RCMP Working To Rebuild Relationship With Indigenous Peoples

OTTAWA—The RCMP has been quietly meeting with national aboriginal organizations to start building a better relationship with indigenous peoples following a long history of mutual distrust.

“I think we have seen that, historically, the relationship with policing in Canada for aboriginal peoples has been tenuous at best,” said Dawn Lavell Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).

“It’s important to sit down and say, ‘Enough pointing fingers. What are we going to do to make this better? What are we going to do to improve this relationship?’ Because quite frankly, indigenous people aren’t going away and neither is the RCMP. We need to find a way to make this relationship work in a positive way,” she said.

A watershed moment came late last year when RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson responded to a question from the floor of an Assembly of First Nations (AFN) gathering in Gatineau, Que., about racism under his watch.

“I hear what you say. I understand there are racists in my police force. I don’t want them to be in my police force,” Paulson said Dec. 9.

The Star has learned that AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who told the top Mountie that day his presence at the meeting was “starting to earn that trust and respect,” has since followed up with a one-on-one meeting with Paulson to discuss the way forward.

“The discussion focused on the need for concrete action to end racism within the police force,” the AFN said of the Jan. 15 meeting in an emailed statement, as Bellegarde was unavailable for an interview Thursday.

The AFN said the meeting touched on specific recommendations, such as: cultural competency training for officers; better operations, including improved investigations and communication, when it comes to cases involving First Nations people and their families; and protocols for community engagement.

Another recommendation was for “accurate and reliable” data collection systems and databases, an area highlighted by a recent Star investigation into missing and murdered indigenous women, which raised questions about the solve rates of homicides and relationships between perpetrators and victims.

The efforts did not begin and end with that one-on-one meeting.

The Star has also learned the Mounties formed a working group devoted to empowering indigenous women and preventing violence that includes representatives from six aboriginal organizations, which will meet for the second time Feb. 17 at RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer said the meeting is part of long-lasting and ongoing “solid relationship” with the national aboriginal organizations, which the Mounties meet with quarterly.

“These meetings focus on ways the RCMP can partner with the (national aboriginal organizations) in the areas of crime prevention and reducing the victimization of indigenous peoples,” Pfleiderer wrote in a statement.

“It’s about working together and coming up with some change through a positive working relationship,” said Chief Dwight Dorey of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents non-status Indians and others living off-reserve.

Lavell Harvard said Paulson took a “courageous first step” by acknowledging racism was part of the problem and sees the meetings — both the working group and other informal conversations — as a way to start tackling the monumental challenge of missing and murdered indigenous women now, rather than after the promised national inquiry makes its recommendations.

She also said she has already seen some changes, in that when families of missing or murdered indigenous women call her organization seeking help in dealing with the RCMP, she can pass along the concerns to an actual name and number.

“In the past we wouldn’t have even known who to call. The fact that we have started having some conversations and having that partnership gives us somebody that we can call, somebody that we can pass that along to and say, ‘How can we help here?’ Rather than us just saying there is nothing we can do, because all that does is make the situation worse,” she said.

Lavell Harvard said she would like to see the RCMP replicate a toolkit NWAC hands out to families of missing and murdered indigenous women — featuring tips on how to navigate the process, including how to file a missing persons report, ask questions, take notes, spread the word and advocate — so detectives can provide it to them directly.

“We need our families to be able to feel that they can go to the police for support when they need to,” she said.

Clément Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, also agreed the relationship needs work, but shared his personal feeling of disillusionment following an earlier meeting with the RCMP on missing and murdered indigenous women.

In 1961, Chartier was 15 years old and at residential school in The Pas, Man., when his mother, Rosa Chartier, was beaten to death in his hometown of Buffalo Narrows, Sask.

He said two people were later acquitted and he has always felt a sense of injustice about a crime he believes would have been handled differently if his mother had been a white woman.

Chartier said he “warmed up to the RCMP” at the meeting and followed up, saying he would be interested in pursuing what happened to his mother, but after being referred to a couple of different people all he was told was to get the transcripts from the trial and read them for himself.

“It kind of personally soured me a bit in terms of this whole process,” said Chartier, whose schedule will not allow him to attend the Feb. 17 meeting and he did not feel inclined to change it.

“I didn’t have a burning desire to make myself available to sit there and listen to them,” said Chartier, who plans to attend the families gathering ahead of the second national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women in Winnipeg at the end of the month.


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RCMP: Indigenous Perpetrators Responsible For 70 Percent Of Solved Indigenous Women Murders


By Jorge Barrera | APTN National News

Top Mountie breaks with policy, says Indigenous perpetrators responsible for 70 per cent of solved Indigenous women murders

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says Indigenous perpetrators are responsible for 70 per cent of the solved murders of Indigenous women, according to a letter distributed to various media outlets by Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch’s office.

The letter represents a substantial shift from the RCMP which has previously stated, because of its “bias-free policing policy,” it would not be revealing data on the ethnicity of perpetrators from its project on murdered and missing Indigenous women.

The move reduces the political heat faced by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt who first mentioned the statistic during a closed-door meeting with chiefs late last month and immediately faced controversy.

In the April 7-dated letter to Treaty 6 Grand Chief Bernice Martial, Paulson wrote that “consolidated data” from about 300 police agencies reviewed by the RCMP supported the 70 per cent statistic. It also showed that, in the cases of solved murders of Indigenous women, 25 per cent of the perpetrators were non-Indigenous and five per cent were of unknown ethnicity.

“It is not the ethnicity of the offender that is relevant, but rather the relationship between victim and offender that guides our focus with respect to prevention,” wrote Paulson.

Paulson said the RCMP believes releasing information around ethnicity could do more harm than good.

“Public discourse on the ethnicity of the offender has the potential to stigmatize and marginalize vulnerable populations,” said the letter. “Female homicide across all ethnicities is inextricably linked to familial and spousal violence; it is for this reason that RCMP analysis and prevention efforts have focused on the relationship between the victim and offenders.”

Paulson’s letter does not provide any information on regional breakdowns of solved murders of Indigenous women or whether they primarily happen on or off-reserve.


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The letter is in response to an earlier letter from Martial who wrote Paulson requesting the RCMP reveal the data used by Valcourt during a closed-door meeting in Calgary at the end of March. During the meeting, Valcourt mentioned the 70 per cent statistic, which surprised some of the chiefs at the meeting. Martial immediately demanded the minister reveal where the number came from.

“As you note, the Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, has stated that 70 per cent of the offenders in these cases are Aboriginal,” wrote Paulson.

Martial said she received the letter in an email Thursday morning but hadn’t yet read it because she has been on the road. When APTN read her the section on the 70 per cent statistic, she expressed shock.

“Oh my gosh, how can this be right? They just want to make it right,” she said. “I will just read it through myself and go from there.”

After the RCMP refused to initially publicly back the minister on the statistic, Valcourt faced calls for his resignation from chiefs and repeated attacks in the House of Commons from the NDP on the issue. The minister never repeated the statistic in any of his responses during question period.

The RCMP announced last week it would be releasing a second report in May on murdered and missing Indigenous women. The federal police force released a report last spring that found there were 1,181 cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women dating back to 1980. The RCMP gathered information from about 300 police agencies and Statistics Canada.

Paulson said in the letter that the federal force could not release all the data it has collected as part of its project. Paulson said the RCMP is “not the sole proprietor of this information” because at some of it comes from outside police forces.

The RCMP also signed a confidentially agreement with Statistics Canada that prevents the federal police force from releasing “sensitive statistical information.”

Under the agreement, the RCMP agreed to only use the information for research purposes accessible only by RCMP employees.

Leitch’s office also issued a statement in conjunction with the letter.

“We all have a role to play in protecting Aboriginal women and girls. Our government has taken strong action to address the broader challenges facing Aboriginal women and girls,” said the statement. “Since 2006 we have been proud to introduce over 30 new justice and public safety measures to keep Canadian families safe.”

NDP Aboriginal affairs critic Niki Ashton said the Harper government continues to blame First Nation people for the violence faced by Indigenous women.

“Instead of taking a hard look at how they have marginalized Indigenous women and their communities,” said Ashton. “The release of figures without the data to back it up is always problematic.”

The RCMP could not be reached for comment.

The Assembly of First Nations was carbon copied on the letter, along with the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice and Valcourt’s office.