Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler is calling for an investigation into systemic racism and the use of force against Indigenous people by the RCMP.
“Too many of our people have been killed at the hands of the RCMP,” Fiddler told Global News Monday.
“What we’re asking for is a full, comprehensive investigation of the RCMP itself to get to the bottom of why this keeps happening. This investigation has to be independent, fully transparent and one that is collaborative with the… Indigenous leadership and the families.”
Fiddler noted that he’d welcome the immediate dismantling of the RCMP.
“We need…to take a more holistic view on how we can begin to address the social conditions that we’re seeing and the challenges that we’re seeing in our communities and also in urban centres,” Fiddler said.
“These are not policing issues.”
The grand chief said there’s a need for more mental health supports and intervention, as well as treatment programs
Recently, several Indigenous people have been killed during interactions with RCMP officers.
On Friday night, Rodney Levi, a 48-year-old Mi’kmaq man, was killed after being shot by the RCMP in New Brunswick. Just over a week prior, Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old member of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, died after being shot by police in New Brunswick during a wellness check.
An independent police watchdog from Quebec is looking into the shooting involving Moore.
Moreover, RCMP dashcam video was released last week showing Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam being tackled and punched in the head by officers during an arrest in Alberta in March. The interaction began over an expired licence plate tag.
On Monday, Trudeau told reporters that Moore’s and Levi’s families deserve answers concerning what happened.
“My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of those who’ve died. It’s really important that they get answers, that we all get answers on what happened,” Trudeau said.
“That’s why we need open and transparent investigations to provide answers to Canadians on individual cases, but we also need to pay attention to the larger systemic challenges that these are illustrative of.”
Trudeau said the federal government is working with communities to address the “first things that need to be done most rapidly” and that the government will move forward with them quickly.
“There is systemic racism in Canada, and it means that Indigenous people, Black Canadians and racialized Canadians are far more likely to suffer violence at the hands of the authorities and police than non-racialized Canadians,” Trudeau added.
“This is a problem that we have seen for many years. We have made steps to improve it, but there is a need for much more, much quicker.”
Fiddler said if Trudeau and the federal government are serious about making change, they need to make a significant announcement in the next day or so.
“I think what we are looking for now is action,” the grand chief said.
“We cannot wait any longer.”
On Friday, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki admitted that systemic racism exists in the police force after she was criticized for recent comments she made.
“During some recent interviews, I shared that I struggled with the definition of systemic racism, while trying to highlight the great work done by the overwhelming majority of our employees,” Lucki said in a statement Friday.
“I did acknowledge that we, like others, have racism in our organization, but I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP. I should have.”
Lucki said the RCMP incorporates a diversity and inclusion “lens” in its decision-making, training and recruitment.
“It is time to double down on these efforts,” Lucki said. “I have sought the views of a wide variety of people, including members of both our Indigenous and diversity advisory committees, Indigenous leaders, as well as active and retired Indigenous members.”
Fiddler noted the tumultuous historical relationship between Indigenous communities and the RCMP, including their role in taking children away from their homes to be sent to residential school, as well as during the Sixties Scoop.
— With files from Global News’ Kerri Breen, Alexander Quon, Phil Heidenreich, Maryam Shah and Srushti Gangdev