RCMP loses Indigenous officers – and some former members accuse racism in the ranks
In her eighth year with the RCMP, Constable. Kerri McKee, from the Montreal Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, believed she was used to the slurs and petty acts of aggression that came with being both an Indigenous woman and a police officer.
That was before the now retired constable had to pick up a drunk female passenger on her own from a Greyhound bus parked at a gas station near a highway in Newfoundland and Labrador. The reinforcement she asked for, she said, was long in coming.
McKee said the man attempted to steal her sports car, kicked her, put her in a choke hold and threatened to kill her.
“I called a backup, and the backup was going to be, I don’t know, however long it was,” she told CBC News. “It was like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re busy, we’re busy,’ so I had to take care of it myself.
She said all she did was let the man let go by biting his forearm. By the time the save arrived, she had broken ribs, a black eye, and a larynx so damaged that she was unable to speak for over a year.
An indigenous exodus
Unlike most aboriginal members of the RCMP, McKee rose to the commissioned ranks, retiring as an inspector.
But the data shows that Canada’s national police force is failing to detain Indigenous officers.
Following a request from NDP MP for Hamilton Center, Matthew Green, the RCMP reported that 102 members who identify as Indigenous have left the force in the past three years.
The document also shows that the RCMP has increased its net number of officers who identify as “visible minorities” and officers who do not identify as visible minorities or as Aboriginal.
The loss of so many Indigenous RCMP officers does not surprise Erick Laming, a doctoral student at the Center for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto.
Laming, a member of the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, has spent a lot of time interviewing Indigenous people in northern Ontario. He said the RCMP’s strained relationship with Indigenous peoples is hampering recruitment and retention.
“If you don’t trust the system, you don’t want to be part of it,” he said. “It’s a huge barrier over there.”
Along with the RCMP’s historic involvement in Canada’s residential school system, Mr. Laming said, recent episodes of high-profile police violence – such as the arrest of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam last year and Chantel Moore’s gunshot death from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation – make many Indigenous people extremely reluctant to consider a career in law enforcement.
“Any incident can take 20 to 30 years back in terms of building that trust in the community,” he said.
Jonathan is another retired RCMP aboriginal officer; CBC News does not identify him because he said he fears repercussions in his current job. He said the racist cracks started the day he applied for the job as he was given fingerprints for a standard background check.
“A member walked into the cell block and said, ‘What did he do? “”, He said. When the officer learned he was applying to join the force, Jonathan said the constable “rolled her eyes and walked out of the room.”
He said he heard a lot of racist remarks during his police career, including “members taking humor from the term ‘Prairie N-word'” or saying “Newfoundland was right when they smashed it down. their [Indigenous] population ”when he was within earshot.
Jonathan and McKee said they knew of RCMP members who left the force in recent years to join Indigenous policing – a more inclusive and often more lucrative sector of work.
“I was kind of stuck in it,” McKee said, adding that she had “considered going to another police department” but felt she should stay with the RCMP because she was a single mother. who looked after two children.
A 60s child scoop Herself, McKee said she spent years in the police force with colleagues who never wanted to hear her talk about residential schools, called her a stranger or slapped her with racist slurs.
“It’s difficult for us,” she said of the native RCMP officers of her generation. “But we’ve kind of cleared the snow … we’re trying to make it easier for those who come behind us.”
Data presented by the RCMP paints a picture of a police service struggling to connect with Indigenous and minority communities.
In fiscal year 2020-2021, only 337 Indigenous candidates attempted to join the RCMP, and only 17 of them were selected for training in the Force Depots Division – a decrease from 50 % compared to 2019-2020.
Meanwhile, only 4.3% of visible minority applicants reached the bar for Depot training, while almost one-fifth of the 1,540 applicants who did not identify as visible minorities or Indigenous people did. been allowed to start training.
“What we are seeing is a complete disconnect between the people who are actually trying to access federal public sector jobs like the RCMP and their ability to be accepted into the police training college,” said Green, the NDP MP who asked for the numbers.
“What I want is for fairness policies to be applied to all federal jobs.”
“ There may actually be systemic issues ”
For months, the RCMP talked about how they created a new equity, diversity and inclusion strategy, even though they did not disclose it publicly. beyond a few paragraphs on its website.
The gendarmerie also writes a new entrance exam for potential recruits.
Nadine Huggins, the RCMP’s director general of human resources policies, strategies and programs, said the majority of officers who leave the force do so after a satisfactory career, but she had no specific breakdown or explanation on the reasons why departures for Aboriginal members are higher than them. are for other groups.
“If in fact they are leaving the RCMP for aboriginal police forces,” she said, “it’s not terrible for them to leave with the expertise that they develop through training and education. experience they gain in the RCMP. “
Huggins acknowledged that “there may in fact be systemic issues” that prevent access to indigenous and minority groups. “We have to turn a lot of stones” when examining them, she said.
However, she also said the force only had a “voluntary” exit interview process for departing members. “We don’t necessarily have some sort of systematic approach to looking at them.”
While he wants to increase the overall number of Indigenous candidates and their presence in the force, there is also no specific target or quota. “Our goal is to attract as many as we can, as many as we can promote, as many as we can keep throughout so that they retire with a full career and full pension,” Huggins said. .