EDITORIAL: Good cops, bad system

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It is an unofficial truth that deep-seated shortcomings in our criminal justice system are much to blame for the disproportionate number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada compared with their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Thanks in part to the national inquiry, we can start to discuss these shortcomings in the open.

The final report concluded that police and the criminal justice system have been failing women by viewing them “through a lens of pervasive racist and sexist stereotypes.”

As a result, Indigenous people are leery of the cops, it states.

Police “apathy often takes the form of stereotyping and victim-blaming, such as when police describe missing loved ones as ‘drunks,’ ‘runaways out partying’ or ‘prostitutes unworthy of follow-up,’” the report said.

Historically, the report describes policing as a mechanism to exert “colonial control over Indigenous women.”

In some cases, the interactions between Indigenous women and police during Canada’s infancy were characterized by abuse. And these interactions continue to imbue modern encounters between Mounties and Indigenous women with a deep sense of suspicion and distrust.

In addition, survivors and their families described the court process as “inadequate, unjust and re-traumatizing.”

The report is a damning indictment of the criminal justice system in this country.

Among the many calls for justice aimed at police services in Canada, the final report calls for the implementation of new policies in remote and rural communities that would focus on “building and sustaining a relationship with the local community and cultures.”

It also called for expanding Indigenous women’s shelters and improving policing in Indigenous communities, particularly in remote areas.

It called for an increase in the number of Indigenous people on police forces and empowering more Indigenous women to serve on civilian boards that oversee the police.

The final report also recommends the establishment of a national police task force to review and, if required, re-investigate files of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Last year, the territorial government announced $304,000 in funding to establish an RCMP historical case unit in the NWT but according to the CBC, the unit remained unstaffed as of last May.

This is not a happy time to be a Mountie. Police approval ratings are in the commode, thanks to this report.

Police officers in remote communities of the NWT, and even Yellowknife, are tasked with a wildly difficult task. In many cases these individuals are sent off to communities where they’re unfamiliar with the culture, language and norms and then they’re asked to provide law and order. In most cases these are selfless individuals – public servants with the best of intentions – caught in a system where they’re the bad guys with guns.

But as usual, the RCMP’s biggest obstacle is its own inertia and the closed circle in which it operates. NWT RCMP need to get this task force up and running and announce how it plans to address recommendations made by the inquiry.

Waiting for the coast to clear after 150 years of mistrust is not how the force is going to regain it.

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