A lawyer with a history of pushing back against police said the response shows a lack of accountability and that policing hasn’t changed in 30 years.
“I think that it belies the same sort of uncaring attitude,” Donald Worme said, linking the findings of two reports, obtained by Global News before publication, and the police conduct surrounding the death of Neil Stonechild in 1990.
“These scathing findings are not really surprising for First Nations people, sadly.”
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) reports found RCMP officers, among other things, unlawfully searched the house of Boushie’s mom and discriminated against her when they asked if Debbie Baptiste had been drinking.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki’s response was included in the reports. It showed she agreed with most of the findings.
In a statement, the RCMP said the organization is committed, and on track, to implement all recommendations outlined in the CRCC reports.
But the National Police Federation (NPF), the union representing RCMP officers, opposes the findings.
In a statement, the NPF said the CRCC reports “dismisses or outright ignores central facts and evidence.”
“The RCMP’s acceptance of the CRCC’s inaccuracies in this report is demeaning to Members in Saskatchewan and beyond — and this injustice needs to be called out,” it said.
The CRCC findings contradict a 2017 RCMP report into the officers’ conduct, which absolved police of wrongdoing.
Worme said the gulf between the reports, and the union’s intransigence, shows a continued pattern of racist behaviour and lack of accountability.
“This (police) force has its genesis in enforcing the colonization, and indeed… the genocide that has affected First Nations people in this country,” he said, speaking over the phone from Saskatoon.
Referencing Stonechild and Chantel Moore, Worme said the facts may be different between each encounter between Indigenous people and police, but the pattern remains the same.
“We too often see the same version of an us-and-them attitude.”
An activist working for the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners said the RCMP response amounts to little more than a public relations strategy and the NPF response shows how difficult police reform actually is.
“We have seen a complete abdication of responsibility, an inability to have any accountability and in many cases, an excusing of the police and a blaming of the victims,” El Jones said, speaking to Global News over Zoom.
Jones said improving accountability requires going further than the recommendations in the CRCC report, which includes providing cultural awareness training.
Both Jones and Worme say meaningful reform must involve Indigenous and local community engagement.
They said police can’t just be accountable to themselves.
A representative of the Boushie family declined to comment, saying the family is waiting for the official publication of the CRCC reports before commenting.
—With files from Kelly Skjerven