First Nation Chiefs demand an end to racism in Quesnel

·3 min read

Four B.C. First Nations are speaking out against systemic racism and violence against Indigenous peoples in Quesnel.

Chiefs of the Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance, which includes Lhoosk’uz Dene (Kluskus), Lhtako Dene (Red Bluff), Nazko and Ulkatcho (Anahim), want RCMP to work with their communities to end what they call a cycle of injustice, humiliation and discrimination faced by their members.

The call is also being supported by ?Esdilagh First Nation (Alexandria).

It comes after RCMP said they were investigating the actions of a security guard who detained a woman as well as multiple thefts and fraudulent purchases that led up to the Oct. 29 incident.

A two-minute video of the altercation between the young woman of the Ulkatcho First and male security guard outside of Save-On-Foods at West Park Mall drew swift condemnation shortly after it was posted online. The guard has no affiliation with Cariboo Security Ltd., the company confirmed.

Lhtako Dene First Nation Chief Clifford Lebrun said the display of racism and brutality is just one of several instances of systemic racism and violence that First Nations witness on a daily basis.

The Chiefs added that a stronger relationship founded on trust and respect is direly needed between First Nations and law enforcement in Quesnel and area.

“I think racism exists in our society, and Quesnel is no different than any other place,” said Quesnel RCMP Staff Sgt. Darren Dodge.

Dodge has been with the Quesnel detachment since 2014 and described RCMP’s relationship with First Nations in and surround Quesnel as ‘very’ positive.

“Beginning in January, we hope to have what is called a Chiefs Committee set up between myself and chiefs of the various First Nations,” he said, noting the formation of such a committee is the result of a Nov. 9 meeting with Lebrun and ?Edilagh Chief Roy Stump.

“I’m open to any and all suggestions, and we hope to build on our relationship now and make a better relationship between all of us,” Dodge added.

The Quesnel Women’s Resource Centre (QWRC) is urging West Park Mall to review their security procedures and ensure security staff are appropriately trained, including diversity and inclusion training and anti-racism training.

“To say race was not a factor does not take into account the broad systemic inequalities which are ingrained in our society,” QWRC said in a statement.

“Furthermore, this situation exemplifies the level of gender-based violence targeted at women, especially Indigenous women and women of colour in our community.”

Ulkatcho Chief Lynda Price said they have asked the Quesnel RCMP to take steps to meaningfully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth to Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action to “ensure the survival, dignity and well-being of our members living in Quesnel and beyond.”

“We as an institution and we as a society will always have to do better,” Dodge said.

“With the assistance of our partners and the First Nations, hopefully, we can make meaningful steps to address racism.”

Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune