CACP Bulletin

Spring 2016

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10 CACP Spring 2016 T he Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls pre-inquiry design process is now completed and soon a full national inquiry will be launched. It comes on the heels of the Truth and Reconciliation Report which introduced the phrase "cultural genocide" to describe the historical goals of Canada's aboriginal policy targeted towards removing one's 'aboriginal identity.' The report highlighted the fact that "reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one. Virtually all aspects of Canadian society may need to be reconsidered." From a policing leadership, point of view we took the 'Calls to Action' of the Truth and Reconciliation report very seriously. After all, it was often police in Canada who were used as agents of the state to enforce government policy with respect to Indigenous people. The end result would shape an understandably difficult relationship between us for many generations to come. It was also police in Canada who continuously saw the end result of years and years of suffering - within their communities, and highly disproportionately, within their jail cells. In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), on behalf of police services across Canada, published the report "Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview". In collaboration with the Sisters in Spirit initiative of the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), data was studied between 1980 and 2012. While police solve rates were almost identical (9 out of 10 homicides solved for both involving Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal female victims of homicide), some disturbing trends were revealed. The 2015 RCMP Update to the National Operational Overview showed a correlation to familial and spousal violence for all women, regardless of ethnicity. Missing and murdered Aboriginal women however, are overrepre- sented in these statistics particularly when you factor in the percentage they represent of the Canadian population. As police do, we tend to look at numbers, trends, and risk factors. This allows us to be better informed about how to target our efforts – crime prevention, community engagement, accountability, operational planning, etc. Admittedly, it's a cold but very effective part of policing. Unfortunately, numbers and trends do not convey the real human beings behind them, but they do provide strong indications of how and why crimes are committed. Chief Clive Weighill, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) has been outspoken in stating: "As an organization, the CACP continues to suggest that these troubling occurrences are certainly broader than a police issue. They include health, social services, education, aboriginal people and all levels of government. There is the common thread of marginalization as a contributing factor. There is also a tragic history which substantiates systematic issues." The systemic issues are being reflected in such headlines as "First Nations students get 30% less funding than other children, economist says. There is a direct correlation between education outcomes and standard of living, including health, happiness and community engagement." Systemic issues flow from decades of mistreatment, lack of support, lack of funding, and yes, marginalization and racism. The challenges of a MMIW Inquiry lie in the scope of such an under- taking, given the breadth and depth of the contributing systemic issues. On the other hand, an inquiry can focus on the specific, individual and/or isolated factors contributing to the issue. There is often a significant gap between expectations of families of victims and the perceived actions of police (and that is not to absolve all police actions or lack of). For example, two recent headlines appearing on the same page highlight two different perspectives on the same issue - "All time high of 8,800 short-term missing person reports filed last year, Winnipeg police say" and "Indigenous families call police investigations inadequate", and reinforce the need for police and indigenous populations to work together to seek solutions to identified issues. Regardless, there will be a great deal of soul-searching for all Canadians. Does this soul-searching include police across this country? It most certainly does! A recent statement by a national native spokesperson that "concerns about policing should be at the heart of the national inquiry." It's a view that has been further perpetuated by some within the new government itself. While I believe that police must play a significant role, as there is no doubt we have to make changes within our own culture and attitudes, I assert that policing should not be central to an inquiry. If that were to be the case, it would overshadow the much larger systemic issues that contribute to marginalization and racism. OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes recently stated: "Racism and prejudice exists in all societies, so I cannot claim that the OPP is completely free of these negative attitudes. I can say the OPP does not tolerate racism or prejudice in any form and takes both proactive and reactive steps to counter racism and prejudice. If we find a member has acted in a racist or prejudiced way in his or her professional or personal life, we will take appropriate educational and disciplinary action up to and including dismissal." I had the fortune of accompanying Chief Weighill during a Globe and Mail panel discussion in Edmonton at the Spirit of Our Sisters Conference last fall. It was an informal panel and participants were welcomed to a room only meant for perhaps half of those who attended. The gathering was filled with emotion, heart-wrenching stories and the shedding of many tears. Chief Weighill did convey his thoughts, very briefly, and they were warmly received. Perhaps most notable was the recognition of the seriousness of the issue and steps taken by Saskatoon Police Service to address it. Following the event, I talked to the Chief as to whether or not we had really contributed much. "We did what we had to do, Tim. We had to listen. We had to seek to understand. We had to show we cared." We do care and that is why police all across this country are fully committed towards this inquiry. We will share in the need to reflect, re-visit attitudes and indeed, "make space in their hearts for Aboriginal people" as Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde has called on all Canadians to do. Join us at the Moving Forward to Safer Futures: An inclusive dialogue among police, policy makers and Canada's Aboriginal Peoples conference May 30-June 1 to more closely examine these and other issues. The Challenges of a Missing and Murdered INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND GIRLS INQUIRY By Tim Smith, CACP Government Relation and Communications

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