Doug White III, chairman of the B.C. First Nations Justice Council, speaks at the endorsing and signing of the First Nations Justice Strategy March 6, 2020, at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

By Adam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com

The grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference held this week that featured speakers from across Canada. Viewership fluctuated throughout the event, but attracted several hundred virtual attendees Tuesday and Wednesday on Zoom.

Starting on July 7, four panels tackled the topics of policing reform, complications within the legal system, institutional racism.

Speaking Wednesday afternoon, Doug White, chair of the BC First Nations Justice Council, described the challenges of Indigenous life within Canada.

“Systemic racism is a simple reality of this country,” White said. “It’s built into the foundations of Canada. We need leadership of the governments and the RCMP to deeply understand that.”

With recent widespread protests against police brutality occurring across North American and around the world, White and the other participants spoke about why they felt it necessary to come together and hold these discussions.

“This is an issue that is sharply at the attention of everyone in this country,” White said. “We’ve seen our brothers and sisters in the Black Lives Matter movement: Black Canadians and Black Americans who have also been suffering a similar kind of treatment from police and we’ve seen the outrage that’s been expressed across the U.S. and Canada.”

The Summit found support from the Indigenous Bar Association, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, BC First Nations Justice Council, Membertou First Nation, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Indigenous Community Legal Clinic (UBC), Testify: Indigenous Laws + the Arts, and other groups and organizations.

While a variety of viewpoints were expressed, multiple moderators and panellists shared a common persective— Immediate action is necessary to disrupt current practices of oppression at all levels of Canadian policing and justice systems.

The second day of the webinar opened with a keynote address by Marion Buller, who served as the chief commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“We as Indigenous people need to feel safe in our own homes and communities,” Buller said. “We need to be respected and we need to be heard. These are not just needs. They are our rights as Indigenous people.”

Buller emphasized the need for Indigenous policing strategies to be nuanced.

“We live in a variety of locations and circumstances across Canada,” she said. “There is a great diversity in safety issues, community resources, cultures, languages, practices. There’s not one-size-fits all solutions.”

Steven Point, former British Columbia lieutenant governor (2007-2012) and current University of British Columbia chancellor, was the keynote speaker on the day’s second panel titled Indigenous Approaches to Justice Reform.

“Future abuses of police authority will continue to be documented,” Point said. “We cannot wait until the social fabric of Canada is being literally torn apart.”

Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and former chief of the Hupacasath First Nation located at Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, B.C., discussed local approaches to wellness checks as one immediate action that can be implemented.

“Let’s start a campaign to not call 9-1-1,” she said, referencing the recent death of Chantel Moore during a wellness check at the hands of an Edmundston, N.B. police officer. Moore was a member of a Nuu-chah-nulth Nation, Tla-o-qui-aht.

“Of course, we need other teams that can go in… I think we need to put in place community wellness teams and peacekeepers. Let’s make sure these teams are trauma-informed. Indigenous people all know the trauma that we’ve gone through. Most police don’t,” Sayers said.

Joseph Murdoch-Flowers, an Iqaluit-based lawyer and former Justice of the Peace Court, expanded on the poor training and education mechanisms in place for police forces, particularly when dealing with Indigenous people.

“It is worthwhile to ask the appropriateness of police responding to mental distress,” he said. “We have to strategically examine the realistic reallocation of resources.”

“We demand that the police act in too many roles — social workers, crisis negotiators, coroners, and more,” Murdoch-Flowers added. “If you spread the resources too thin, you’re going to end up with an inferior service. And that’s not fair to anyone.”

Summit attendees received a list of 10 “Immediate Action Points”, which included guidelines for creating a national Indigenous-led police oversight body, local Indigenous court services, and a multi-pronged de-escalation strategy centred around limiting police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities.

The Action Points also stressed specific changes to the existing court system, including increasing Indigenous representation as “Police, Crown, Judges, police commissions, and within the prison and parole systems” within the next five years, as well as a redirect of “Public Safety” funding to services that increase community safety and help combat social issues such as poverty, substance use, and lack of housing.

READ ALSO: New First Nations justice strategy being created in B.C.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

IndigenousLaw and justice

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Courtesy of CDC).
Interior Health reports 12 additional COVID-19 cases

The total number of cases in the region is now at 644

The house is located near two schools. Photo: Connor Trembley
Dog attack seriously injures young boy in Castlegar

Despite investigating the incident, city staff aren’t confirming if the dog has been put down

BC ELECTION
Kootenay East voters out in droves already

A third of Kootenay East voters have either already voted or requested mail-in ballots

Environment Canada has issued a snow warning for the Kootenays on Friday. File photo
Environment Canada issues snow warning for Friday

Two-to-10 centimetres is expected to fall

Fernie’s Snow Valley Lodging allows the mountain love stories to continue. (Photo Contributed)
Ski-bum love: Shred Kelly’s Mountain Town Love Story Contest kicks off

The competition invites both tales of heartwarming romance or debauched misadventure

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

One of the squirrels who ended up having their tails amputated after getting them stuck together with tree sap. (Facebook/Wild ARC)
Squirrels recovering from tail amputation after sap situation near Victoria

BC SPCA Wild ARC says squirrels will be released back into wild, fifth sibling was euthanized

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

Most Read