RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said today she's trying to change the culture of the RCMP — comments that come in the wake of a scathing report from the force's independent watchdog on racial discrimination.
"As the commissioner of the RCMP it's part of my job, and part of my mandate, to ensure that the culture is transformed and that we strengthen our relationships with Indigenous people," Lucki told a parliamentary committee Wednesday evening.
In a report made public earlier this week, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) said Canada's national police force racially discriminated against Colton Boushie's family during their investigation into the Indigenous man's 2016 death.
The CRCC report found that the way officers informed Debbie Baptiste of her son's death was insensitive and that an early RCMP media release about the shooting could have left the impression "that the young man's death was 'deserved.'"
Lucki said she is in the midst of introducing a new "equity, diversity and inclusion strategy" focused on identifying and reducing racism and discrimination. She said all Mounties are expected to finish a cultural sensitivity training program by the end of summer.
"The objective is to transform the culture of the RCMP," Lucki said Wednesday.
Earlier today, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said many Canadians are impatient to see changes in the RCMP.
"Canadians are impatient to see action," he said. "Everyone knows one course in sensitivity training won't correct [the problem] — you need to fix the institutional aspects of it."
Boushie, 22, was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan drove onto farmer Gerald Stanley's property near Biggar, Sask., in August 2016. In February 2018, a jury found Stanley, 56, not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Soon after, Mounties visited Baptiste's home to break the news to his family and search the home for a witness they believed might have had a gun.
The CRCC report found there was evidence of discrimination in "the police's conduct towards Ms. Baptiste with respect to her sobriety and her credibility."
The report says officers told Baptiste to "get it together," asked whether she had been drinking, smelled her breath and searched her home without permission.
RCMP says it will implement most recommendations
While the independent body's report found that, overall, the investigation was professional and reasonable, it found officers did mishandle evidence in the controversial case.
For example, the report highlighted how the SUV Boushie was shot in was left uncovered, allowing rain to wash away some blood evidence. The RCMP also did not ask a blood spatter specialist to come to the scene, said the report.
The CRCC's report made 17 recommendations to address what it called deficiencies in the RCMP's investigation and interactions with Boushie's family.
WATCH | RCMP commissioner tells MPs her objective is to change the culture and transform the force
Lucki has committed to implementing most of them.
But CRCC chair Michelaine Lahaie has said there is nothing in her arsenal to force the Mounties to accept her recommendations, and she doesn't have the resources to properly follow their progress.
"Part of the accountability profile is that they need to indicate when those recommendations have been implemented. And if they haven't, they need to be able to indicate why," Lahaie told CBC News in December.
Questioned by NDP MP Jack Harris during a parliamentary committee meeting Wednesday evening, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he knows it's his responsibility to make sure the RCMP respects the recommendations in the Boushie report.
"It is my responsibility to oversee the implementation of those recommendations on behalf of Canadians and Parliament and ensure that response is appropriate," he said.
The union representing RCMP members, the National Police Federation, released a statement Sunday saying the report was biased against police accounts and that it "unconditionally" accepted the Boushie family's assertion of discrimination.