Evidence of meeting #12 for Public Safety and National Security in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was systemic.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Nishan Duraiappah  Chief, Peel Regional Police
Bryan Larkin  Chief of Police, Waterloo Regional Police Service and member of the Drug Advisory Committee, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police
Julian Falconer  As an Individual
Lorraine Whitman  President, Native Women's Association of Canada

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Madam Dancho.

Madam Damoff, go ahead for five minutes, please.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thanks to both witnesses. I can hear the frustration in both of your voices with regard to how this issue has been studied, and recommendations have been made, and yet we are sitting here in 2020 looking at it again. I am hopeful.

I do have a question specifically because we're looking at recommendations around indigenous policing that we can give to the government. As you know, first nations policing is in the minister's mandate letter to become an essential service.

I feel, though, that it goes beyond just giving funding to those police services. Beyond just with funding, how can we equip them to actually be effective in their communities?

One concern I have is to provide trauma-informed services to indigenous women in communities and to ensure that we don't just replicate mistakes of other police services when we're empowering first nations policing. How do we get more women in police services? How do we deal with women in small communities where their brother-in-law is the chief of police and they don't want to go because of domestic violence, and do things similar to what we do in other systems?

I would like to put that question to both of you as we look at making first nations policing an essential service. How do we ensure we're not repeating mistakes of the past and that we are providing essential services to these women in communities?

Maybe, Ms. Whitman, we could start with you. Then, Mr. Falconer, if you want to add something, that would be great.

1:35 p.m.

President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Lorraine Whitman

First of all, I think when you go into the communities, you need to look at the women's organizations. I know at NWAC we have 13 PMAs. Those are president and territorial members who are elected by the women in those provinces. On a national level, I consider us to be the mother board, and those are our daughters below.

If it's discussed with us, then we can reach out and mobilize our women. We need to be part of the conversation. We need to know the women and how they can mobilize to meet the needs of their women. Although we know that violence is there, it may be different in each area, so we can't generalize it all the way across the board.

Again, we need to educate. We need to be respectful of our culture and our ceremonies, because these are what make us who we are. We eat it; we drink it. This is who we are.

We need that correspondence; we need that communication, but first of all we need the respect. I don't see the respect out there. Respect goes a long way. We need to be able to tell the truth and know that, yes, we've made mistakes, but we need to correct these mistakes. Without admitting to those mistakes, we cannot move forward. We need to acknowledge that and let everyone be on the same level.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Falconer, do you want to add anything to that?

1:35 p.m.

As an Individual

Julian Falconer

Yes. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Whitman and commend her for her good work. It's really a poignant comment.

In acting for a number of indigenous police services, including the largest in Canada—the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service—and the Indigenous Police Chiefs of Ontario, I've had a chance to look at these issues and reflect on them from my own perspective.

I'm not indigenous, and I don't pretend to speak for indigenous people. I have to be very careful about that and respectful, but I will say this: the absence of legislative standards for indigenous policing lies at the heart of all of this, as do health and education.

You talk about making it an essential service. It's really simple. How come non-indigenous people—primarily white folks—get their policing through legislation, but indigenous people get it through programs? The simple answer is that once you go down that path, of course, bureaucrats decide on your funding instead of the rule of law. Indigenous people are entitled to equity, and they are entitled to safety backed by the rule of law.

I'll just close with this observation. Indigenous policing, despite these limitations, is an area from which conventional policing can deeply learn. NAPS is a very good example, and I know you've heard this. In the 25-year history of Nishnawbe Aski Police Service, no officer has ever taken someone's life with their gun. Why is that? That's the relationship with communities that indigenous police services enjoy.

While they are very resource-strapped, they've managed to keep that community relationship going. I would only say it's fine to use the words “essential service”, but the real answer is respect. They do it in child welfare; the federal government just did it. There's provincial autonomy around legislation, but the federal government has an obligation to step in and fill the void for enactment in legislative standards where they are not present in the provinces.

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Do you have—

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Unfortunately, you have three seconds left. I'm sorry, Pam.

Ms. Michaud, you have the floor for five minutes.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Falconer, you had just begun to give us your recommendations. You talked about changing the concept of crisis intervention teams on the ground for the types of situations you described and including mental health professionals on the teams.

How do you see it? Would it be a partnership of sorts between police and mental health professionals? What do you suggest, Mr. Falconer?

1:40 p.m.

As an Individual

Julian Falconer

I must say that I didn't know how to switch language channels. I hope my understanding of French is good enough for me to answer you properly.

I'm sorry if I got it wrong.

I want to emphasize that there are a number of different kinds of mobile crisis teams. Some are actually made up purely of mental health professionals, but others—the program called COAST, out of Hamilton, is an example—are made up of a combination. What's important about these mobile crisis teams, in terms of the notion of defunding policing, actually, is the allocation of resources.

I'm trying to tell you that if you put the money into police officers who want to de-escalate, who want to do that for a living rather than using their gun or their taser—and there's nothing wrong with officers who joined up to use their toys; that's not unusual—and you team them up with mental health professionals, you'll get different results.

There's an inquest into the death of Beau Baker. He was a Caucasian man with serious mental illness issues in the Waterloo area. We're just about to get that inquest off the ground.

I simply ask you to pay attention, because the issue is that the police are saying they're not going to bring in the mobile crisis team until they've de-escalated the situation and it's safe. Well, of course that's complete nonsense. The reason people are dying is that the police inability to de-escalate is part of the problem.

To answer your question, Ms. Michaud, I think it can take various forms, but it has to involve people skilled in de-escalating.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Thank you very much.

You did not have time to tell us much about it, but you mentioned the idea of reviewing the whole police accountability process. When abuses happen, it is wrong that no sanctions or penalties are imposed. That is not the case when members of the public break the law.

How do you see the process? What do you propose in your second recommendation, which you did not really have time to talk about, Mr. Falconer?

1:40 p.m.

As an Individual

Julian Falconer

Thank you for asking that question.

This is what I believe. I was in Thunder Bay, literally by the park where the Floyd protests were happening, and I was struck by how many people came out. I am not trying to suggest that it's one solution, but what people have difficulty with, it's become more and more obvious, is the double standard that is applied to bad policing. What I see, whether it's the Thunder Bay police investigation or the Dafonte Miller case....

I have the honour of representing Dafonte and his family. He's the young black male beaten by an off-duty police officer and his brother—the Theriault brothers. In June, just last month, 19,000 people logged in to watch the judge's decision: 19,000 people. Now, why would so many people be engaged? I'm telling you that they're engaged because they're troubled by our double standards. The highest double standard is that when police mislead about an event—again, I'm talking about bad policing, not good policing—they don't face obstruction of justice charges, as a rule. They don't face perjury charges. When they gild the lily, when they kind of fudge the facts to get past what they've done to someone, they don't face serious repercussions. We have to change that. If I lie under oath, I am charged with perjury. If you lie under oath, you're charged with perjury. That doesn't happen to police officers. We have to change that.

Finally, on the Auditor General piece, I appreciate, Madam Michaud, your allowing me the opportunity to raise this. We could involve the Auditor General in auditing inquests and reports. Nishnawbe Aski Nation asked the Auditor General, in writing, to monitor the implementation of the seven youths inquest recommendations in Thunder Bay. The Auditor General refused.

It has to matter to people. Ms. Whitman gets it bang on. Indigenous lives are treated as less than worthy. It comes out—I see it in my work all the time—and it's disgusting. Truly, it's the part that troubles me. If the auditors general of this country, both provincial and federal, cared about indigenous lives the way they care about bean-counting, things would change. I say to you that you could use them to monitor report implementation and to monitor inquest recommendations.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you very much, Madam Michaud.

Mr. Harris, you have five minutes, please.

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Chair.

To both witnesses, thank you for your presentation. I wish I had more than five minutes.

First of all, Ms. Whitman, thank you for your exposition and your passionate concern about Chantel Moore and the very sad loss of her life—one amongst many, unfortunately. I've looked at, as many have, the report card by your association on the implementation, or lack thereof, of the recommendations of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls report. Under “Right to Justice”, you talk about the statement that indigenous women and girls are over-policed and over-incarcerated, yet under-protected as victims of crime. You've given the government a fail on implementing these recommendations. I think that's a shame, obviously, and I'm sure you do as well.

What do you think this committee should do as a first step in making a recommendation? Obviously, transformative change has to happen, but it has to start somewhere. What should we do first in terms of recommending what needs to happen? You talked about truth. You talked about respect. We have some recognition that there's systemic racism in Canada and in policing, but what's the first step?

1:45 p.m.

President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Lorraine Whitman

First of all, you have to be able to meet with the women at our national organization. We need to be able to be included at the table so we can meet. We know the stories. We know the history. We eat it, we drink it, we walk it every day. The truth is we have cultural components that go with it that differ from some of the non-indigenous people, and we need to respect all of those.

We have gone through so much trauma over the years with colonialism. We need to really look at the root of that colonialism. I look at government as systemic discrimination and racism of its kind because we're not all included. They say we're included, they talk. We're the most surveyed people around. I met with Dr. Ivan Zinger in the institutions and he was talking about all of the women who are there, what treatment.... Even non-indigenous women who have been incarcerated during COVID were able to be released, yet our indigenous women were still there. They weren't able to be released like the non-indigenous. I'm wondering what's happening here? Why are we not as important? We still have the pain that we endure, as any other woman who is incarcerated.

We need to be at those tables. We need to be respected. And, yes, I do say the truth because the truth needs to be known to all Canadians. That's why that national inquiry has taken place: $92 million, 1,575 testimonies, 231 recommendations, Calls for Justice. The population, all of Canada, needs to know. That's our history. And it is a book of history. We need to be there and we need to continue to educate. We may feel that education is out there, but we need to be able to continue and start zooming in on some very serious issues, this being racism.

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you very much. I hope we can do some justice to our mandate.

Mr. Fantino, I don't have a lot of time, but I do want—

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I doubt that it's Mr. Fantino.

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Falconer. I'm very sorry about that.

August 14th, 2020 / 1:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Julian Falconer

Minister Blair will tell you that Julian Fantino would be very uncomfortable with that.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I think there's a mutual level of discomfort here.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

A slip of the tongue, obviously. I saw his name when I was looking up yours, so it must have been a case you had involving him.

Carleton University's criminology department is severing its ties with student placement programs with law enforcement agencies as a result of systemic racism. Police and prison institutions are “hostile to outside critiques”, show “imperviousness to reform” and “do not have the leadership capacity to engage in the transformative change” that's required, says a statement from its Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Is that a position with which you can agree? Is the state of things so bad that there is no hope for civilian oversight of police forces in Canada? We have over 200 of them, plus the RCMP. Is civilian oversight a working model in our system today?

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Mr. Harris has a unique talent for asking questions right at the end of the five-minute segment, unfortunately leaving little or no time for answering those questions. Maybe by some means or another Mr. Falconer could come back on that.

With that I'm going to move to Mr. Shipley. Unfortunately, colleagues, I'm going to have to cut this back to three minutes a round.

Mr. Shipley, you have three minutes, please.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Doug Shipley Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Thank you.

Thank you to all the witnesses for appearing today.

Ms. Whitman, this first one is for you. Are you satisfied with the current percentage of police women employed in the various first nations services across this country and the RCMP as a whole?

1:50 p.m.

President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Lorraine Whitman

I'd better look at the individuals themselves. It's a career they choose to go into. At the same time, one has to recognize it was the police force that came in and took our children out. With residential schools, with the Sixties Scoop, it was police in uniform who took our children out. It's been the fear of police. Even for myself, from the experience of my four older siblings being taken out of our home due to the Sixties Scoop, that fear has been there. When people see that, they don't want to enter into something that's been so negative and so hurtful because they keep that in back.... We have that instilled in our memory and it's hard for us to be able to come out.

I would hope our younger generation would certainly look into any means to do with the law and criminology, whether it be the police force or any of those areas, in that avenue, to move forward.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Doug Shipley Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Thank you.

That leads into my next question. What strategies could be easily and quickly put in place by the RCMP to recruit into their service more members, specifically women, from first nations communities?

1:50 p.m.

President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Lorraine Whitman

First of all, you need communication. You need that open door for communication. The RCMP have to be seen in a first nations community as being allies. They need to come in not just when there's a fight or domestic violence. They need to come in for bike day activities with our children. I know that in our Mi'kmaq communities the RCMP come in when we have our family days and our bike rodeos for the children. It's just to be there, to be seen and valued; it's just to say hi. If they're seen more, then they're appreciated and respected more. If they're only seen once in a while in the community, then you know there are some problems. We don't always have problems. We have good things that happen in our first nations communities. We need to see them in a good light. There are very good RCMP officers. We have worked with many of them. Then again, there are bad ones as well.

I think if we see them out there, and if communication and conversation are there, that makes a big impact on the welcoming of the RCMP into the communities and for us to have a career in that area, especially for our youth.