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

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I call this meeting to order. Welcome.

I am hearing an echo in my ear. Are we good now? Okay.

This is meeting number eight of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. When we initially set up this meeting, we thought it was going to be an in-person meeting. Fortunately, on Monday, we were able to change that to be a virtual meeting. I anticipate that for the foreseeable future, the public safety committee will be having virtual meetings rather than in-person meetings.

I would ask for a little forgiveness and understanding among colleagues today, as well as those who are witnesses and those who are watching. We may have a few glitches. Probably the major source of glitches will be the chair.

As you are speaking, if you plan to use an alternate language, you'll notice there's an icon at the bottom of the screen: English, French, and back and forth. If you decide to switch languages, just pause for a second.

Please wait until I recognize you by name, and then you can click on your microphone. I've already established that I can't cut off your microphone, which is really quite regrettable, as far as I'm concerned.

As a reminder, all commentary should be addressed through the chair.

I will say to the witnesses, if you keep an eye on the chair, I'll try to signal when your time is up. I don't wish to interrupt you, but I'm going to be.... The tyranny of the time is really quite regrettable.

When you're not speaking, mute your mike. We're obviously encouraging the use of headsets, and it looks as if almost everybody has a headset.

To begin, we have three witnesses: the Assembly of First Nations and....

I see that my colleague Jack has a motion, which we did discuss earlier. I'm looking for Jack to read that motion quickly and to look for immediate consensus on that motion.

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Yes, Chair, thank you.

I think you will find that there is consensus to support this motion. I think it's been circulated in both languages. It reads as follows:

That, in relation to the committee’s study of systemic racism in policing services in Canada and notwithstanding the motion adopted on February 20, 2020 concerning the questioning of witnesses, for the remainder of this study the rotation for questions be conducted as follows:

Round one—six minutes per party in the usual order (Conservatives, Liberals, Bloc Québécois and NDP) for a total of 24 minutes, followed by round two—three minutes each for the Conservatives, Liberals, Conservatives, Liberals and 1.5 minutes each for the Bloc and the NDP for a total of 15 minutes and a grand total of 60 minutes (21 minutes having been allocated for opening statements by witnesses).

Thank you.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

The motion is on the floor.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Does the clerk have to do that formally, or can we just raise our hands?

11:05 a.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Jean-Marie David

I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, we're supposed to do all votes as recorded votes.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

A roll call.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Do we have to record every vote?

11:05 a.m.

The Clerk

Yes. I'll try to do that quickly.

(Motion agreed to: yeas 10; nays 0)

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

The motion is adopted. Thank you.

I see that we are running 10 minutes past the hour already, so I'm giving notice to the folks who run these meetings that we will be running 10 minutes past 12 o'clock.

Our first witness is from the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations. He is Regional Chief Terry Teegee. I see him online. Representing ITK, we have Natan Obed, president. As well, we have Aluki Kotierk, from Nunavut Tunngavik.

Chief Teegee, you have the floor for seven minutes. Thank you.

11:10 a.m.

Vice-Chief Terry Teegee Regional Chief, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations

Thank you.

I just want to acknowledge the territory that I'm on right now, the Shuswap territory in British Columbia.

Seeing that I only have seven minutes, I just want to thank everybody for this very important matter in terms of policing. I think, during this pandemic since March, we've seen a lot of situations where many first nations have been adversely affected by policing, whether it was the three in Winnipeg, Chantel Moore on a wellness check in New Brunswick or Mr. Levi in New Brunswick as well. I myself have a family member, Everett Riley Patrick, who died in custody in Prince George, British Columbia.

Going forward, I do have a presentation. It was quite lengthy, and it really talked about the history of policing, not only in British Columbia but, I suppose, Canada itself.

I just want to move right to the recommendations, which, I think, are quite important. I have 14 recommendations that came from our organizations. I just want to note, too, that, as the regional chief of British Columbia, I hold this file for justice, as well as Ghislain Picard. He's the regional chief for Quebec and Labrador.

The first recommendation is really to accelerate federal action on the calls to justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The federal government finalized the report last year and promised an action plan within a year. That year has passed, and right now we really need those calls to justice implemented. There were well over 231 recommendations.

Recommendation number two is working with first nations on a legislative framework to support first nations-led policing with the proper financial resources to support self-determining efforts of first nations policing services. Recently we heard from the federal government that there is a promise to go from program funding to essential services funding, but it has to be much more than that, and more so for first nations that are asserting their sovereignty and their self-determination in terms of policing. There are tripartite agreements with many first nations and also with first nations that have treaties, and those need to be finalized in terms of making it clear how those laws are implemented. Really, I think creating a better relationship with federal and provincial governments is required.

Recommendation three is federal and provincial support for first nations' restorative justice initiatives and respect for the jurisdiction that arises from such initiatives. Prior to colonization, many first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples had their own model of policing and their own laws. They asserted their laws, and those laws need to be upheld.

Recommendation four is to immediately establish an independent review of the RCMP's operational practices involving wellness checks that provides recommendations for reforms. As expounded in point five, police are ill-equipped to deal with sensitive situations involving wellness checks. An independent review is needed to make recommendations on how other services, like mental health support, homelessness and other social work services, can be addressed without the police, and more importantly, in terms of mental health, it's really required there.

Recommendation five is redirecting fiscal resources from militarized policing to much-needed and more effective social supports such as mental health support, homelessness support and social work support that do not require police presence.

Recommendation six is the implementation of zero-tolerance policies on the use of excessive force.

Recommendation seven is for a review of the RCMP Act to include providing more power to a civilian oversight body and providing provisions that clearly state first nations' jurisdiction in matters of policing.

Recommendation eight is to develop legislation that outlaws white supremacist ideologies, while simultaneously increasing the role of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to deal with the private matters involving racist hate speech and action.

Recommendation nine is for greater accountability for the protection and respect of the fundamental human rights of first nations, including the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Recommendation 10 is to increase the use of police body cameras in first nations communities and access to video records.

Recommendation 11 is to enhance de-escalation and implicit bias training, including cross-cultural training.

Recommendation 12 calls for recruitment and promotion of first nations within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Recommendation 13 is to change the name of Canada's national police force to police service—it's not a “force”, but should be a “service”—to signal to the rest of Canada that violence towards first nations and other racialized groups is no longer tolerated.

Recommendation 14 is to create a national first nations justice strategic framework, action plan and commitments, led by first nations with the full support and partnership of Canada and the provinces.

For British Columbia, we have a British Columbia first nations justice strategy that involves justice not only within the province of British Columbia, but nationally. I believe we're the only province and region that has a strategic plan. Thanks are due to our chair, Doug White, who's on this call right now, and our B.C. First Nations Justice Council for developing that plan. We need more like these.

Currently, we are working on a proposal to the federal government, and certainly we need support from other regions. We're out there soliciting other regions and other provinces' first nations to say what they would see strategically in a national justice strategy.

I think it really involves policing. For many years, since colonization began, the police force was used to take our people off the land. More recently, with the advent of the residential school policies, many of our children were taken from our homes and brought to residential schools.

In my language, Dakelh, the Carrier language, we call the RCMP nilhchuk-un, which, interpreted in our language, is “those who take us away”. Really, it was the RCMP who took our children away. In many respects, that's the way we still see the RCMP—as we've seen even during this pandemic—because of the many instances of excessive use of force on our indigenous people across this country. There definitely needs to be systemic change, away from very punitive policies towards indigenous peoples and racialized minorities in Canada.

Here, what we're looking at is more restorative justice and a call to look towards rehabilitation and towards alternatives to jails. In Canada and British Columbia, many first nations lead statistically in terms of incarceration rates and also in terms of those who have died during custody.

Right now, policing is seen as mainly a program fund, although Minister Blair has promised us right now that it will become more essential services funding. That is a positive move, but I think it needs to be more than that. You'll definitely hear from other indigenous leaders in this presentation calling for the same thing. We definitely need a change in policing in this country that we call Canada.

With that, I'd like to thank you all for listening to my presentation today. I look forward to the other presenters here today.

Mahsi cho, thank you very much.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Chief Teegee.

I inadvertently said to Chief Teegee that he had seven minutes. Actually, national groups have 10 minutes, but Chief Teegee got his full 10 minutes regardless.

Our next presenters are Natan Obed and Aluki Kotierk. You have 10 minutes.

Who is speaking first?

July 23rd, 2020 / 11:20 a.m.

Natan Obed President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's great to see everyone. Ublaahatkut, good morning.

I'll be sharing my time with President Kotierk.

The Inuit Nunangat is the homeland for Inuit. It encompasses 51 communities spanning four regions: in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut.

We, as Inuit, disproportionately experience police violence compared to most other Canadians, as well as a host of challenges in accessing justice. Police violence isn't just an issue unto itself; it is part of a larger systemic issue in relation to social inequity. Things such as housing, mental health care, access to education, employment, poverty, all these things have to be discussed in relation to police violence as well.

We see police violence through the high rate of police-related deaths in the communities in comparison to other regions of Canada. Although aggregated data is not available for all four Inuit regions, and also not available for Inuit living outside of Inuit Nunangat, what we know paints a distressing picture of the systemic nature of police violence and discrimination against many of our communities.

There were 16 police-related deaths in the last 20 years. Nunavut's overall per capita rate of police-related deaths since 1999 is more than nine times higher than that of Ontario, and about three times higher than that of both Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

The situation in Nunavik is also grim. Between July 2014 and October 2018 alone, eight Inuit were killed and at least four injured by the Kativik Regional Police Force. Between 2016 and 2018, the KRPF was involved in about 10% of all cases of police-related deaths or injuries in the province, or 55 times that of the Montreal police force. The situation for Inuit in the Northwest Territories and Nunatsiavut, as well as for those living outside Inuit Nunangat, is less clear.

What is clear is that systemic racism, and racism itself, kills. The police force is largely itinerant. They don't have a clear connection to community, and there are very few police officers who are Inuit. This leads to the types of staggering figures that I just discussed with you.

Action is required to curb these disturbing trends, and these actions should include a systematic, independent review of the policing practices of the RCMP and the KRPF. In consideration of that action, Inuit participation in the construction of the governance of that review should be first and foremost. We are tired of being left on the sidelines when there are reviews, because in the end, our views and our perspectives are always at risk of being drowned out by other considerations.

Buying cameras and other measures should be taken to enhance transparency and accountability within law enforcement. Greater recruitment and retention of Inuit and Inuktitut speakers in law enforcement is necessary to build trust and improve communication between Inuit and law enforcement. Aggregated Inuit-specific data from across Inuit Nunangat, as well as outside Inuit Nunangat, is required to more fully understand and address police-related violence against Inuit.

I'll hand the rest of my time over to President Kotierk.

11:25 a.m.

Aluki Kotierk President, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Qujannamiik Natan. Ullukuut.

An imbalance of power and control has characterized the relationship between the RCMP and Nunavut Inuit since the relationship began. This is well documented through the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, which describes the relationship between 1940 and 1975. The RCMP came to our homelands as agents of the federal government, not only as agents of change, agents of colonialism, but also with the self-interested view of a country that needed to assert Arctic sovereignty.

There is no doubt that the relationship between Nunavut Inuit and the RCMP is complex and strained. The RCMP was instrumental in relocating Inuit families into communities; the RCMP was instrumental in sending Inuit children to residential schools; the RCMP was instrumental and in the slaughter of Inuit sled dogs.

I'll quote John Amagoalik in speaking about how his family was moved from Inukjuak in Northern Quebec, Nunavik to the High Arctic in Nunavut:

I think it is important for people to understand that when the RCMP made a request to you in those days, it was seen as something like an order. You are ordered to do this. The RCMP officers had a lot of power. They could put you in jail. That's the way they were viewed in those days. A request from the police was taken very, very seriously.

Today, many of the social and economic challenges experienced by Inuit are rooted in the loss of power and control caused by much of the colonial relationship. Due to the scarcity of mental health services and supports, the RCMP is often the first stop for Nunavut Inuit to get access to care, yet care is often not received. Instead, Inuit are targets of excessive force in interactions with the RCMP.

As Natan pointed out, since 1999 there have been at least 15 deaths in Nunavut at the hands of the RCMP. The RCMP does not understand our culture, nor does it understand our language, as demonstrated by the ratio of Inuit to non-Inuit officers in Nunavut.

No wonder there is a relationship of distrust between Nunavut Inuit and the RCMP. If in fact the purpose of the RCMP is to serve and protect, the onus and responsibility is on the RCMP to build the trust in our Inuit communities. There needs to be a trauma-informed approach that recognizes that in very recent history, Inuit have experienced a shift in power and authority, and that there are reasons why there are social ills in our communities.

There needs to be an independent oversight model that monitors the behaviour of the RCMP and its interaction with Inuit. There need to be more Inuit RCMP officers. There needs to be better cultural training for RCMP officers who will be working in our Inuit communities. In order to nurture and strengthen community trust or community relationships, RCMP officers need to stay in our communities longer so they become part of our communities.

Thank you.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you.

You still have two minutes left, if there is anything else that needs to be said by either you or Mr. Obed.

11:30 a.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Natan Obed

I'm fine with going into the questions.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Okay, with that, we will go into the questions.

Our first six minutes go to Mr. Vidal. After that, we have Ms. Khera, Madame Michaud and Ms. Qaqqaq.

Mr. Vidal.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate the opportunity to join your committee today, and I thank my colleagues for allowing me to be here.

I also want to thank the witnesses. It's great to have you here, and it's great to hear your testimony and input into this very important matter.

I heard much, from each of you, about the importance of relationships. A couple of you at least talked about service rather than force, and that kind of language. I appreciate that.

As the former mayor of a small city in Saskatchewan, I can say that we had a unique policing situation, in that we shared a detachment. We shared our police service in our little city with the surrounding rural municipality and two first nation communities. There was a very obvious correlation between the relationship, or the rapport, that our community partners had with our commanding officer and how that affected the overall relationship with the service.

One of the highlights we had in our little community, and our community's relationship with the RCMP, was that at one time we asked them—in their annual performance planning cycle—to place a priority on promoting relationships and promoting the good things they do. We found that to be very effective for the community partners of the city, the rural municipality, the first nations communities and the RCMP, as it turned into a positive exercise in building relationships.

I'd like to give you all an opportunity to speak to this if you could. To each of you: Would you offer, or could you discuss, any best practices or any experiences you've had in your past relationships with the RCMP that could be a lesson for all of us across the country to use in improving that relationship in that spirit of service, rather than force?

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Are you directing that to Chief Teegee first?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

To Chief Teegee and President Obed.... I would like the opportunity to have all of them answer that, if we could.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Okay.

I'd just remind witnesses to direct their remarks through the chair.

11:30 a.m.

Regional Chief, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations

Vice-Chief Terry Teegee

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for that question, Mr. Vidal. I think the example you gave of a small community is a perfect example of how the RCMP needs to relate to the governance.

For my first nations community.... I am from the Takla Lake First Nation. We have three police officers in our territory. There is, for the most part, a good relationship with our chief and council and our community, including adopting some of those police officers into our potlatch system and adopting some of them into the Caribou Clan.

The other example I have is in the Prince George area, where we have created a good relationship with the high-level superintendents. It really began with Brenda Butterworth-Carr, who is a woman of first nations descent. She worked in Ottawa for a while, and now works for the provincial government in policing.

I still have a good relationship with the superintendents, but even though on a very high level we have good relationships with many political people, it doesn't translate to those police officers who are on the beat. There are still high levels of incarceration and death rates in Prince George, going back to Clayton Willey in 2003, a Wet'suwet'en man, Dale Culver, in 2017, and more recently my cousin, Everett Riley Patrick, in April.

We could have a great relationship at the very highest levels, but if it isn't translating down to the police officers, it's not going to create the change we need. More often than not, we're seeing deaths in large municipalities like Winnipeg. We have many other reports, like the Frank Paul inquiry in Vancouver. In the Oka crisis, in that municipality, the use of force by many of those police officers militarized and brought in the Oka crisis 30 years ago.

As you can tell, we can have great relationships at a high level, but if they don't translate down to that level, we're going to have a really tough time.

Thank you.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

You have roughly a minute left.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Could President Obed speak, possibly?

11:35 a.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Natan Obed

Thank you.

In my personal work experience, when I was an employee of Nunavut Tunngavik, I was involved in the creation of the Nunavut suicide prevention strategy. At that time, the commander of the V Division, Steve McVarnock, sat in and participated and we had the RCMP as a partner in the creation of the Nunavut suicide prevention strategy. It was one of the few times that I have had positive experiences with the RCMP as an institution. It was remarkable to me how different our relationship was in relation to most other interactions.

I also want to just highlight the reports of the Nishnawbe Aski police force and the stark contrast of their record serving first nations people in Ontario [Technical difficulty—Editor] community from the results and the stats that we have here today.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you very much, Mr. Vidal and Mr. Obed.

Our next six minutes are for Madame Khera.