Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation listens as Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks during a press conference in Fort McMurray, Alta. on Friday May 30, 2014. Adam was involved in an incident with RCMP officers in Alberta where he was tackled by officers and taken to the ground in what was called an unnecessary use of force by a number of Indigenous rights watchdog groups across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Native Women’s Association calls for police reform in wake of recent Indigenous deaths

Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi both recently died following interactions with police

A Canadian organization that advocates for the rights of Indigenous women is calling for significant reforms to policing in Canada in advance of their president’s meeting with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.

In addition to calling on significant revisions to existing “shoot-to-kill” orders, Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) President Lorraine Whitman is calling on all frontline law enforcement officers to be equipped with body cameras.

She is also calling for a reimagining of duties currently performed by police when dealing with Indigenous individuals suffering from mental health issues and a shifting of a number of responsibilities to social workers, health professionals or elders.

The recent deaths of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi in New Brunswick, and an incident between Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam and RCMP officers in Alberta have brought the issue to national attention.

READ MORE: Violence against Indigenous women during COVID-19 sparks calls for MMIWG plan

“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 said. “But we ask that you use this moment to begin taking the steps necessary to prevent further lives from being lost.”

The NWAC is also asking the RCMP and other Canadian police forces to join them in forming a task force that will critically examine 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,” Whitman added.

Lucki recently spoke to MPs at an emergency meeting of the federal public safety committee, where she acknowledged systemic racism was prevalent within the RCMP but fell short of satisfying at least one MP’s questions on the matter.

During that meeting, in response to a question from Liberal MP Greg Fergus — who is also the chair of the Black caucus in Parliament — on examples of systemic racism within her organization — Lucki pointed to tests as part of the physical requirements for the job that require applicants to do a broad jump over a six-foot mat, acknowledging that subsequent research shows most people can jump only their own height.

“How many six-foot people do we hire? And there are people in all different cultures that may not be six feet, including there’s not a lot of women that are six feet tall, that would not be able to get through that type of test,” Commissioner Lucki said.

“That would be systemic discrimination,” Fergus said. “But I’m trying to think of systemic racism.”

Black Press Media has reached out to the NWAC for more information on when the meeting between Lucki and Whitman will take place.

Locally, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach has been critical of the recent incidents as well.

“People find it inconceivable that a woman who isn’t well and in that situation would end up being shot,” he previously told Smithers Interior News responding to Moore’s death. “It’s hard to understand how that happens and then seeing videos like the video [of Adam]… it’s difficult to deny that there’s a problem.”



trevor.hewitt@interior-news.com
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