Ottawa agrees to overhaul policing in Indigenous communities

Announcement comes after flurry of questions about police brutality and systemic racism

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair speaks at a press conference in Ottawa. Photo: APTN file


The man in charge of the RCMP said on Tuesday that his government is working on a new legislative framework for the delivery of Indigenous police services across Canada.

“We remain seized with the urgency of ensuring that we develop a new legislative framework for Indigenous policing across this country, one which recognizes and acknowledges the jurisdiction of First Nations, and to ensure that they receive the quality and respectful policing, culturally competent policing, that they deserve,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said during the COVID-19 Commons committee meeting.

For the second day in a row, federal officials were grilled at length by opposition MPs and reporters after incidents last week of police violence against Indigenous people.

In Nunavut, video surfaced of an RCMP officer hitting an Inuk man with the open door of a moving police vehicle. The man was later medevaced to Iqaluit after being assaulted in police custody by another inmate, according to the RCMP.

On Thursday, law enforcement in Edmundston, N.B., shot and killed Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old First Nation mother, during a wellness check.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam also came forward on Saturday sharing a photo of his bruised and swollen face, alleging RCMP assaulted him back in March.

“The tragic and offensive incidents that we have seen over the past several weekdays have reminded us of the urgency of action and we are committed to act,” Blair added.

Nunavut NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq asked him during the committee meeting whether the government intends to investigate systemic racism in the RCMP and review policing in Nunavut. While he didn’t respond directly, Blair said the territories will be involved in the new framework.

“We have been working very closely with the territories in particular with respect to delivery of professional, culturally competent and respectful police services that can be wholly accountable to the territory and the community,” he said.

Police brutality assumed centre stage around the world after a Minneapolis police officer’s alleged murder of an unarmed Black man named George Floyd. Thousands marched in Ottawa and protests happened in many other cities in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

But in a previous interview with APTN News, Qaqqaq explained that the Mounties have a troubled historical relationship with Inuit in the North.

Ottawa police are currently conducting six investigations against Nunavut RCMP for altercations involving the public.

Back in January, Pauktuutit, the national Inuit women’s organization, released a report slamming the way RCMP respond to gendered violence in the North. The report flagged a number of issues and recommended a radical decolonizing shift in the way policing is carried out.


Read the report: Addressing Gendered Violence against Inuit Women: A review of police policies and practices in Inuit Nunangat


Jack Harris, NDP MP for St. John’s East, also hammered the government on this point on Monday.

“We’ve had 150 years of the RCMP imposing race-based laws on Indigenous people and something very, very significant has got to be done to change that. I think we have to treat it as a crisis and try to find a crisis-based solution for this systemic racism,” he said.

APTN reached out to Blair’s office for more details about the legislative framework.

“We have heard that there is a need for more transformative changes in the way First Nations policing is supported in this country. We will co-develop a legislative framework for First Nations policing which recognizes it as an essential service,” wrote spokesperson Mary-Liz Power.

She did not say how it will affect Inuk communities currently served by the RCMP.

Online Reporter / Ottawa

Brett is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in Ontario. He grew up in Ottawa where he obtained an English degree from Carleton University. Brett is a creative writer, poet, and journalist. He joined the Ottawa bureau for APTN News in December 2019 as a digital reporter.