OTTAWA — A national group representing Indigenous women is urging the RCMP to quickly take steps — including equipping Mounties with body cameras — to end what it calls needless killing and assaults by police.
In a letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, the Native Women’s Association of Canada also calls on the force to make non-violent apprehension the imperative when a suspect has no gun and to ensure social workers, health professionals or elders be called when an Indigenous person is suffering a mental health crisis.
The letter to Lucki comes as a House of Commons committee prepares to meet today to consider doing a study of systemic racism in policing.
New Democrat MP Jack Harris has been pressing the public safety committee to reconvene to get an examination underway.
Harris wants Lucki and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief, to be among the witnesses.
Lucki recently said she was struggling with the notion of systemic racism in the RCMP, only to acknowledge its existence days later.
New Democrats have already called for a review of the RCMP budget and for more spending on mental health and addiction supports to prevent crises from becoming police matters.
Concerns about police brutality and discrimination have sparked rallies and cries for change around the world since the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minnesota police.
The recent police killings of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi in New Brunswick, and the battering of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam by RCMP in Alberta, have highlighted the issue in Canada, the association notes.
In the letter to Lucki, association president Lorraine Whitman invites Lucki to take “the first steps to end the needless deaths and assaults of Indigenous women and men at the hands of Canadian police.”
“We, as Indigenous women, did not need to read the recent spate of tragic news to understand the tragic outcomes that can occur when our people have encounters with law enforcement in this country,” Whitman writes.
“But we ask that you use this moment to begin taking the steps necessary to prevent further lives from being lost.”
The association also wants the RCMP and other Canadian police forces to join in forming a task force to rewrite the relationship between police and Indigenous women.
“We want culturally appropriate protocols that will keep our women, girls and gender-diverse people safe, not just from street killers and other assailants who have targeted them as prey, but from the police themselves.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2020.
Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press