Indigenous Police Services—RCMP Training—Reconciliation
Hon. Mary Jane McCallum: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
As part of my Senate work, I attempt to make space for youth to have their voices and concerns heard, where and when possible. As such, the questions I will be asking today are on behalf of students studying Native Canadian law at Brandon University. These questions are in response to issues currently happening out West and across Canada.
One student wrote that we are supposed to be moving forward, not reacting into history. The student pointed out that the RCMP was originally established to control First Nations people in the 1870s. We are now living in 2020. Why is Canada still using the RCMP to control First Nations?
Assuming that RCMP presence in Indigenous lives is inevitable for the time being, other students wondered if the cultural awareness trainers could incorporate section 35 of the Constitution Act into the mandatory courses for all RCMP members. They voiced the importance they place in assessing the views and beliefs RCMP members have about Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Finally, one student voiced their concerns about a fundamental issue, stating that they always seem to go back to reconciliation and the duties and responsibilities of the government. Will reconciliation ever be a reality? It is hard to believe. As an Indigenous person, they said they start to feel defeated reading about all the negativity that goes on in Canada.
These are wise and important questions these youth have brought up. I thank you, on their behalf, for your insights and responses to these matters.
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you very much for the questions and to the students who posed them.
With regard to Indigenous policing, I’ve been advised that the government is committed to ensuring all communities benefit from policing that’s both professional and dedicated, and that includes First Nations and Inuit communities.
I’ve been advised as well, and senators might recall, that in Budget 2017 and later, in January 2018, the government committed up to $291 million for the First Nations policing program to improve officer safety, policing equipment, salaries and so on.
With regard to your question on the RCMP, I’ve been advised that they have already made several changes to its policies, procedures and training in recent years. By the way, that also includes effort to increase Indigenous participation in the force. I’ve been further advised that RCMP members receive cultural awareness training through several venues as well.
Regarding reconciliation, the Government of Canada remains committed to reconciliation to renewing its relationship with our Indigenous peoples and building one based on the affirmation of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. That’s why this government has pledged to fully implement UNDRIP. The government continues to work collaboratively through constructive rights and recognition tables, where the priorities are set by Indigenous communities and are implemented where co-development of these policies are taking place.
Finally, the government recognizes that reconciliation is not simply an Indigenous issue and an Indigenous imperative; it’s a Canadian issue and imperative, and one that must involve all of us.