THUNDER BAY – “First Nation citizens in Ontario – indeed across the country – are victimized on a daily basis by police forces who either have some members that are overtly racist or, for the most part, have not been educated on the colonial legacy that continues to negatively impact far too many of our Peoples,” says Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.
“We welcome the findings and recommendation of Justice Tulloch in his report. Transparency and accountability in the police service are vital to ensuring trust and feeling safe in our communities. Key to building that trust with the First Nation community is investing in developing greater social and cultural competency, as recommended in the report,” said Regional Chief Day. “Cultural competency is not a one-time training session, it’s community driven with local partners and constantly evolving. We hope Minister Naqvi will give serious consideration to the report’s findings and act diligently to implement the recommendations, with meaningful participation of Ontario’s First Nations.”
The recommendations are welcome but they are not new. Ten years ago, the 2007 provincial Ipperwash Report made similar recommendations in the wake of the entirely avoidable death of Dudley George, who was killed by an OPP officer during a land claim dispute in 1995.
To quote from Justice Tulloch’s report: “Police across the country have played a crucial role in enforcing government laws and policies against Indigenous peoples, including those aimed at assimilating Indigenous peoples and limiting their rights … The systemic over-and under-policing of Indigenous peoples historically and today has caused a deep sense of mistrust and stigmatization in Indigenous communities.”
Justice Tulloch said he consulted with Indigenous peoples who “felt they were arrested, assaulted, or insulted by the police for no other reason than being Indigenous. They told me about the police’s continued apprehension of Indigenous children, exploitation of Indigenous women, and harassment of Indigenous men.”
People have Every Right to Mistrust – and Even Fear
“As Regional Chief, and Chief of my community for 10 years, I am fully aware that our people have every right to mistrust – and even fear – certain police officers. There is no doubt that systemic racism has also contributed greatly to the high number of unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous children, women and men. Simply put, far too many police forces do not make the same effort to serve and protect our Peoples as they do mainstream Canadians.”
“Having said that, we have been making progress in terms of improving relations between our Peoples and the police, particularly the OPP, who have been acting upon the Ipperwash recommendations,” concluded Regional Chief Day. “However, every single police force in Ontario, including investigative and oversight bodies, must act upon the six recommendations aimed at providing culturally competent services to our Peoples. I strongly urge Attorney General Yasir Naqvi to ensure these recommendations are implemented. True reconciliation with our peoples can only be achieved by ending systemic racism.”