deputy commissioner denied there is systemic racism in policing in Canada, new video of the arrest of a high-profile First Nation chief threw fuel on the fire of what is quickly becoming a roaring issue in this country. Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations Chief Allan Adam was arrested for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest after being questioned over an expired licence plate. The video indicates an argument taking place but also seems to validate an unacceptable use of force during the arrest here Adams is tacked, punched and placed in a chokehold.
Adam is well known in Alberta as an advocate for environmental protection amidst the oilsands development that surrounds his community. He has raised concerns around the since cancelled Tecj resources mining project. “Because we are a minority and nobody speaks up for us, every time our people do wrong and the RCMP go and make their call, they always seem to use excessive force,” he said Saturday. “And that has to stop. And enough is enough.”
June 10, 2020: Native Alberta News – The Tŝilhqot’in Nation is urging Canada to take action to address systemic racism, particularly between First Nations and the RCMP and is calling to reform and remodel training for the RCMP to include better First Nation awareness. The RCMP seem to:
- lack an understanding of Indigenous peoples
- fail to understand our Indigenous rights and authority
- fail to understand the sensitivity of communicating in such a manner given our people’s history with residential schools.
- don’t understand indigenous people and how the institutions in this country have been created in a way that is implicitly biased.
Training within the RCMP is needed so that we can better identify all the underlying issues, make recommendations and improvements and, from there, begin healing.
June 25, 2020: Edmonton Journal – Charges against Chief Allan Adams have been dropped after release of police dashcam footage showing an RCMP officer tackling him to the ground and striking his head in March
Dec. 3, 2020: Government of Alberta – has issued an online survey that is part of the province’s review of the Police Act. The questionnaire covers several topics related to law enforcement, such as the role of police in community, processes for handling complaints from the public and officer discipline. Throughout the fall, the Alberta government has met with a wide range of stakeholders representing law enforcement, health and social services sectors, municipalities and Indigenous communities. The public survey will remain open until Jan. 4, 2021.
These discussions and the survey responses will guide changes to the Police Act expected for next fall.
Entrenched systemic racism against the Inuit by the RCMP in Nunavut
June 5, 2020 – The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) echoes the voices of Inuit across Nunavut to call for an end to systemic violence at the hands of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). We are disappointed to see that discriminatory attitudes and practices captured in the Qikiqtani Truth Commission report continue to plague our communities today. QIA joins Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) to call for the establishment of an independent, alternative civil oversight body. The RCMP cannot be tasked with investigating themselves
Since 1999, there have been at least 15 deaths in Nunavut at the hands of the RCMP. Since January 1, 2020 the Ottawa Police Service has been asked to investigate five incidents involving the Nunavut RCMP including two shootings resulting in death. Nunavut incidents of police violence are nine times higher than Ontario. The latest incidence involved a young inebriated Inuit man who was deliberately struck by a moving RCMP truck, forcibly arrested by 5 RCMP officers and who later suffered multiple injuries while in custody. He had to be airlifted to a hospital for treatment.
July 7, 2020: Nunatsiaq News – Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson convened a roundtable meeting on June 19 to discuss the issue with more than 30 others. Among those in attendance were representatives of both the federal and territorial governments, Inuit organizations, Nunavut’s RCMP Chief Superintendent Amanda Jones and numerous other RCMP and regional police representatives. The meeting was to discuss support for the deployment of body-worn cameras in Nunavut. The meeting was not open to the public but they did release a detailed “Summary Roundtable document” of the meetings.
Aug. 18, 2020: RCMPCivilian Review and Complaints Commission (CCRC) – Chairperson of the RCMP CCRC has initiated a complaint into the conduct of RCMP members involved in an incident in Nunavut. RCMP appointed the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) to investigate and determine whether criminal charges should be laid. In addition, an RCMP internal Code of Conduct investigation into the actions of the officer is underway. The Commission will be conducting the investigation into my complaint pursuant to section 45.66(1) of the RCMP Act. Specifically, the investigation will address:
- The circumstances leading up to the incident in question;
- Whether the conduct of the RCMP member driving the vehicle was reasonable in the circumstances;
- Whether the arrest of the man was reasonable in the circumstances;
- Whether the use of force employed by RCMP members during the man’s arrest was reasonable in the circumstances;
- Whether the man required and received adequate medical care following the initial incident;
- The circumstances surrounding the man’s alleged assault while in custody, whether reasonable steps were taken to ensure his safety, and whether the conditions of detention in the cell were adequate;
- Whether the man received adequate medical care following the incident in the cell;
- The actions taken by the RCMP in response to this matter.
The RCMP members’ conduct will be assessed in accordance with relevant law and RCMP policy. Consideration will also be given as to whether racial bias and/or discrimination played a role in the man’s arrest and subsequent treatment. This is not the same as an independent civil review of the RCMP requested by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.Oct. 26, 2020 – Bill 53, an Act to Amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Agreement Act, received its first reading in the legislative assembly on Thursday, Oct. 22. The new bill adds provisions to allow independent investigations to look into police-involved civilian injuries or deaths in the territory and the terms to create such a body. As it stands, the Nunavut RCMP has agreements with the Ottawa and Calgary police services to conduct third-party investigations of incidents involving the police that lead to serious injury or death
Oct. 26, 2020 – Bill 53, an Act to Amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Agreement Act, received its first reading in the legislative assembly on Thursday, Oct. 22. The new bill adds provisions to allow independent investigations to look into police-involved civilian injuries or deaths in the territory and the terms to create such a body. As it stands, the Nunavut RCMP has agreements with the Ottawa and Calgary police services to conduct third-party investigations of incidents involving the police that lead to serious injury or death.
Dec. 3, 2020: Global News – No charges will be laid against the RCMP officer who hit an inebriated Inuit man with the door of his moving truck. The Ottawa Police Service, which conducted a criminal investigation into the takedown, ruled the arrest was “lawful” and the officer hit the man with his truck unintentionally. The RCMP’s internal investigation is ongoing as is the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP is also conducting an investigation.
Nunatsiavut government calls for an independent police investigation into RCMP
Nov. 19, 2019 – The Nunatsiavut Government is calling for an independent police investigation into the death of a 23-year-old Inuk woman whose body was removed from a makeshift tent in a wooded area of Happy Valley-Goose Bay during the early morning hours of November 15.
“We have reason to believe the RCMP made assumptions as to the cause of death before carrying out a thorough investigation,” says Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe.
“Concerns have been raised that police neglected to interview key witnesses before issuing a public statement that the woman’s death was not suspicious,” notes President Lampe. “Questions have also been raised as to whether the police properly secured the scene, and may have also left potential evidence behind.”
Has the RCMP learned anything from the national inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, which denounced decades of police indifference and systemic racism and which called for fundamental policing reforms?
Systemic Racism in Policing
Vancouver Police Department’s “Trespass Prevention Program” authorizes police officers to remove people without a call to 911 services if they have allegedly violated the provincial “Trespass Act“
Jan. 28, 2021: NationTalk – A coalition of Indigenous, women, Downtown Eastside, and legal organizations are voicing their opposition to the Vancouver Police Department’s Trespass Prevention Program, which authorizes police officers to remove people without a call for 911 service if they have allegedly violated the provincial Trespass Act. States Chief Don Tom, Vice President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, “We are appalled by the Vancouver Police Department’s Trespass Prevention Program. Indigenous people already experience institutionalized racism in the justice system and a disproportionately high level of stereotyping, surveillance and violence by police. For Indigenous people, especially our Indigenous unhoused relatives, to now be criminalized as trespassers on our own lands is a cruel legal fiction. During an era of reconciliation, in which BC has committed to fully implementing and championing its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, this is simply unacceptable. We call on the Vancouver Police Department, the Vancouver Police Board, the City of Vancouver, and the Province of BC to all act immediately to withdraw this discriminatory program.”
Since 2016, the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner has repeatedly noted conflict of interest issues arising when Vancouver police officers act as agents for the private sector. In a VPD program known as the Restaurant Watch/Bar Watch Agreement that similarly derives authority from the Trespass Act, the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner has emphasized “this relationship places them [police officers] in a conflict of interest whereby they are simultaneously acting as private citizens and peace officers.” Additionally, the Commissioner has raised police accountability concerns, including the practice of demanding identification akin to street checks, and the use of police databases to record and collect identifying information.
Studies by MacDonald-Laurier Institute and CBC explore rise in systemic racism in policing
Aug. 31, 2020: MacDonald-Laurier Institute – “Systemic racism in policing in Canada and approaches to fixing it,” argues that the fault for this lies primarily with political leaders who set the framework conditions and constraints for the delivery of police services. This commentary is based on the author’s written submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
Between 2000-2017, 43 individuals were identified as Black (10 unarmed) and 69 were identified as Indigenous (12 unarmed) out of a total of 461 fatal encounters with police statistics – that includes deaths from natural causes, medical complications, overdoses, etc. 16% of all deaths where police are involved are Indigenous who represent under 5% of the total population in Canada.
Aug. 31, 2020 – The MLI Systemic Racism Commentary states: Systemic racism represents the historical legacy that institutions have. As society evolves, so does its view of what is right and wrong. Society and policing have both evolved; but society has been and is evolving much faster than policing. So, the gap between civil society and policing has widened. Without a serious, meaningful commitment to systematic reform, it will continue to widen, which will exacerbate tensions. What can be done:
- First, leadership alone cannot and will not fix the issue. 40 years of research in political sociology shows that bureaucracies reproduce themselves; in the process, they also reproduce their institutional culture and problems.
- Second, we need to have Statistics Canada systematically collect use-of- force data for policing across Canada, including the RCMP.
- Third, there needs to be greater emphasis on professionalizing policing. Racist attitudes, overt acts of violence or excessive force suggest that the police officer has assimilated a solipsistic (“us and them”) mentality, which has them to act aggressively rather than risk being hurt themselves.
- Lastly, more has to be done to reduce the propensity for violence: the CRCC has explicitly called out the RCMP for the ubiquity of its command and control approach (CRCC 2020).
- Change the leadership and management model by civilianizing the senior leadership and management of police forces. Uniformed members should be running operations – but not ultimately be in charge of the whole organization.
- Increase civilianization of delivery of services. Policing functions have grown as public expectations change and governments under-invest in social services. In the process, police have taken on a growing number of non-policing functions. Canada needs a better model for public and community safety.
- Community policing: This is particularly problematic for the RCMP: in many locations where the RCMP provides contract policing, uniformed members are neither members of the community they police, nor do they live in that community. What difference does community policing make? In February of this year, the RCMP and OPP were both faced with enforcing injunctions in areas on or near reserves/dedicated Aboriginal land: on Wet’suwet’en territory in BC and Tyendinaga in Ontario. The RCMP’s enforcement action largely discounted the costs to relations with the community;
- The RCMP is too big and has too many roles, which makes it difficult if not impossible to govern.
- First, get the RCMP out of contract policing
- Second, give the responsibility for our whole border to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as opposed to the current approach in which CBSA shares responsibilities with the RCMP.
- Third, criminal intelligence should be removed from the federal police force. This can be done by emancipating the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada as a stand-along organization
- Fourth, the RCMP should be turned into a genuinely federal police force, like the Australian Federal Police (AFP), which can then concentrate solely on genuinely federal priorities and law enforcement operations.
- give the RCMP separate employer status so it can better control its HR destiny;
- remunerate members based on skills instead of seniority;
- completely overhaul the RCMP’s training regimen at the RCMP Academy from the ground up, in order to avoid a para- military command and control mindset;
- create a completely separate career and professional development framework and path for officers, similar to the military; and
- underwrite a national 311NG (Next Generation) system to divert non-emergency calls from the 911 system.
July 23, 2020 – The CBC “Deadly Force” database indicates that the RCMP are 3x more likely to use lethal force than other police forces in Canada. The CBC data found that 68 per cent of people killed in police encounters were suffering with some kind of mental illness, addiction or both. “When we get broader statistical information that are documenting these patterns year after year after year, it’s much more difficult for police officials and politicians to just turn their backs and say that these allegations are unfounded,” University of Toronto Criminologist professor Scot Wortley said. “I really do believe that the idea behind defunding the police, or the concept of defunding the police, is quite a good one in terms of reformulating how we’re going to exercise policing services in our society.”
Lorne Foster, professor at York University has studied race-based data in policing. He says police services should collect this data themselves and use it to inform their policing. “They need to look at this type of data to take the next step and to address these deeply rooted discriminatory features in our society, particularly in relation to their service and the community,” he said.
Tom Stamatakis, national president of the Canadian Police Association, says the trends that CBC identified don’t surprise him — and they won’t change unless underlying issues affecting people with mental health issues and marginalized communities are dealt with.
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador announces it is developing its own action plan to address discrimination and racism.
Aug. 12, 2020 – The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) announces that it is developing its own action plan to address discrimination and racism. The action group against racism created by the Legault government is composed solely of members of the party in power and has little credibility in the eyes of First Nations leaders. Premier Legault has publicly stated that he does not believe in “systemic racism”.
The AFNQL recalls that the issue has been the subject of many consultations over the past few years and that several avenues for solutions have been presented:
- Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec (Viens Commission), whose report was made public on September 30, 2019.
- National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG, 2019)
- the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, 2015)
- the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).
The AFNQL will make its action plan public by the end of September, 2020.
Among non-Indigenous Quebecers who have an opinion of First Nations in Quebec, this opinion is good in eight out of ten cases (81%)/ The Léger survey results from August 2020:
- Admit that they have little or no knowledge of the issues and realities of First Nations in Quebec (58%).
- Consider that the relations that non-Indigenous Quebecers have with First Nations in Quebec are poor (53%).
- Almost all non-Indigenous Quebecers (92%) think that First Nations are subject to racism or discrimination in Quebec.
- 80% of respondents consider that First Nations people face additional obstacles in the different facets of their lives.
- 70% of those who have an opinion are of the opinion that, currently in Quebec, First Nations are not treated on the same footing as non-Indigenous Quebecers in social structures.
- 91% of respondents believe that the Quebec government has an important role to play in achieving and maintaining equality between First Nations and non-Indigenous Quebecers.
Sept. 29, 2020 – AFNQL released its “Action Plan on Racism and Discrimination: Engaging with First Nations Against Racism and Discrimination” identifies 39 Recommendations and 141 specific actions that the following groups can undertake to advance reconciliation across all aspects of life in Quebec:
|Organizations and Groups||8||18|
|Police Services, Justice||11||30|
|Business, the Economy||1||14|
Dec. 15, 2020 – Release of “Racism in Québec: ZERO TOLERANCE: Report of the Groupe d’action contre le racism”. Initially announced in June 15, 2020 “The Groupe d’action contre le racism” was specifically asked to develop a series of effective actions to fight against racism by identifying which sectors have high-priority needs for measures in this area, particularly public security, justice, school systems, housing and employment. As part of its mandate, the “Groupe d’action contre le racism” was asked to contribute to the reflection on how to respond to the recommendations of the “Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec”, chaired by the Honourable Jacques Viens.
Recommendations specific to Indigenous People
14 – Include in the national anti-racism awareness campaign a specific component on the realities of Indigenous peoples, to continually inform the public about the racism and discrimination experienced by First Nations and Inuit people.
15 – Make the professional orders aware of the importance of training their members on Indigenous realities.
16 – Make the history and current realities of Indigenous people in Québec a mandatory part of initial teacher training programs.
17 – Change the academic curriculum at the primary and secondary levels to update concepts related to the history, cultures, heritage and current realities of Indigenous peoples in Québec and Canada and their impact on society.
18 – Introduce continual, mandatory training on Indigenous realities for government employees.
19 – End the informal practice of prohibiting people from speaking Indigenous languages while receiving public services.
20 – Make the ban on random police stops mandatory.
21 – Add Indigenous social services workers to some police services to create mixed patrol teams.
22 – Increase the resources of Indigenous community organizations that promote access to justice for First Nations and Inuit people.
23 – Improve the capacity of the justice system to address the heritage and life trajectory of Indigenous offenders by granting more resources for the use of the Gladue principle specific to First Nations and Inuit people.
24 – Improve the quality and availability of interpretation services in Indigenous languages for better access to justice.
25 – Increase resources allocated to off-reserve housing.
Mar. 5, 2021: In response to the Viens Commission, the MMIWG Inquiry and ZERO TOLERANCE, the government of Québec announced an investment of $19.2M in the following areas:
- Hiring additional Indigenous workers responsible for providing crime victims assistance services ($7.7 million):
- These workers will be deployed in the CAVAC network and in Indigenous organizations that have established victim assistance services, or that wish to do so.
- An increased deployment of courtworker services for Indigenous people ($6 million):
- Adjustment of the compensation for courtworkers already employed ($1 million);
- Increased funding for the operation of Indigenous organizations responsible for providing courtworker services ($2.5 million);
- Hiring of new courtworkers from within the community for First Nations and Inuit ($2.5 million);
- Improvement and deployment of interpreter services in Indigenous languages ($5.5 million):
- Development of agreements with Indigenous organizations for the training, accreditation and hiring of interpreters in Indigenous languages in the context of justice-related activities.
Call for independent investigation in the shooting deaths of two Indigenous people in New Brunswick
Mar. 24, 2021: Government of New Brunswick – has appointed a commissioner tasked with engaging all stakeholders to develop an understanding of the nature and impact of systemic racism in the province. To ensure the independence of the process, the Executive Council Office will lead the recruitment of the commissioner. The commissioner will focus on the following objectives:
- Conducting a public consultation on the nature and impact of systemic racism on racialized, immigrant and Indigenous populations in New Brunswick.
- Thorough documentation of experiences in an effort to gather qualitative and quantitative data – performed through a number of means including, but not limited to, a review of previous recommendations, establishing a dedicated website, holding virtual meetings, receiving presentations and written submissions by email, mail or on the website, in-person meetings with the commissioner by invitation and on request, virtual consultation sessions with foreign nationals, employers and other groups as necessary.
The commissioner will produce a final report by March 31, 2022 with recommendations for the government on the development of a provincial strategy and an action plan to address sector concerns such as:
- barriers to opportunity;
- equitable access to programs and services; and
- systemic racism in health care, education, social development, housing, employment and criminal justice.
The commissioner may also identify and address other sectors that impact these designated groups.
Jan. 15, 2020: The Native Women’s Association of Canada – Neither the New Brunswick Prosecutions Service nor the New Brunswick Corner have released details of the investigation into the police shooting of Chantal Moore conducted by the Quebec-based agency BEI that weas delivered to them in December.
Jan. 4, 2021: Huddle – Business leaders are joining the call for a public inquiry into systemic racism within the New Brunswick justice system. An open letter was written by a group of Indigenous, community, and business leaders as a call for action on systemic racism in New Brunswick. It was sent to Premier Blaine Higgs and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn on December 8, 2020 with a request to meet. No response has been provided, and so we have made the decision to share it publicly.
Dec. 16, 2020: The Mi’gmaq and Wolastoqyik Chiefs – First Nations chiefs have announced that they will not be participating in the “All-Parties Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation” announced by the Province on December 3, 2020. “Based on last week’s vote, it is clear the Higgs government is not interested in solutions from indigenous leaders” said Chief Ross Perley, of Neqotkuk. The Premier and Minister Dunn both oppose an independent inquiry into systemic racism and are actively working against the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Progress with the Government of New Brunswick on the Calls to Action has been almost negligible. Previous working groups were announced and not implemented or shut down by the Province.
Nov. 16, 2020 – Two months after winning the provincial election and seven weeks after he appointed his cabinet, none of the six Wolastoqey Chiefs have heard anything from Premier Blaine Higgs or Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn. The Chiefs have mounted a campaign to convince MPs to vote in support of a motion calling for an independent inquiry to address systemic racism in the province.
Sept 20, 2020: CBC – Premier Higgs has removed Jake Stewart from his position as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and folded Aboriginal Affairs in with the duties and responsibilities of the Minister of Economic Development and Small Business, Minister responsible for Opportunities New Brunswick and Minister responsible for Immigration. The premier refused to respond to a survey on systemic racism submitted by the Wolastoqey Nations before the election
July 9, 2020 – Proposed terms of reference for an independent inquiry into systemic racism against Indigenous people were released today by the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick. “For hundreds of years, a regime of systemic racism has been built up in this province and this country against its Indigenous peoples,” said Chief Ross Perley of Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation), speaking on behalf of the six Chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick.
The Wolastoqey Chiefs have prepared draft terms of reference for an independent inquiry which would:
- Examine the relationship and state of conditions between Indigenous people and the justice system in New Brunswick and suggest ways to improve;
- Be led by Indigenous people with terms of reference developed by Indigenous Nations;
- Review previous recommendations and provide an interim report within 60 days recommending what recommendations from these other reports can be implemented immediately; and
- Provide a final report within six months with implementation-ready recommendations.
An inquiry has the same powers as a judge and can compel the government to provide witnesses and testimony, and any documents necessary to fully investigate systemic racism. A task force or other lesser body does not have these powers.
June 15, 2020 – Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said “The only way to overcome racism in Canada’s policing agencies is to impose systemic change and a zero-tolerance policy aimed at eliminating the excessive use of force”. The killings of two Indigenous people in New Brunswick – 26 year-old Chantal Moore in Edmundston during a “wellness check” and Rodney Levi near the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation – has raised questions about excessive use of force when it comes to Indigenous people that too often results in death.
The shootings have prompted calls for a separate, independent inquiry and an overhaul of policing in the province, where the minister of Aboriginal affairs has already said there is a problem with systemic racism. As well, the shootings have become part of a broader international discussion about police brutality and racism
Overrepresentation of Indigenous people and Indigenous women in particular by random police checks in the City of Vancouver
June 10, 2020 – The BC Civil Liberties Association, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and Hogan’s Alley Society are calling on Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who is also the Vancouver Police Board Chair and Board Spokesperson, to immediately put a stop to police street checks in Vancouver. A recent review of VPD street checks provided clear evidence that the VPD has been arbitrarily stopping people without lawful authority, including people who were walking in the rain or walking a dog on a church lawn. VPD must put an end to this blatantly arbitrary, illegal, and discriminatory practice” further states Latoya Farrell of BC Civil Liberties Association.
- Indigenous and Black people are significantly over-represented in the numbers of street checks conducted by the VPD. In 2017:
- Indigenous people accounted for over 16% of street checks despite making up 2% of the population, and
- Black people accounted for 5% of street checks despite making up 1% of the population.
- In 2016, Indigenous women, who comprise 2% of Vancouver’s women population, accounted for 21% of women who were street checked
June 25, 2020 – BCCLA and UBCIC have released a letter to the Vancouver Police Board calling into question the objectivity, methodology, and findings of the Pyxis-authored Vancouver Police Board Street Check Review, and requesting the disclosure of any and all draft reviews, field notes, or ancillary materials from Pyxis. They identified a discrepancy between the final report as released and the absence of details about an incident involving two Vancouver police officers
Sept. 17, 2020 – BCCLA, UBCIC, Black Lives Matter – Vancouver, Hogan’s Alley Society and Wish Drop-in Centre Society have written a letter and petition to the Mayor Kennedy Stewart and premier John Horgan, co-signed by 87 other organizations and another 8,265 individuals calling for an immediate ban on police street checks:https://act.bccla.org/banstreetchecks On July 30, 2020, Commissioner Clayton Pecknold issued a follow-up letter outlining the conclusion of the investigation by the Vancouver Police Professional Standards (VPD- PSS) investigation that issued a “Notice of Discontinuance” since none of Pyxis researchers agreed to testify and ALL had destroyed their notes from their investigation relating to the two police officers above. As a result, the discrepancy between the official Vancouver Police Board Street Check Review final report that omitted details of the police officer’s actions has been swept aside.
Dec. 17, 2020 – Former BC Information and Privacy Commissioner will conduct a review of the Vancouver Police Board-commissioned street check” study that kept allegations from being publicized of officers making racist and inappropriate comments about vulnerable and marginalized people
Systemic racial discrimination within the City of Montreal Police department
June 10, 2020 – The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL), Quebec Native Women (QNW), Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and Resilience Montreal have joined voices to condemn acts of police violence against Indigenous people and women in particular. The latest incident – the dispatch of 17 police officers in multiple cars along with a K-9 unit to confront a lone Indigenous woman who was suffering from psychological distress. They also point to the police shooting of an Indigenous woman, Chantal Moore, 5 times in Edmundson, New Brunswick on what was supposed to be a “wellness check”.
The Quebec government instigated a provincial Inquiry the “Viens Commission” or CERP. The Inquiry also heard testimonies of inappropriate and excessive interventions of police forces towards Indigenous people in different cities of Quebec, including the Montreal SPVM. However, the report of the CERP Inquiry was received with much deception and anger, as no redress recommendations were addressed to the provincial police forces of Quebec.
Invited Marc Miller, the federal Minister of Indigenous Services to invite governments of different jurisdictions to a national discussion on the accountability of police forces towards Indigenous peoples. The Government of Canada and its provinces have international obligations towards the security of Indigenous peoples, and more specifically towards women and children. The Quebec Native Women’s brief filed before the MMIWG Inquiry specifically addressed the abuses of police forces of Quebec and the actions that are needed to redress the broken relationship between police forces and Indigenous women and address the police abuses towards our women.
Nov. 4, 2020 – The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) welcomes the announcement by the City of Montreal which today unveiled its Reconciliation Strategy with Indigenous peoples. This initiative by the City of Montreal is an appropriate response to the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Quebec (Viens Commission) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). It reflects the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) endorsed by the City of Montreal in 2017. “The Strategy unveiled today is perfectly in line with the Action Plan on Racism and Discrimination against First Nations that we unveiled last September”. AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard. The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke also welcomes the initiative by the City of Montreal.
The “Reconciliation Strategy with Indigenous Peoples” includes commitments to:
- Develop a nation-to-nation relationship by, for example, increasing the participation of Indigenous people in city advisory boards.
- Highlight the memory, history and heritage of Indigenous peoples in public spaces outdoors and indoors, such as at libraries.
- Support the urban Indigenous community by creating social housing and gathering spaces adapted to specific cultural needs.
- Improve Indigenous people’s sense of security by supporting projects that provide free, safe spaces for Indigenous women, increasing services for homeless people, creating a front-line team to respond to calls where police presence is not necessary and recruiting Indigenous people to work as police officers and within the municipal court.
- Support Indigenous cultural development in urban areas by developing and promoting artistic and Indigenous cultural practices.
- Offer employability services adapted to the specific needs of the Indigenous peoples living in Montreal, as well as other measures to support the economic development of the Indigenous community.
- Incorporate Indigenous knowledge and practices in projects to protect the environment.
Mayor Valérie Plante said that while the city is committed to the reconciliation process, she acknowledged there’s only so much a city can do when decision-making, including funding commitments, involves the provincial and federal governments.
Death of Indigenous – Black woman in Toronto leads to call for independent investigation
May 28 – CBC – What began as a 911 call for help for Regis Korchinski-Paquet ended in her death. What happened inside the apartment is still unclear. Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, is looking into the death.
June 10, 2020: CBC – June 10, 2020: CBC – Knia Singh, the lawyer for the family of Regis Korchinski-Paquet is calling for the provincial police watchdog investigating her fall from a Toronto balcony to either turn over its probe to an outside agency or share the evidence gathered so far, saying the process as it stands now “limits transparency.”
Defence lawyer Knia Singh also pointed to the high clearance rate for officers in SIU investigations, arguing the process “is heavily weighted in favour of police officers being cleared of any wrongdoing.” In the last two years, the SIU said, it has laid criminal charges in 3.6 per cent of cases. In 2018, criminal charges were laid against 17 officers in 15 out of a total 416 cases closed that year. In 2019, criminal charges were laid against 15 officers in 13 out of 363 cases closed that year.
July 10, 2020 – Toronto Star – The Campaign Research survey for the Toronto Star revealed 68% of respondents believed “Black people and/or Indigenous people and/or other people from racialized communities are treated worse by police than other citizens and 90 per cent want mandatory body cameras for all officers. Campaign Research principal Nick Kouvalis said the findings should be concerning to police forces across the province. “The major takeaway is the police have a big problem — they have lost the support of the super majority of the public and they need to work hard to get it back,” Kouvalis said Friday.
Aug. 27, 2020: Toronto Star – Special Investigations Unit (SIU) concluded no criminal charges should be laid against any of the seven police officers in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet. The detailed report documented “systemic racism exists and continues to challenge the relationship between racialized communities and the institutions of our justice system”. Immediate outcomes of the death include:
- changes to how emergency mental health calls will be handled in Toronto with both city council and the Toronto police board recently committing to help establish a non-police emergency mental health service
- As the new system is being developed, Toronto police will also soon expand the mobile crisis intervention teams (MCIT) a program that pairs a mental health nurse with a specially-trained officer
The Toronto police board also recently green-lit the $34M million purchase of body-worn cameras for front-line officers
Ongoing institutional racism against Indigenous people within Winnipeg Police Services
Jan. 29, 2021 – This tragedy may never have happened if the systemic racism that ensures First Nations children in this province are more likely to go to jail than graduate from high school was addressed. Grand Chief Dumas, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
Jan. 28, 2021: Southern Chief’s Organization – Through consultation with the Crown’s Office and an expert on the use of lethal force in police services, officials say they did not find justification to lay criminal charges against the officer who shot and killed Eishia. The Independent Investigation Unit Only eleven hours after Eishia’s killing, the police shot and killed Jason Collins, a father of three children. Ten days later, Stewart Andrews, a 22 year-old father was shot by police on April 18, 2020, also in Winnipeg. All three shooting victims were First Nation citizens.
Two more inquires will now begin, one by the chief medical examiner and one by the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth, who can begin their investigation as the criminal investigation and proceedings by the IIU have closed.
The family of Eishia Hudson is also calling for the following:
- An independent assessment by outside counsel into the findings of the IIU investigation and report that is unbiased, to provide an impartial opinion on the report.
- The chief medical examiner’s inquest to be comprehensive and address systemic problems.
- A comprehensive public inquiry into the shooting that can address systemic racism of police interactions with Indigenous people.
April 22, 2020: Vice News – The IBA is calling for an inquiry after the recent shooting deaths of two men and a 16-yerold girl within 10 days. What is the WPS track record when it comes to Indigenous deaths:
- 2000 – 20017: 19 deaths at the hand of police (11were Indigenous)
- 2019: of the four shooting victims, three were Indigenous
- 2020: four Indigenous
April 16, 2020 – Despite numerous calls by local Indigenous and human rights groups to address deep-seated institutional racism, WPS members continue to display problematic and oppressive behaviours. Dubbed “Canada’s most racist city” by Maclean’s magazine in 2015, the WPS has provided insufficient training to their members to effectively de-escalate situations, specifically those involving Indigenous youth. This killing – of a 16-year old Indigenous girl – comes less than 5 months from an incident at a Winnipeg convenience store where the WPS shot a 16-year-old Indigenous boy nine times.
The Indigenous Bar Association calls upon the government of Manitoba to call for an independent inquiry into the death of Eishia Hudson under section 7.1(1)(i) and (m) of the Manitoba Fatality Inquiries Act (CCSM. c. F52). The IBA further recommends that an inquest be considered to deal with potential biases within the WPS. Both an inquiry and inquest into Eisha Hudson’s death must be completed in a timely manner, and should ensure that the officers involved face appropriate sanctions. In preparing for this inquiry, the Indigenous Bar Association urges the government of Manitoba to review section 9 of the Calls for Justice issued by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and ensure any steps taken follow the guidance provided therein.
Excessive increase in the number of Indigenous people and Indigenous women in particular being stopped by Montreal police
Oct. 8, 2019 – Indigenous Peoples were two times more likely to be stopped in 2014, the report shows, they became six times more likely in 2017. The likelihood of an Indigenous woman being checked by officers was also found to be 11 times higher than a white woman. (Montreal Gazette). The researchers behind the report, mandated by the City of Montreal last year, studied police interceptions (“street checks” or “information stops” that didn’t result in charges or tickets) the SPVM carried out between 2014 and 2017. The report found the number of street checks carried out by officers skyrocketed during the four years studied, going from fewer than 19,000 per year to more than 45,000 per year.
Montreal Police Chief Sylvain Caron announced a series of measures it will implement within the next year, matching the report’s five recommendations. They include drafting a clear policy for street checks, mandating an external firm to survey minority communities on race relations, launching a similar study on racial profiling in February and implementing a focus on racial biases into all of its practices and training, with an emphasis placed on Indigenous issues.
Lack of civilian oversight of police complaints in Nunavut
Oct. 22, 2018 – Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are the only places in Canada that don’t have civilian oversight of police complaints. “The Department of Justice in Nunavut has requested that the Legal Services Board document and share concerns … relating to the allegation that instances of excessive use of force by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police appear to be on the rise in Nunavut,” 2015 letter from the territory’s legal-aid service to then-justice minister Paul Okalik. (CP)
Adam Arreak Lightstone, a member of the legislature from Iqaluit, says he’ll use the legislative sitting that begins Tuesday to demand Nunavut reconsider its police oversight. “It’s really important to ensure there’s accountability in the investigation process,” he said. “There’s a reason why most jurisdictions in Canada have a civilian oversight body to prevent police from investigating police.”
The Ottawa and Calgary police forces currently investigate complaints against Nunavut RCMP.
Federal and Provincial Justice Inquiries
The Manitoba “Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (AJI) Final Report” issued in 1991 made 296 recommendations that have mostly been ignored by successive provincial and federal and governments
Feb. 26, 2021: Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) – On Aboriginal Justice Awareness Day, AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas called out both the federal and provincial governments on their failure to fully implement the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (AJI). The 1987 trial and outcome of the kidnapping and murder of Helen Betty Osborne led to widespread calls for a public inquiry. In 1988, Winnipeg Police Services shot JJ Harper to death. This led to the Island Lake Tribal Council initiating a First Nation commemorative “JJ Harper Day,” which has since been renamed Aboriginal Justice Awareness Day. These two main events led to the province of Manitoba creating the Public Inquiry into the Administration of Justice and Aboriginal Peoples, otherwise referred to as the AJI. Co-chaired by Associate Chief Judge Murray Sinclair and Associate Chief Justice Alvin Hamilton, the AJI made 296 recommendations. The recommendations were mostly unaddressed during most of the 90s until 1999, until work began on the AJI-Child Welfare Initiative. Although provincial governments have made efforts to implement the AJI, particularly its child welfare recommendations, the promise of the AJI for First Nations remains largely unfulfilled to this day.
AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas stated:
For thirty years, history shows a near non-existent meaningful attempt to fully implement the AJI by successive provincial and federal governments…First Nations continue to be disproportionately arrested, incarcerated and continue to suffer more severe outcomes due to involvement with the provincial justice system. Sadly, three years ago this month, justice was denied for Tina Fontaine, her family, and First Nation by Manitoba’s justice system. This month, Headingley Correctional Institute staff killed William Ahmo, the Independent Investigations Unit exonerated the Winnipeg Police Services shooting of Eishia Hudson. In one week alone, the AMC First Nations Family Advocate’s Office received reports of four missing First Nations women.
Ontario Government continues to ignore recommendations from Ipperwash Inquiry 25 years ago
Sept. 7, 2020: Chiefs of Ontario – Sept. 6, 2020, was the 25th anniversary of the Ipperwash crisis, where Dudley George, an unarmed Indigenous man was killed by an OPP sniper while peacefully protesting the expropriation of land from the Stoney Point Indian Band by the federal government in 1942 for a military base. Ancestral burial grounds were destroyed when the camp was built and 18 families were removed from the land. 53 years later, the land had not been returned as promised, hence the protest.
It took eight years of advocacy and activism from First Nations and other groups to receive an inquiry into the death of Dudley George and the events which took place on and around September 6, 1995. The subsequent Ipperwash Inquiry was meant to act as a roadmap “for new relationships between Aboriginal peoples and the Ontario Government based on respect and reconciliation”. 25 years later and the provincial government has continued to ignore some of the 100 recommendations emerging from the Ipperwash inquiry.
In total, the Final Report made 100 recommendations in the spirit of these key themes:
- policing of Aboriginal protests and occupations
- relationships among federal, provincial and First Nations governments
- the land claims process
- sharing the benefits of resource development
- consultation concerning Aboriginal and treaty rights
- public awareness and education about Aboriginal peoples
As a result, we have seen the creation of:
- the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Affairs;
- the New Relationship Fund to improve First Nations’ abilities to consult on land and resource projects; and a
- n agreed return of Ipperwash Provincial Park to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nations.
What remains to be done after 25 years:
- Create a Treaty Commission of Ontario,
- permanent tripartite body to deal with land claims and assertions of treaty rights and title
We call on the province to meaningfully look at the 100 recommendations as not a checklist, but as the basis for good relationships which must be continually revisited and acted upon. In the years since Ipperwash, little has fundamentally changed.
Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec (Viens Commission Recommendations
Sept, 29, 2019 – “Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec: listening, reconciliation and progress: Final Report” (the Viens Commission) whose mandate was to investigate, ascertain the facts and make analyses with a view to making recommendations as to the concrete, effective and sustainable measures to be implemented by the Gouvernement du Québec and by the Aboriginal authorities to prevent or eliminate, regardless of their origin or cause, any form of violence or discriminatory practices or differential treatments in the provision of the following public services to the Aboriginals of Québec: police services, correctional services, justice services, health and social services and youth protection services.
The 142 Calls for Action are spread across the following themes:
- Police Services = 13
- Justice Services = 16
- Correctional Services = 18
- Health and Social Services = 34
- Youth Protection Services = 30
- Tracking Mechanism 5
- Other = 26
The first two Calls to Action of the Viens Commission Final Report are:
CALL FOR ACTION No. 1
Make a public apology to members of First Nations and Québec’s Inuit for the harm caused by laws, policies, standards and the practices of public service providers.
CALL FOR ACTION No. 2 – To National Assembly
Adopt a motion to recognize and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Québec.
Sept. 30, 2020 – Office of the Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs The government is pleased to announce that out of 142 calls for action, 51 of direct concern to it are already under discussion, completed or on the way to completion, for example:
- Call for action 1: Make a public apology to members of First Nations and Québec’s Inuit for the harm caused by laws, policies, standards and the practices of public service providers. (On Oct. 2, 2019 Premier Legault apologized to the Indigenous people of Quebec for discrimination they suffered in dealing with the state);
- Call for action 2: To National Assembly – Adopt a motion to recognize and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Québec. Adopt a motion to recognize and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- Call for action 56: Train all Québec probation officers to prepare Indigenous pre-sentencing reports and teach them the reassuring cultural approach for collecting information;
- Call for action 130: Ensure that families and significant people who are not represented by an association and who foster Indigenous children receive financial compensation equivalent to family-type resources.
In order enable itself to take action, to implement the calls for action and calls for justice of the two commissions of inquiry (the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services [the Viens Commission]), the government allocated $200 million in new funding over five years, in the 2020 budget.
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls issues Final report with 242 Calls to Justice
June 3, 2019 – “National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girl Final Report (MMIWG)” states:
- Indigenous women and girls are 2.7 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.
- Homicide rates for Indigenous women were nearly seven times higher than for non- Indigenous women.
- One quarter of all female homicide victims in Canada in 2015 were Indigenous, up from nine per cent in 1980. (CBC June 6, 2017)
Over the last ten years, the number of Aboriginal women inmates doubled (2005-2015). At the end of March 2018, 40.0% of incarcerated women were of Aboriginal ancestry. (Auditor-General Report 2018).
A permanent commitment to ending the genocide requires addressing the four pathways explored within this report, namely:
- historical, multigenerational, and intergenerational trauma;
- social and economic marginalization;
- maintaining the status quo and institutional lack of will; and
- ignoring the agency and expertise of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
Indigenous women make up less than 5% of the population in Canada
It must be understood that these recommendations, which we frame as “Calls for Justice,” are legal imperatives – they are not optional. The Calls for Justice arise from international and domestic human and Indigenous rights laws, including the Charter ̧ the Constitution, and the Honour of the Crown. As such, Canada has a legal obligation to fully implement these Calls for Justice and to ensure Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people live in dignity. We demand a world within which First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families can raise their children with the same safety, security, and human rights that non-Indigenous families do, along with full respect for the Indigenous and human rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families. “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls”. Volume 1b Calls for Justice”
Racial and sexist stereotypes in Cindy Gladue’s original trial forbidden in second trial
Feb. 21, 2021 – Edmonton Journal – Bradley Barton convicted of manslaughter in his second trial for killing Cindy Gladue in an Edmonton hotel room in 2011. Unlike in his first trail, the repeated references to Cindy Gladue as a native girl, a native woman and a prostitute were not allowed since they promoted “discriminatory beliefs or biases about the sexual availability of Indigenous women and especially those who engage in sexual activity for payment.
The case became a flashpoint and encapsulation of the issues sexual assault complainants and Indigenous people face in the criminal justice system. In the first trial, Gladue was repeatedly referred to as “Native” and a “prostitute,” and in an unprecedented step, the Crown entered as evidence part of Gladue’s preserved vaginal tissue. The Crown hoped the tissue — which was admitted over the protests of the defence — would illustrate the extent of the injury. Critics argued the move “completely dehumanized” Gladue in the eyes of jurors.
The Crown appealed Barton’s acquittal, and in 2017 the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned it and ordered a new murder trial. The Supreme Court of Canada weighed in after Barton filed his own appeal, deciding there should be a new trial, but only on a charge of manslaughter.
May 24, 2019 – As an intervenor in Supreme Court R vs Barton 2019 SCC 33 in support of justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and for more respectful treatment of Indigenous women in the justice system. Bradley Barton was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Cindy Gladue in June 2011 and a jury acquitted him following a month-long trial in 2015. In its submissions, the AFN argued the importance of the mandatory requirements of s. 276 of the Criminal Code to protect the equality and privacy rights of a victim, and the necessity for fair and balanced instructions to the juries regarding racial biases. The AFN also argued that the characterizations of Cindy Gladue during the trial perpetuated myths and stereotypes about Indigenous women that should not form any part of Canadian law.
A class-action lawsuit filed in federal court challenges the Custody Rating Scale over systemic bias in its security classifications
Jan. 12, 2021: Globe and Mail – A class-action lawsuit filed in federal court challenges the Custody Rating Scale, a 12-question risk assessment tool developed by Correctional Services Canada in the 1980s and in widespread use. The suite is file on behalf of tens of thousands of inmates over systemic bias in its security classifications which affect inmates’ living arrangements, access to treatment programs and likelihood of getting parole. Last year, a Globe and Mail investigation found the scores derived from some of Correctional Service Canada’s most important risk tools, including the Custody Rating Scale, were systemically biased against racialized and female inmates resulting in harsher security ratings than they would have otherwise received.
“1CSC’s ongoing use of [the Custody Rating Scale] on Indigenous inmates must be recognized as the product of deliberate and conscious race-based discriminatory treatment of Indigenous inmates that resulted in and continues to result in, longer and harsher prison sentences for indigenous people, especially Indigenous women,” the statement of claim reads in part.
Depending on their score, inmates can expect decreased movement privileges, less access to treatment programs and difficulty getting paroled.
- Indigenous women were 65% more likely than white women to end up with a maximum-security level at admission and 42% more likely to have the poorest reintegration scores
Indigenous men were 30% more likely than white men to receive the worst reintegration potential score at any point during their sentence
Federal government argues against class-action lawsuit for families of MMIWG
Sept. 25, 2020: Southern Chiefs Organization -Strongly disagrees with the federal government’s arguments that Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people do not face a “special threat from a special source” and are not unique victims of criminal violence. SCO believes they fly in the face of the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). The National inquiry into MMIWG found that Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to go missing or be murdered than non-Indigenous women and girls. It also revealed that Indigenous women make up twenty-four percent of all female homicide victims in Canada, yet they only made up four percent of the total population.
The federal government made these arguments in a court hearing in Regina this week, arguing against certification of a $600 million class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of Dianne Bigeagle, whose daughter has been missing since 2007. Bigeagle says she went to police no less than 50 times, yet as far she is aware, they never did a proper investigation and never searched beyond Regina’s city limits. Bigeagle’s description of police treatment show how little law enforcement prioritizes cases of missing Indigenous women and girls. Ms. Bigeagle also is seeking $600 million in compensation for families of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
Supreme Court to hear arguments that First Nations constitutional orders are distinct but equal to Euro-Canadian laws
Sept. 21, 2020: – Clarification and validation of Indigenous rights and treaty as asserted by the Supreme Court of Canada in Delgamuukw, 1997.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) – AMC will be intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada…to argue that First Nation constitutional orders are distinct but equal to Euro-Canadian laws. The Court will address the most fundamental constitutional question of our time – the means of addressing climate change. The AMC will propose an analysis, which must recognize the existence of First Nations constitutional orders. The AMC cautions against the incorporation of First Nations laws within the existing Euro-Canadian federalism analysis to address the constitutional question. Instead, the AMC proposes a return to the relationship as it was originally intended by Treaties – one between equal nations with distinct legal traditions. There is confusion on the ground, and as a result Canada has witnessed protests, blockades, and police actions as First Nations, land protectors and corporate interests battle over control of natural resources and development.
On the surface, the case is about the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, the federal government’s carbon tax, and whether it intrudes on provincial jurisdiction. The Act was dealt a blow on Monday, February 24, 2020 when the Court of Appeal of Alberta ruled that the carbon tax is unconstitutional, on the grounds that it intrudes on provincial jurisdiction.
However, neither the federal nor provincial governments acknowledge the existence of First Nations laws. The AMC, represented by the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC), will argue that the Supreme Court has a unique opportunity to address a much deeper reality. AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said, “First Nations people and laws have always been here. These laws continue to govern First Nations’ relationships with the Creator, Mother Earth and all living beings. They are grounded in mutual respect and underpin the Treaty relationship. Our First Nations laws constitute Canada’s first constitutional order, alongside the French Civil Law and English Common Law. This is a constitutional debate that must acknowledge our nation-to-nation relationships and help frame reconciliation.” The AMC contends that this court case exposes an outdated, inaccurate and destructive narrative about Canada. First Nations laws have been recognized by the Supreme Court, however recent lower court decisions have sent contradictory signals about the relationship between Euro-Canadian laws and First Nations laws. This lack of clarity has led to a patchwork of inconsistent decisions.
Reduction of second-degree murder charges to manslaughter and aggravated assault in the death of Barbara Kentner
Sept. 18, 2020: CBC – Second degree murder charges have been reduced to manslaughter and aggravated assault against Brayden Bushby for the death of 34-year old Barbara Kentner. Bushby threw a trailer hitch from a moving car, yelling “I got one” after he hit the Indigenous women in the stomach. His originally scheduled judge and jury trial has been reduced to a jury only trial. “It is difficult for us to believe there is not a racial component to this decision,” Grand Council Treaty 3 Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh said in a news release on Friday. “For our people, it is easy to see that had the situation been reversed — had an Indigenous person struck and killed a non-Indigenous person — the accused would already be in jail facing a murder charge.”
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry submitted their Final Report on June 3, 2019 labelling the ongoing violence against Indigenous people and especially women as “genocide”. Among their findings:
- Indigenous women and girls are 2.7 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.
- Homicide rates for Indigenous women were nearly seven times higher than for non- Indigenous women.
The question to consider is “Why does a violent crime resulting in the death of an Indigenous women merit a reduction of a second degree murder charge to one of manslaughter?” If throwing a trailer hitch from a moving car at a person is not an “extreme reckless disregard for human life (LegalMatch)” then what is?
Dec. 14, 2020 – Brayden Bushby found guilty of manslaughter. “I find that the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Bushby’s dangerous and unlawful act accelerated and caused Ms. Kentner’s death,” Justice Helen Pierce told the court.
Supreme Court of Canada dismisses First Nations appeal of Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project
July 2, 2020 – (BIV – Business in Vancouver) The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal of the federal government’s approval of the $12.6 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which is already under construction. The Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish First Nations and Coldwater Indian Band had appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal of an earlier Federal Court of Appeal ruling, which had dismissed an appeal of the project’s approval. First Nations argued that proper consultations had not occurred.
Today’s ruling means First Nations have exhausted all legal avenues to halt the project on the basis of inadequate consultation, although that doesn’t mean the First Nations involved have abandoned all hope of some other legal challenge. “We’re not deterred and are exploring all legal options,” said Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson. “What I can tell you today is that this not the end of the story.”
Over a period of months, the federal government held additional consultations with First Nations and again approved the expansion. First Nations appealed the decision and lost when the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal in February 2020. That decision underscored the point that senior governments have a duty to properly consult First Nations, but that that duty has its limits and does not confer upon First Nations veto powers over projects in their traditional claimed territories to which they object. “While the parties challenging cabinet’s decision are fully entitled to oppose the Project, reconciliation and the duty to consult do not provide them with a veto over projects such as this one,” the Federal Court of Appeal wrote in its February decision.
Government of Saskatchewan for attempting to shut down First Nations cannabis dispensaries
July 9, 2019 – Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan urged the federal government to shut down cannabis dispensaries opened in Pheasant Rump Nakota Nation and Muscowpetung First Nation because they do not have provincial licences. Morgan’s comments reflect a deeply held belief in a hierarchy of laws that devalues and delegitimizes the law-making capacity of Indigenous groups. What’s more, he argued that the First Nations’ dispensaries represented an unwelcome source of competition.
Instead, federal and provincial governments must create a legislative and regulatory atmosphere that fosters cannabis-related economic development within Indigenous communities.
Today, cannabis presents a new and legitimate economic opportunity. Penalizing Indigenous communities for pursuing it would be unconscionable. Doing so would be repeating the wrongs of the past. For example, by the early 1880s, First Nations had developed innovative farming techniques and successfully planted new test crops. These achievements drew the ire of settlers who bristled at the potential for competition. Canada responded to their concerns by enacting a series of oppressive rules and regulations that suffocated agricultural development on reserves.
Policy Options. Jesse Donovan
Supreme Court ruling on the application of the Duty to Consult doctrine and if it can be applied to the federal legislation-making process
Oct. 11, 2018 – Mikisew Cree First Nation v. Canada Supreme Court Decision ruling on the application of the Duty to Consult doctrine and if it can be applied to the federal legislation-making process. The case originates from Mikisew Cree First Nation’s challenge of the 2012 Omnibus bills introduced under the previous federal government that made significant changes to environmental, fisheries and waters protection.
The decision negated any meaningful involvement of First Nations in the legislative process, a process that can have deep and lasting impacts on First Nation peoples, lands, waters, and Treaty and Inherent Rights. The Federal Court of Appeal overturned the ruling, saying that including the duty to consult in the legislative process offends the doctrine of the separation of powers and the principle of parliamentary privilege.
Recognizing that the 1764 Treaty of Niagara that had more than 2,000 representatives from Indigenous nations gathered over a month to deliberate how they could share the land with European settlers is a foundational “legal” document. Treaties are also part of the law. Section 35 of the 1982 Constitution Act affirms the recognition of this and other Aboriginal and treaty rights. Internationally, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP, which Canada has adopted, acknowledges the rights of Indigenous nations to have treaties and other agreements recognized by settler governments. If the Treaty of Niagara process had been used as a guide, Indigenous governments would be fully informed of proposed changes in law, with time set aside for representatives to come together in order to discuss, deliberate, debate and decide on the merits of these proposed changes. Indigenous legal orders would be recognized as a foundational source of land-use law.
“The Petty Trespasses Amendment and Occupiers Liability Amendment Act (Petty Trespasses Act)” infringes First Nations Treaty Rights
Mar. 5, 2021: Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – AMC states that “Bill 63 The Petty Trespasses Amendment and Occupiers Liability Amendment Act (Petty Trespasses Act)” introduced for first reading in the Manitoba legislature “attempts to legislate its way into First Nations’ areas of autonomy and jurisdiction. “The AMC cannot allow provincial laws to violate Treaty rights. First Nations Treaty rights are paramount, superseding provincial laws. This remains true, and has been repeatedly upheld at the Supreme Court of Canada on issues of trespassing,” added Grand Chief Dumas. “The AMC and First Nations leadership puts the Province on notice that we will explore all options, including legal challenges and political action to fight for and protect Treaty rights. We will not permit any provincial legislative measure to target First Nations directly, infringe civil liberties and violate Treaty and inherent rights,” continued Grand Chief Dumas.
The Legislative Assembly of Manitoba should not be used to promote partisan bickering and pursue party politics in a manner that uses its legislative ability to attack First Nations’ inherent and Treaty rights. The AMC will continue to stand up and defend First Nations and their rights and interests
Critics charge that Bill C-22 “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” although a step in the right direction does not go far enough
Feb. 18, 2021: Toronto Star – Bill C-22 “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” although a step in the right direction does not go far enough, critics say. The fact that the bill does not remove mandatory minimums for more crimes and does not repeal simple drug possession from the Criminal Code was described by lawyers and advocates as a missed opportunity in an otherwise strong bill.
Senator Kim Pate who introduces legislation in the Senate that would allow judges to use their discretion to deviate from mandatory minimums, expressed disappointment that the government didn’t go further in eliminating more of those penalties. “Bill C-22 emphasizes the vital importance of alternatives to criminalization and imprisonment to redress systemic racism. It is regrettable that the government acknowledges these realities yet stopped short of taking the kinds of bold steps we need right now,” she said. Indigenous people make up 5% of the population yet account for 30% of those incarcerated in Canadian prisons.
Department of Justice: The Bill proposes the following specific reforms:
- Repeal MMPs for certain offences to address the disproportionate impact on Indigenous and Black offenders, as well as those struggling with substance use and addiction. This would restore the ability of a judge to impose appropriate sentences that respond to the facts of the case before them, including the individual’s experience with systemic racism and the risk they pose to public safety. This moves away from the one-size-fits-all approach, which has not deterred crime but has resulted in unfair outcomes and a less effective criminal justice system, as well as longer and more complex trials.
- Allow for greater use of conditional Sentence orders (CSOs) in cases where an offender faces a term of less than two years imprisonment and does not pose a threat to public safety. Under these circumstances, judges would have the option to order that the term be served in the community under strict conditions, including house arrest, curfew, and mandatory counselling or treatment for substance abuse. This change would allow for more effective rehabilitation and reintegration by enabling individuals to maintain their employment, or continue caring for children or family members in need. This approach has been proven to reduce recidivism.
- Require police and prosecutors to consider other measures for simple possession of drugs such as diversion to addiction treatment programs, rather than laying charges or prosecuting individuals for simple possession of an illegal drug. The proposed amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act reinforce the Government’s commitment to treat substance use a health issue, and address the opioid crisis. It also aligns with calls heard from many in the law enforcement community and local leaders across the country.
24 cicil society groups attending the third meeting of Federal/Provincial/Territory” Minsters responsible for human rights “condemned the obstructive attitude of some governments” in advancing human rights obligations (Legislative Issues)
Nov. 12, 2020: NationTalk– 24 civil society groups attending the third ever meeting of Federal, Provincial, Territory Ministers responsible for human rights “condemned the obstructive attitude of some governments” in advancing international human rights obligations. Groups had pressed governments to commit to nation-wide law reform that will legally require governments to adopt a collaborative, accountable, consistent, transparent, well-coordinated approach to effectively implementing international human rights obligations in Canada. No commitment was made. Two governments boycotted the meeting:
- The government of Quebec opposed included references to “systemic” racism in the final communiqué, a position that blatantly ignores the undeniable reality of deeply-rooted systemic racism in the province and across Canada, and thus reaffirms systemic racism as a nationwide reality.
- The government of Alberta considers that the province is not bound to report on or engage with international instruments or mechanisms to which it is not a Party, a position that contravenes international law which makes it clear that federalism is no excuse or justification for failing to comply with international obligations.
In 2017, meeting for the first time in 29 years, ministers made several commitments to strengthen their collaboration in protecting human rights across Canada:
- Ministers had taken account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call on federal, provincial and territorial governments to “fully adopt and implement” the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is a shocking and unacceptable omission to see no reference to the Declaration in the final communiqué from this week’s meeting.
- During the past eight months of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, no government has applied – equitably or otherwise – an explicit economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights framework to analyze the problems laid bare, or to structure solutions.
A widely-endorsed proposal in April 2020 from 302 civil society groups, Indigenous peoples’ organizations and a broad spectrum of subject matter experts to federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to institute meaningful human rights oversight of their COVID-19 responses has not been taken up by any government in the country.
At the current meeting, Ministers discussed the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed that it is “important that human rights principles be considered in the development of plans for a strong and equitable recovery from the pandemic for all Canadians” but in no way acknowledged or even referenced social and economic rights. The proposal for human rights oversight of COVID-19 responses was not addressed.
Alberta’s Bill 1 “The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act” violates Indigenous and treaty rights by making protests illegal
June 11, 2020: HuffPost – “Bill 1 – The The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act” bans protests at critical infrastructure such as “pipelines, oilsands sites, mining sites as well as utilities, streets, highways, railways, and telecom towers and equipment. Violators who protest, trespass, interfere with operations, or cause damage around that kind of infrastructure will face fines as high as $10,000 or six months in jail or both. Further offences will garner fines of up to $25,000 and jail time.” The Bill was introduced specifically as a response to the Wetsu’wet’en Coastal GasLink protests in BC. and significantly impacts Indigenous rights and title especially given the governments lack of consultation on major projects that negatively impact Indigenous communities and lives.
Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, said the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act violates Indigenous and treaty rights, calling it a “racialized bill,” and one that will aggravate tensions between police and Indigenous people.
“We have a human right to voice our concerns. In our case, we have a treaty right and that’s not being respected,” explained Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief of Alberta, Marlene Poitras, “You’re going to criminalize the First Peoples of this land who agreed to share the lands with foreigners that came in. This impacts our way of life. There’s no chance of reconciliation with the UCP government with this.”
Lack of women’s shelters in Inuit Nunangat where Inuit women are 14 times more likely to face violence as women elsewhere in Canada
Jan. 26, 2021: Indigenous Services Canada – Commit to fund the construction and operations of shelters for Inuit women and children across Inuit Nunangat as well as in urban centres. Funding for the new shelters will be part of the $724.1 million for a comprehensive Violence Prevention Strategy as announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement. The government will continue to work with Pauktuutit and other Inuit partners to determine the locations and define the details of the projects to best meet the needs of women and families seeking shelter.
Sept. 14, 2020: Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada – Inuit communities are not eligible to access funding for shelters through the federal government’s Family Violence Prevention Program for Indigenous women, children and families. In its recent pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance (now paused due to the prorogation of Parliament), Pauktuutit reiterated its shelter ask as an urgent priority, along with the following two recommendations:
- That the federal government financially support the implementation of Pauktuutit’s 15 policing recommendations aimed at improving the safety and security of Inuit women (as per the January 2020 report Addressing Gendered Violence Against Inuit Women: A review of police policies and practices in Inuit Nunangat); and
That the federal government financially support the creation and delivery of programming aimed at improving the well-being and safety of Inuit women and children living in urban centres throughout Canada, including increasing access to affordable housing and skills training opportunities.
June 2, 2020 – Historically, the Minister of Indigenous Affairs has only had authority to provide funding for shelters on First Nations reserves, resulting in a glaring policy and program gap for vulnerable Inuit women and children. Inuit women face violence at a rate 14 times greater than other women in Canada. Of the 51 communities in Inuit Nunangat, 37 of them (73%) do not have safe places for Inuit women and girls fleeing violence.
Defeat of “Bill S-215, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Sentencing for Violent Offences Against Aboriginal Women)”
April 10, 2019 –Defeat of “Bill S-215, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Sentencing for Violent Offences Against Aboriginal Women)” in the House of Commons during the second reading on April 10, 2019. The Bill would have required a court to take Indigenous female identity into account during the sentencing of offenders.
Those “in favour” of Bill S-215:
NDP = 35; Green = 1; Bloc Québécois = 7 Liberals = 2; Conservatives = 0
This legislative defeat occurs at the same time as the imminent release of the MMIWG Final Report on the overrepresentation of Indigenous Women and Girls as victims of violent crimes. A 2016 report by Amnesty International found that “Indigenous women and girls suffer the highest rates of violence in Canada”
April 12, 2019 – As a supporter of this bill, Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) hoped it would be an important step forward with respect to the urgent issues Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people face today such as heightened likelihood of disappearance, human trafficking, violent crimes, and forced and coerced sterilization. NWAC hoped the House of Commons would see Bill S-215 as a step towards justice for Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people who face so much discrimination in Canada’s legal system.
Dec. 4, 2018 – When there’s a large-scale industrial development, when there’s construction camps that are co-located, we have documented increases in the rates of sexual assault, the rates of sexualized violence, the rates of prostitution, the rates of sexually transmitted infections,” said Ginger Gibson, director of the Firelight Group, which does research in Indigenous and local communities in Canada. Firelight’s 2017 report cites a 38 per cent increase in sexual assaults reported to RCMP during the first year of construction on an industrial project in Fort St. James, British Columbia. (Toronto Star)
Government of Ontario slashing funding for Legal Aid by 30%
April 12, 2019 – The provincial government is cutting funding to Legal Aid Ontario by 30% that negatively impacts the Indigenous population who are one of the most disadvantaged and impoverished in Ontario and one of the most over-represented in the criminal justice system.
June 13, 2019 – Cuts to Legal Aid Ontario are “mean-spirited” and will push the province closer to a two-tiered legal system, where Indigenous people, the poor and refugees will be at an even greater disadvantage, Ottawa lawyers warn. (Ottawa Citizen)
Issues Against Targeted Indigenous Groups
Erin O’Toole, leader of the Conservative Party, is opposed to any prisoner receiving a COVID-19 vaccination before the rest of the population. (30% of all inmates are Indigenous; 42% of women are Indigenous – a population prioritized by health experts
Jan. 6, 2021: The Tyee – Erin O’Toole, leader of the Conservative Party, disagrees with Canada’s vaccination effort that includes a plan to immunize high-risk prisoners in federal prisons — people who are old or sick. The initial wave of vaccinations will reach 600 inmates, about four per cent of the prison population. His comment: “Not one criminal should be vaccinated ahead of any vulnerable Canadian or frontline health worker.” Given that 30%+ of the prison population are Indigenous (42% for Indigenous women), O’Toole’s comments gloss over the fact that a disproportionate number of Indigenous people who only represent 5% of the population in Canada are vastly overrepresented in Canadian prisons.
This comes less than three weeks after O’Toole backed away from — but didn’t apologize for — bizarre comments on the good intentions behind residential schools. But the people behind the plan to take generations of Indigenous children from their families, hold them in horrible conditions and erase their culture had good intentions, O’Toole said. “It was meant to try and provide education,” he told the campus club.
Only after his comments were publicized and calls for his resignation started trending on social media did O’Toole retract his statement.
Indigenous police forces are only police force in Canada not classified as an essential service
Sept. 27, 2020: Toronto Star –Indigenous Police Forces only police force in Canada not classified as an essential service.
Federal government has promised four times “to speed up the development of a legal framework to recognize First Nations policing as an essential service”:
- after the 2019 election,
- after the Coastal GasLInk protests in BC
- in the 2020 Speech from the Throne
- In June after multiple incidents of police violence against Indigenous people across Canada
“The funding that we receive from them is inadequate to provide the necessary services that our communities require,” said Rama police Chief Jerel Swamp said….Swamp said none of the First Nations policing services or their police boards have been consulted on what legislation need to include, which he argues is essential….The government also hasn’t approached the leaders of the Indigenous communities on the issue yet, he said.”
Increasing arrests of Indigenous journalists at protests
Sept. 9, 2020: Toronto Star – Increasing arrests of Indigenous journalists including:
- Karl Dockstader at 1492 Land Back Lane Haudenosaunee occupation regarding a housing development near Caledonia
- Courtney Skye, Yellowhead Institute researcher and Ryerson Fellow arrested as well
- Award-winning journalist Justin Brake was arrested and charged with criminal and civil contempt and criminal mischief while covering a protest at Muskrat Falls in Newfoundland, Four years later all charges were dismissed
- At the Wet’suwet’en protests in BC
- Jerome Turner, an award winning Gixstan journalist had shotguns and sniper guns aimed at him
- Amber Bracken, an award-winning photo-journalist was pushed back and warned to stay away
- Jesse Winter, an award-winning photojournalist was detained by police
- Melissa Cox, American documentary filmmaker, was arrested documenting the conflict nearby on unceded Gitxsan territory
Indigenous voices have been stifled in the media and Canadian society for generations. It’s only been in the last decade or two that our stories have gained any substantive traction with the mainstream. Our people are most often portrayed inaccurately in the media via way of stereotypical nuances and negativity that perpetuates the racism that runs rampant in this country. These portrayals aid in the oppression against Indigenous communities that already deal with appalling statistics and human rights violations.
Sept. 4th marked the 25th anniversary of the Ipperwash tragedy where Dudley George, an unarmed Indigenous man was killed by an OPP sniper. While occupying land promised by the federal government to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. There were no journalists present when George was killed.
Brent Jolly, the President of the Canadian Association of Journalists, condemned the arrest of Karl Dockstader stating:
“The OPP are well aware that journalists have an established constitutional right to be present and cover matters of public interest.,” he said, “Attempting to prevent a properly credentialed journalist from documenting a moment of contentious action is impermissible in a country like Canada. Journalism should never be silenced.”
Protecting incarcerated people amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
April 20, 2020 – First Nations leadership across BC is united in calling for immediate action to protect incarcerated peoples amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak at the Mission Institution is now the third largest outbreak in the Province of BC, with the first inmate tragically passing away on April 15, 2020. Senior health and corrections officials have verified that almost 40% of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Mission Institution are among Indigenous inmates despite Indigenous people making up just 5% of the population in BC.
Doug White, Chairperson of the BC First Nations Justice Council calls the situation an urgent crisis and a ‘ticking time bomb.’ “Indigenous people are vastly over-represented in prisons and carry more than our share of the burden of health issues and chronic disease. These men were sentenced to a term of years, not to death. The duty of care that is upon the Institution in the midst of this crisis requires immediate and comprehensive action to avoid further tragedy. This situation requires extra-ordinary efforts and collaboration.”
The BC First Nations Justice Council, BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), the Union of BC Indian Chief (UBCIC), and the First Nations Summit (FNS) call on the Government of Canada and the Province of BC to urgently implement the following safety measures:
- Immediately test all inmates and staff at the Mission Institution;
- Increase safety and screening measures for workers entering and exiting the facility;
- Enhance medical surge capacity onsite via mobile medical units to effectively treat emerging cases;
- Enact isolation protocols which ensure that inmates who test positive are isolated in health facilities with regular monitoring and as much comfort as any other individual, along with meaningful human contact compliant with social distancing;
- Increase access to counselling and mental health resources in every federal facility in order to mitigate the psychological and emotional consequences of isolation measures and reduced social contact;
- Develop release plans for as many people as possible, prioritizing those with pre-existing health conditions who are at increased risk due to COVID-19, and immediately release anyone classified low risk with a home in community where they will be able to self- isolation;
- Include among release criteria a plan for secure housing, financial aid, and community safety, and provide support in meeting these criteria; and
- Test and isolate all individuals for 14 days before re-entering community.
Call to Action Status Updates
|For an updated summary of the TRC Calls to Action, including all Justice Calls to Action, click here (PDF 205 KB).|