Thank you to the committee for the invite. I'd also like to thank and acknowledge the clerk and his office for all the work going into setting this up. I appreciate it.
I am a member of the Beaver Lake First Nation in Treaty 6 territory, and I want to acknowledge that I'm on that territory. I was reminded yesterday by a priest and an elder that while I'm on Zoom meetings, I should acknowledge that I'm in the Creator's space, so I'll do that.
I'm the president of the National Associations Active in Criminal Justice and, as of Monday, the former chair of the Family Violence Death Review Committee in Alberta. I have experience working in Australia implementing some of the recommendations from the Wood inquiry. The RCMP actually assisted the Government of Australia in that inquiry. I was heavily involved in community engagement while I worked for the Premier of New South Wales. I'm also, at present, the facilitator for dialogue with the Alberta chiefs. Last week we had a meeting with our provincial justice minister and four federal ministers, including Minister Blair and another member of Parliament, Pam.
I'm going to speak from all of that experience on a number of different topics, and I'll try to be as brief as I can. Rather than read my notes, I'm going to highlight some key things.
The first thing I'd like to talk about is the use of force. As I've been involved in many investigations and reviews of complaints against the police that have come through my office, I'd like to speak about the Criminal Code. Section 25 of the code allows law enforcement to use force in the course of their duty, and section 26 makes it a crime for police to use excessive force. However, the definition of what is a reasonable use of force is very vague. Because of that, provincial police forces and municipal police forces have their own legal frameworks, so there's no consistency across the country. That creates a challenge.
We need to review the various definitions of “reasonable use of force” and create a federal standard that's incorporated not just in the Criminal Code but in the national police act. A clear definition is important for understanding what the use of force is. A standard needs to be created with input from civilians, women, first nations, Inuit, Métis and many other minorities across this country. That input is very important.
The video of Chief Allan Adam being taken down is a good example of how the police can review recordings and determine that reasonable force was used. According to their standard, reasonable force was used in his case, while most Albertans and Canadians decried that use of force as excessive. The definition of “reasonable” needs to resonate with police and civilians.
The review of incidents should be done from the perspective of an independent process. Municipal, provincial and federal police services need a more independent body that reviews complaints and that reports to municipal, provincial and federal governments. Historically and currently, the work of the police complaints commission for the RCMP has not made a substantive change in the way indigenous people experience police services nationally. The commission needs to be more inclusive, more accessible and more transparent, with the ability to impose sanctions in some cases.
Reviews also need to be accessible. The current processes are complicated and difficult to navigate for many Canadians. All Canadians need to be able to understand and access the process for complaints. Their complaints need to be taken and addressed in respectful ways.
Reviews should also allow for meaningful and engaged indigenous participation in the entire independent review process. This means including indigenous leadership on the team or commission, indigenous expertise in decision-making positions and hiring indigenous investigators.
The review body needs to be composed of indigenous, non-indigenous and other minorities that have a broad expertise, along with other Canadians in policing and social justice. For transparency, the independent review process needs to be detailed and be made available to Canadians with few exceptions. These exceptions need more clarity.
There need to be clear consequences. The consequences of excessive use of force, racism and abuse of power need to be meaningful and transparent to the public. Investigative bodies must be able to recommend sanctions in some cases and have the authority to impose these sanctions.
From a first nations police point of view—and I'm going to speak about my interaction with the chiefs and federal and provincial ministers and recent follow-up with the chiefs—there needs to be a more equitable and consistent funding for self-administered first nation police services. These services must be recognized as essential services, as are other police forces, in federal and provincial legislation.
Inherent to this funding is the negotiation of an agreement with first nations that recognizes the right of first nations to police their communities or to negotiate the delivery of police services by the RCMP or in some cases by provincial authorities.
Further, the chiefs in Alberta region have requested direct negotiations and involvement in the development of any policies, legislation around first nation policing or criminal justice reform.
I'd like to just make a reference to the Siksika Nation. On that nation there are approximately 8,000 people. The hamlet next to Siksika has a population of just over 200 people. The police detachment is located in that hamlet of 200 people. They have 20 officers.
Those 20 officers provide police services—very little by way of police services, but police services, nonetheless—to Siksika First Nation. The question of everybody in that whole region is, why isn't that detachment on the reserve and serving the biggest population of the whole region? That's just one example of many challenges around policing from outside the community.