RCMP ‘does not understand our culture’ NTI president tells Parliamentary committee

The House of Commons public safety committee continued its look at policing Thursday and heard from witnesses who had a number of issues with racism and the police in Canada.

Terry Teegee, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations in British Columbia, said the problems are rooted in the historical relationship between police and First Nations people.

“We call the RCMP… those who take us away,” Teegee told the committee.

The issue has been top of mind for months and was stoked when George Floyd, a Black man, was killed in police custody in the U.S. Several officers have been charged with murder.

That sparked a Black Lives Matter movement across the U.S. and in many parts of Canada.

But it also started the discussion of racism in policing directed at Indigenous peoples.

There is no shortage of stories from across Canada that prompted the committee from hearing leaders and people representing themselves on the issues.

The RCMP have a tattered relationship with Indigenous peoples, which includes hauling children away to residential schools, slaughtering sled dogs and relocating Inuit to parts of Canada they didn’t belong.

More recently, the Mounties have been involved in a videotaped incident where an RCMP officer used the car door of his moving vehicle to knock an Inuk man down in Kinngait, Nunavut.

Then there was the violent arrest of Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam over an expired an expired license plate. Adam was bloodied during his arrest after being thrown to the ground and punched. He was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. The Crown later dropped the charges.

Chantel Moore, a First Nations woman from B.C., who moved to New Brunswick, was shot and killed by an Edmundston police officer conducting a wellness check on June 4.

A little more than a week later, on June 12, Rodney Levi from Metepenagiag First Nation, was shot and killed by a Mountie in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick.

The committee heard from witness after witness who spoke of the strained relationship between police and Indigenous peoples.

“The RCMP force does not understand our culture, nor does it understand our language as demonstrated by the ratio of Inuit to non-Inuit officers in Nunavut,” Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik. “There is no wonder that there is a relationship of distrust between Nunavut Inuit and the RCMP.”

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed told the committee that one of the problems is that Indigenous people are stereotyped.

“And without a relationship between the RCMP and the community Inuit aren’t seen as people,” Obed said. “But we’re seen through all the negative lenses that perhaps general Canadian society thinks of when they think of Inuit.”

The committee meeting continues Friday with Quebec Native Women President Viviane Michel.