RCMP working to repair broken relationships with Indigenous communities in Manitoba

·3 min read

A high-ranking RCMP officer told Indigenous leaders this week the Mounties are committed to building trust and rebuilding relationships with Indigenous communities, while also acknowledging that past actions by some officers over many years have greatly contributed to that strained relationship and lack of trust.

“We do, as RCMP, have to acknowledge that actions we have taken over time have eroded trust between the RCMP and the communities we serve,” RCMP D Division Superintendent Scott McMurchy said on Wednesday, while speaking during the second day of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Chiefs Assembly in Winnipeg.

“And some of those actions we have taken have left scars in those communities.”

Statistics compiled by the government of Canada and released last fall show that the rate of Indigenous people in Canada who say they have confidence in police forces and officers sits more than 10% lower than the rate for non-Indigenous people.

According to the report, 30% of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people said they had a “great deal” of confidence in the police, while that number sits at 42% for non-Indigenous people in Canada.

McMurchy said the RCMP is now actively working to improve relationships with Indigenous people and communities across the country.

“Three years ago when our current commissioner Brenda Lucki was appointed, she was given a mandate by the federal government to lead the RCMP through a period of modernization, of changing of the RCMP’s culture, of improving inclusivity and diversity within the RCMP, and of course of advancing reconciliation with Indigenous people,” McMurchy said.

“We are now very focused on making sure that our future is different from our past, we are taking concrete actions to modernize and advance equity and accountability and also trust in our organization.”

McMurchy said the RCMP is now looking at ways officers who work in First Nations communities and directly with First Nations people can better serve those communities, because he said he knows there has been a general lack of trust of police officers among Indigenous communities and people for many years.

“Our mandate includes a renewed focus on serving these communities, and building strong working relationships,” he said. “It’s going to take some time to repair those relationships, and it will not be an easy journey, but I want to thank you for your understanding as we work towards that collective goal.

“By acknowledging and understanding and learning from the mistakes we have made in the past we can begin to form trusting relationships, repair those relationships and work and move forward together in a collaborative approach.”

MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said on Wednesday that he believed McMurchy’s presentation was important, because he said that lack of trust and confidence in the RCMP among Indigenous communities is something that continues and lately has gotten worse.

“The Chiefs know that the erosion of trust with the RCMP has been magnified and amplified through this pandemic,” Settee said. “It’s something that the Chiefs have been telling us and something that we need to build on to fix, because I think that our people have been really affected by a lot of the things that have happened.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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