Evidence of meeting #8 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 inuit.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Jean-Marie David
Terry Teegee  Regional Chief, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations
Natan Obed  President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Aluki Kotierk  President, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Vernon White  Senator, Ontario
Benson Cowan  Chief Executive Officer, Legal Services Board of Nunavut
Robert S. Wright  Social Worker and Sociologist, As an Individual

11:50 a.m.

President, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Aluki Kotierk

I think that when the RCMP first came to our homelands, they relied heavily on special constables who were Inuit who were able to provide not only interpretation through language, but also cultural interpretation.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

We're going to have to leave Madam Michaud's question there.

Again, I encourage witnesses to occasionally look at the chair, and I'll try to give you a signal as to whether it's being wound up or not.

We move to the next six minutes with Madam Qaqqaq.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Matna, Chair.

Thank you to all of the witnesses for being here to share your wonderful knowledge.

Here's a shout-out to the IT team and translation for always keeping us on track.

I would like to point out as well that it is President Kotierk and President Obed. Her title is president, just as Natan's is.

My questions are for both of them. I'm going to start with President Kotierk.

Do you think that the relationship between the RCMP and Inuit has ever been a good one?

11:50 a.m.

President, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Aluki Kotierk

I think it has always been strained.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Do you think that systemic racism is present within the RCMP?

11:50 a.m.

President, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Aluki Kotierk

Systemic racism is rampant in Nunavut, and it's not limited solely to the RCMP.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Thank you.

Aluki, President Kotierk, can you talk to the role that the RCMP has played from a standpoint of what that profession and what that uniform can symbolize to Inuit?

11:50 a.m.

President, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Aluki Kotierk

In terms of the relationship, I spoke briefly to the historical context. When I look at the RCMP, I see it as just one aspect of a whole justice system. It's not enough for us to focus solely on the RCMP; we need to look at ways in which we're addressing the social ills of our community in a holistic way, in an Inuit way, that is focused on the person and addressing the needs that they have, such as mental health issues, and I think that would be something that would be worth looking at.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Thank you, President Kotierk.

In about a minute, can you talk a little bit to the historical aspects that you touched on, such as some things the members could expect to find in the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, for example?

11:50 a.m.

President, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Aluki Kotierk

Qujannamiik

I think it's a very complex relationship between Nunavut Inuit and the RCMP, one in which the RCMP relied heavily on Inuit because they were not able to live in our Arctic homelands, did not know what to eat, did not know how to keep warm and did not know how to transport themselves, so Inuit were the experts in that and very helpful. At the same time, they played a very authoritative role and were very intimidating, so many Inuit, similar to the quote I read from John Amagoalik, were intimidated and felt that they had no choice but to listen to the authority of the RCMP.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Great. Matna, President Kotierk.

President Obed, oftentimes Inuit aren't necessarily on national headlines, and we have been having this discussion, especially around the Black Lives Matter movement, that indigenous lives matter. We have been seeing those kinds of things throughout the country. Can you talk to specific examples? I'm going to use one to kick us off.

For example, in Kinngait we saw that the video circulated and got national attention. Could you give us some more recent examples of those interactions between RCMP and Inuit that result in death?

11:55 a.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Natan Obed

Yes, very recently in Nunavut there was the example of a man who was fatally shot in his home in front of his common-law spouse, and he was still handcuffed after he was shot and was not provided medical attention right away. These are the stories that we hear. Unarmed Inuit who don't have guns are being killed by RCMP officers. Sometimes these conversations come to me from friends and family, and sometimes Inuit reach out to me to talk about the things that they want to see change.

It's great to see a national conversation happening about the things that we experience every day, especially the violence that Inuit have experienced. Of course, there needs to be a consideration of all aspects of why these things happen, but very clearly, racism kills. The misunderstandings, the cultural differences or lack of respect lead to this, and ultimately, I just can't accept that I live in a country where part of our government services is killing our people.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Matna, President Obed. I have about 30 seconds before the next question.

We talk about defunding the police, and I think that scares some people. Instead of raising it that way, what other services and resources should we be looking at investing in for Inuit?

11:55 a.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Natan Obed

We need to empower communities. We need to end systemic racism, but that also starts with social inequity. We need to ensure that we have relationships within our communities that uphold our traditions, our laws, the way we interact within our society. That is the first place we need to start.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you very much.

We're going to go to the three-minute round. First is Mr. Berthold.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I will be brief because three minutes is very little.

Chief Teegee, can you tell us about the retention rate? Are there any statistics available on the average length of time RCMP officers stay in the communities? I am sure it affects the relationships with the people in the community.

Do you have access to those figures, and is it true that the officers are just passing through?

11:55 a.m.

Regional Chief, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations

Vice-Chief Terry Teegee

No, I don't have any of those statistics about how long they stay. Just as an example, for my first nations community, it's really newly trained police officers. They are required to stay, I believe, for two years. Some stay longer because they appreciate the community, but I don't have the stats on that. Sorry.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Obed, what about you?

11:55 a.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Natan Obed

Aside from the statistics that I presented around examples of police violence, I would have to get back to the committee. On the statistics that we do have about retention and the length of stay for RCMP officers, I'm sure that this information is available. I pledge to follow up with the committee to get you that.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Thank you very much.

Chief Teegee, according to Professor Leuprecht from the Royal Military College of Canada, the RCMP Commissioner, Ms. Lucki, has over 180 reports from the RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission waiting on her desk to be processed.

What are your expectations regarding those outstanding complaints?

Noon

Regional Chief, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations

Vice-Chief Terry Teegee

I think these complaints need to be addressed, and I'm sure it's much more than that, because quite frankly I know there are complaints throughout this country. I really think it speaks to the racism that exists within policing and also this country in general.

We've seen in many organizations here in British Columbia that it's within the health system, and that's really something that needs to be addressed.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Berthold. You only have about 20 seconds left.

With that, we'll go to—

Noon

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Obed, do you think we should act more quickly too?

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I'm sure that Mr. Obed does think we should be taking action much more quickly, but he's not unfortunately going to be able to answer that question. I'm sure he'll be able to work it into some other answer.

With that, we go to Mr. Anandasangaree for three minutes, please.

July 23rd, 2020 / noon

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This question is for all three, because all three have spoken about the need for self-determination in policing. I believe Chief Teegee was talking about self-determination as part of policing led by first nations, and President Obed spoke about the RCMP and the need for Inuit-specific control.

Can you elaborate on what that means to both of you? I know time is very limited, so maybe you could stay within a minute each.