Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for your words, Mr. Falconer.
Good afternoon. My name is Lorraine Whitman Grandmother White Sea Turtle. I would like to acknowledge the territory of Mi'kma'ki, from where I am, of the L'nu people. I am also the president of the Native Women's Association of Canada. I represent and I defend the rights of the first nations, Métis and Inuit women across Canada.
You have asked me here today to talk to you about systemic racism in Canada's police force. This is an issue of highest priority for indigenous women, who fear that their daughters or sons could be injured or killed by the very officers who are sworn to protect them. This was what happened earlier this year when a young man reached out to the police in Edmundston, New Brunswick, because he was worried about Chantel Moore.
I would say we all know what happened next, but in fact we don't know what happened next. Two months later the investigation into Chantel Moore's death has yet to be completed, and her mother has yet to receive the autopsy report. All we know from the media is that Chantel, who was not armed with a gun, was shot five times by the police who were sent to her apartment to conduct a wellness check. How is it possible that a wellness check could end in a murder?
These are sensitive issues, and I do not want to compromise the investigation by prejudicing its conclusion, but I can tell you that we at NWAC have significant concerns about what happened on the night Chantel was gunned down. We have significant concerns in general about systemic racism in police forces across Canada, and about the apparent lack of concern on the part of governments regarding the violence that is being directed at indigenous women.
I have met twice with Chantel's mother, Martha Martin. I can tell you she's devastated and wonders why the officer involved was not suspended, when other suspensions have occurred in Edmundston police shootings. Was it because she was indigenous? I join and support Chantel's mother in her demand for a public inquiry into this case. A simple coroner's investigation is not adequate.
I have also met with indigenous women who've supported Martha since Chantel's death on June 4. They are mortified; they're angry and they're traumatized by the death of Chantel.
There have been many Chantels. There have been many cases in which our need to protect has been met with indifference, or worse yet, brutality. I am not here to tell you that all police are racists, because they certainly aren't. As indigenous women, we know all too well what it means to be painted with a single brush, but the brutality has to end. Our members still face systemic racism in dealings with police. These acts of violence and torture must be exposed and eliminated, and those who do them must be brought to justice.
The rule of law means no one is above the law and that we are all equal under the law. It appears clear that the rule of law does not apply to indigenous people in Canada.
I spoke in July with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. We have since sent her a list of recommendations that we hope will inform her review of the systemic racism within her force.
To summarize the recommendations, we asked her for body cameras to be worn by all officers. We asked for more transparent oversight and investigation of serious incidents involving police and indigenous people. We asked that not only an indigenous lens but a gender-based lens be applied to RCMP investigation protocols and procedures. We asked her to appoint an indigenous woman as an ombudsperson. We asked her to consult with us on reconciliation strategies and to collaborate with indigenous women's groups.
We asked for an increase in restorative justice programs to keep indigenous people out of the criminal justice system wherever possible. We asked for her to work with indigenous people when developing and delivering training to RCMP officers. We asked for new de-escalation protocols that are developed with indigenous people for indigenous people. We called for an enhancement of the collection of race-based data that would help expose the extent of the violation and violence being committed against indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people.
But where is the outrage being expressed over the police killings of indigenous people in this country? Where are the protests over the deadly shooting of a beautiful young first nations woman in Edmundston, New Brunswick? Why are the indigenous people of Canada left to fight this fight by themselves?
The evidence of violence against indigenous women by the police is clear and overwhelming. To government and police forces in this country, do you finally hear us? Do you finally see us? Or do you continue to ignore and allow the violence to continue? I urge this committee to make it clear to the government and to purge the systemic racism from the police forces of Canada. We cannot wait for further deaths to occur and for other mothers, mothers like Martha Martin, to be left with their grief and memories.
Wela’lin. Merci beaucoup. Thank you.