Why does RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki still have a job?
Ms. Lucki is the person who, one year ago, denied there was “systemic racism” in the force she leads, before back-pedalling days later.
She is the one who did nothing while Mi’kmaq fishermen in Nova Scotia were terrorized for months last year, even though the fishermen were well within their rights to catch lobster.
Now, she’s the one who will have to respond to and act on a Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) report – made public this week – that said that Colten Boushie’s mother Debbie Baptiste was degraded after her son was shot and killed on Gerald Stanley’s Saskatchewan farm in 2016.
That report, with its 47 findings and 17 recommendations concerning the deficiencies in the RCMP investigation into Mr. Boushie’s death and in officers’ treatment of his family, raised many questions. Why did the force destroy police records of communications between themselves that night? What were they hiding? Why did the RCMP not protect the vehicle Mr. Boushie was shot in, leaving it out in the elements where evidence could potentially be destroyed? And what are officers supposed to think when there is no accountability for the kinds of behaviour outlined by the CRCC?
In the business world, when there is a crisis of confidence within a company, the CEO steps down to appease the shareholders. This is de rigeur: Someone takes responsibility and a thorough review happens or else investors flee. Canada’s bureaucratic public institutions must be held to an even higher account, as they serve the people; the RCMP, which deals in life and death, should be held to standards even higher than that. The members of the Canadian public are the shareholders here, and we see the festering, systemic rot that has existed for more than 150 years, pointed out by endless reviews, commissions and inquiries. And so in order for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to begin salvaging its reputation with any Indigenous person, the organization must be accountable – and accountability starts at the top.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stood by Ms. Lucki before, but now, if he has any conscience, the choice is obvious. After what happened last year in the fishery dispute, after meeting with Mr. Boushie’s family, and after hearing the court hand down a not-guilty verdict to Mr. Stanley in the killing of the 22-year-old Cree man from Red Pheasant First Nation, Mr. Trudeau promised sweeping change. Where is it?
How many times must National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde or the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations or the Nishnawbe Aski Nation or Sen. Lillian Dyck demand someone take responsibility for Canada’s two-tiered policing system? How many times are Canadians supposed to scream for a national police force that actually focuses on public safety and combatting racism?
This force has a long, contentious history with Indigenous people. Its officers ripped children out of parents’ arms to send them to Indian residential schools. And of course, far too often, they’ve failed to properly investigate the murders or disappearances of Indigenous women and girls. The RCMP has failed to keep families in the loop about any progress in their loved ones’ cases. Time and time again, the parents and families of our sisters told the National Inquiry that they were treated in the same way by the RCMP as Ms. Baptiste was: without respect or humanity.
I am a mother, and I cannot comprehend how Debbie Baptiste and her family were able to handle their home being surrounded by weaponized RCMP officers, who then burst in the door and told her the most agonizing, horrific, fall-to-the-floor news: your son is dead. And then, instead of receiving any ounce of human empathy or decency, Ms. Baptiste was questioned about her sobriety – an officer leaned in and sniffed her breath in her own home – a move the commission noted was done purely out of racial discrimination.
Ms. Baptiste had been waiting for her son to come home that night. She had prepared dinner and kept a plate for him in the microwave. Ms. Baptiste was questioned like a criminal, and one of the officers went to check her story – even going so far as to open the microwave to see if she was lying about that detail.
Canada’s mothers – Indigenous and not – must stand together and demand that Brenda Lucki resigns as RCMP commissioner so there can be real change in the force.
We accept nothing less. For all children in Canada, we demand justice for Colten.
Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.