RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki faced calls to resign on Monday from two prominent Indigenous politicians over her comments about systemic racism in the force.
Commissioner Lucki was criticized last week after she said in interviews, including with The Globe and Mail, that she struggled with the term “systemic racism” and its application to the RCMP. She issued a statement on Friday saying it does exist within the national force.
Senator Lillian Eva Dyck of the Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan said Commissioner Lucki was hired to eradicate racism and that her comments on Friday are not enough. She wants the Commissioner to resign or be removed.
“She was hired to help get rid of problems in the RCMP, like systemic racism, that are one of the root causes of the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women – if she didn’t have those qualifications, she shouldn’t be in the job," she said.
Commissioner Lucki staying in the job would amount to a “slap in the face,” the senator added, saying that instead of learning about systemic racism now, leaders should be enacting the many recommendations from a long list of reports and inquiries on policing.
“While we’re all learning, people are getting beaten up and killed," she said. “Racialized people are suffering as a consequence, we can’t wait for these people to learn. We have to put people in charge who know what it’s all about and are willing to go out there and make those changes.”
In an interview with The Globe on Monday, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the Commissioner should not have had to be publicly shamed or put under pressure to admit there is systemic racism within the force.
“It just shows a lack of leadership, a lack of commitment," he said. “As long as [you have] people like that leading a police force like the RCMP, nothing will change. Absolutely nothing.”
A full, comprehensive review of the force is required by an outside body and the findings need to be binding, he added, saying the RCMP are rooted in the colonial history of Canada, including involvement in taking children away from their families to the Indian residential school system.
“What we’ve seen over the last three months or so is the continuation of that legacy,” he said.
Asked about the calls for the Commissioner’s ouster, the Prime Minister’s Office referred The Globe to Justin Trudeau’s comments from last week. “I continue to have confidence in Commissioner Lucki,” he said on Friday.
The RCMP also faced calls from Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde on Monday to institute a zero-tolerance policy for excessive use of force.
During a video news conference, the National Chief pointed to what he called alarming statistics of killings by police of Indigenous people, such as the RCMP shooting death of a man from a Mi’kmaq First Nation last week.
“A lot of our people are getting hurt and/or killed at the hands of police,” he said. “Police are there to protect and serve, not assault and kill.”
Mr. Bellegarde also used the example of the “violent takedown” of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam in mid-March that was captured on video and released publicly last week.
“That’s an assault and an attack, and that’s not acceptable," he said. "Having a zero-tolerance policy would be clear and that would send a strong message to all police forces that it will not be tolerated.”
In the face of mounting pressure to implement immediate reforms to policing, Mr. Trudeau didn’t make any specific commitments on Monday, but said his government is deciding what to do.
“We will work with communities to prioritize which ones we should do first and most rapidly," he said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said on Monday the government needs to shift federal police funding into areas such as mental health, and should follow through on recommendations in the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Mr. Singh also called on Mr. Trudeau to take clear steps to address systemic racism.
“What is the Prime Minister going to do about it? It’s not enough to take a knee,” he said in reference to Mr. Trudeau doing so at a recent protest on Parliament Hill.
Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister in the previous Parliament and was the regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in British Columbia, said Canadians need to realize the recent incidents involving Indigenous people and police are not isolated.
“It has happened and continues to happen all the time across the country when it comes to Indigenous peoples and other marginalized Canadians,” she said.
Institutions are reflections of the society, and as a society, it is time to have important conversations about what needs to change, she added.
“We need to seriously consider different ways of policing when it comes to minority communities, particularly Indigenous communities."
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