HRW questions RCMP policy

A report released by the Human Rights Watch about allegations of abuse by RCMP included interviews with Hazelton women.

Allegations from women in the Hazelton area were part of a report released by the Human Rights Watch last week regarding the mistreatment of aboriginal women by RCMP members.

Those Who Take Us Away, an 89-page report revealing research and interviews collected over five weeks in northern B.C. in 2012, condemns the RCMP for its alleged historical abuse of aboriginal women.

The title of the report is a literal translation of the word for police in the Carrier-Sekani language.

The report comes on the heels of Forsaken, the report by Wally Opal about the missing and murdered women  of Vancouver’s downtown east side.

But the HRW report goes further than Opal’s report by examining the ability of citizens to formally press charges against members of the RCMP.

One potential reason for the lack of wide-spread public awareness regarding the alleged abuse suffered by aboriginal women from the  RCMP in B.C. is the inability of women who feel their rights have been violated have no avenue to file a complaint.

The report states that the latter compounds mistrust towards the RCMP.

Lena Wilson, who was not included in the report, is currently being charged with obstruction of an officer and is awaiting word as to whether she will be allowed to charge an officer she claims threw her to the ground without cause while she was walking home after a wedding dance last summer.

“It’s kind of an oppressive system,” Wilson said.

“My lawyer was explaining the process to me and it still doesn’t make any sense.”

The report outlines the way for a Canadian citizen to file a complaint through the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.

If a complaint is filed the RCMP must investigate, but it is up to the senior Crown prosecutor to determine whether an RCMP officer will be charged with a crime after n investigation by the RCMP, the Canadian Bar Association website says.

If a complainant isn’t satisfied with Crown’s decision they can request a reconsideration from the local Justice of the Peace.

The HRW report says the initial problem is the RCMP get to investigate themselves.

Canada took steps to alleviate the potential conflict of interest of the RCMP investigating themselves by creating the Independent Investigation Office, but the HRW points to another flaw.

The IIO mandate doesn’t investigate accusations of harassment or sexual misconduct, but the CRCC does deal with both of the above complaints.

According to the report the CRCC has some immediate work to do.

One woman claims to have been picked up and taken to a remote area last summer, where she was then physically and sexually assaulted by RCMP officers and threatened with her life if she told anyone, the report states.

The main recommendation for Canada in the report is to have an inquiry into the “historical relationship between the police and indigenous women and girls” by the end of 2013.

The inquiry would include all “incidents of serious police misconduct”.

A potential roadblock in preventing Wilson and others from getting their complaints fully investigated by the CRCC or the IIO is the RCMP aren’t reqired to release all of their findings to the CRCC or IIO in the event of a civilian investigation, a highlight of former Complaints Commissioner Paul Kennedy’s review of the changes in civilian complaint policy, shortly before being relieved of his job and title in 2009.

160 women have gone missing or were found to have been murdered in B.C. since the 1960s, the HRW report states.

The RCMP only include 18 in official Highway of Tears investigations, which is limited by women or girls who were last seen or found murdered within one mile of Highway 16.

The HRW report makes a good case for an inquiry into the relationship between the RCMP and aboriginal women, but the Prime Minister’s Office has yet to act on any of the recommendations.

Prime Minister Harper has only requested that any evidence regarding alleged police abuse or excessive use of force towards aboriginal women be turned over by the HRW to the RCMP immediately.

Neither Premier Christy Clark or Prime Minister Harper would meet with HRW representatives who have been in Canada since late last week.


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