Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mounties Committed to Reconciliation with Indigenous People: Commissioner

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mounties Committed to Reconciliation with Indigenous People: Commissioner

Article excerpt

RCMP commissioner promises reconciliation

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OTTAWA - The RCMP needs to work in partnership with Canada's Aboriginal Peoples in order to improve relations between the force and the country's indigenous communities, commissioner Bob Paulson says.

Paulson, whose organization has long been the object of scorn from aboriginal Canadians who feel unfairly treated, delivered that message directly to the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting Tuesday in Niagara Falls, Ont.

The two sides have developed a joint protocol that spells out the force's goals of working to ensure indigenous people in Canada are safe, to address diverse needs of communities and to strengthen mutual respect, Paulson said.

"I'm aware this protocol is simply words on paper, and words alone will not improve things," he said.

"I'm here today to pledge we will put actions to these words so we can continue the healing, continue the building and improve these vital relationships in every way possible."

Last December, Paulson raised eyebrows when British Columbia Grand Chief Doug Kelly asked him a pointed question about racism within the RCMP during an AFN session in Gatineau, Que.

"I understand there are racists in my police force," Paulson reportedly replied. "I don't want them to be in my police force."

It was important to invite the commissioner back to the July AFN meeting to discuss how to tackle officer misconceptions, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde told the gathering.

"How can we work together to make sure that air is clear, that cloud is gone?" said Bellegarde. First Nations leaders are aware there are "always going to be issues" that play out with police locally, regionally and nationally, he added.

The question of racism and bias within law enforcement is sure to be a central theme during a forthcoming and long-awaited inquiry into the phenomenon of missing and murdered indigenous women.

The government is expected to announce the mandate of the inquiry sometime this summer; a specific date has not been released.

"It is all about building relationships in a respectful way and communicating and working together to bring about change, internally and externally in a way that our people are policed," Bellegarde said. …

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