Police Will Get Blamed During Missing, Murdered Inquiry: Chief

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde spoke of the difference in quality of living between Indigenous people and the rest of Canada during a speech at the Nishnawbe Aski Nation's Spring Chiefs Assembly in Timmins this week. Monday May 16, 2016. Alan S. Hale/Timmins Daily Press/Postmedia Network

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde at the Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s Spring Chiefs Assembly in Timmins. May 16, 2016. Alan S. Hale/Timmins Daily Press/Postmedia Network

Winnipeg Sun,  June 01, 2016

Police across the country will bear much of the blame from an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is released, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde warned.

“Prepare yourselves because fingers are going to be pointed,” Bellegarde told the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs conference at the Fairmont Hotel.

“You didn’t do an adequate job. You didn’t put enough human and financial resources into the research and development, and the investigations surrounding all of these First Nations women.”

The inquiry concerns about 1,200 females across Canada.

“Be big enough to show that more work needs to be done to improve the system,” Bellegarde said in a speech promoting a better relationship between police and indigenous people. “How do you work and collaborate together? How do you share information? How do you get community members involved? How do you bring closure? How do you help them bring healing? Bottom line, it’s about working together and establishing relationships.”

Some agencies have already improved their policies, said Clive Weighill, the association’s president.

“The way we handle missing person cases, period, has changed,” said Weighill, who is also the Saskatoon Chief of Police. “The days of waiting 24 hours to report a missing person are gone … We have different ways to triage the reports now to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks.

“In Saskatoon, we have a full-time missing persons victims co-ordinator that works with the families. We have three people dedicated strictly to missing persons files to triage those files to make sure they’re getting investigated properly. We’re working closely with social services, very closely with the families. We’re involved with any awareness marches in Saskatoon and even building a memorial to the missing and murdered indigenous women right in front of our police headquarters. So, the world has changed in the last decade.”

The association has taken what Weighill says are two important steps to improving police’s work with indigenous people. No. 1: dedicated funding for on-reserve policing that can be relied upon every year.

The second piece is looking at ways to increase the safety of indigenous people living in cities.

“The federal government is not putting the money into the cities,” he said. “But the people living in cities are living in poverty, they’re living in poor housing; they need education help and the funding isn’t there.”