OTTAWA — Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal says he has been revolted by recent videotaped examples of “police brutality” against Indigenous People in Canada.
Vandal, who is Metis, told a House of Commons committee Tuesday that systemic racism against Indigenous People stems from the colonial attitude of Canada’s founding government, whose top policy objectives were ”to civilize, to Christianize and to assimilate Indigenous People into Canadian life.”
“That’s really the basis of the racism. It needs to stop,” he told the Indigenous and northern affairs committee.
“It needs a dramatic government intervention and I hope our government will be able to lead the way because the images that we saw of police brutality are absolutely unacceptable.
“We need to stop the hate, the violence and we need to stop the racism.”
Video surfaced earlier this month of an Inuk man being knocked over by the door of an RCMP vehicle in Nunavut and of an Alberta First Nations chief, Allan Adam, being tackled and punched in the head by a Mountie during an arrest over an expired licence plate.
As well, two Indigenous People have been shot dead by police in New Brunswick this month — Chantel Moore during what was supposed to be a wellness check by Edmundston police department officers and Rodney Levi after the RCMP was called to deal with an “unwanted person” at a barbecue.
“For me personally, they’re revolting,” Vandal said of the images of some of those incidents widely shown on television and online.
“It’s something that really our country, our society can no longer put up with.”
When he first got involved in local politics in his hometown of Winnipeg 20 years ago, Vandal said the Aboriginal justice inquiry was under way in Manitoba, which eventually came up with “a big book of recommendations” for addressing discrimination faced by Indigenous People from police, the courts and the prison system.
“The bottom line is 20-some years later there’s not a lot of change in the city of Winnipeg. We’ve had three shootings of young Indigenous People in the last six months and that’s unacceptable.”
Vandal was joined at the virtual committee meeting by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, who also condemned the recent incidents.
“We have all been upset by the images on our screens and the undeniable evidence of systemic racism in Canada,” said Bennett.
“Right now, we are in a moment when Canadians are recognizing that there’s unfairness built into our systems, that these systems have always been unfair towards Indigenous Peoples,” said Miller.
Miller and Bennett both pointed to community-based Indigenous policing, which the government is working to advance, as part of the solution.
Vandal said the government’s commitment to self-determination for Indigenous communities so that they can “take care of their own governance … whether it’s child and family services, whether it’s policing, whether it’s health, I mean that basic philosophy I think is going to bring many more positive returns than what we’ve been doing thus far.”
New Democrat MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who represents Nunavut, took issue with non-Indigenous Canadians discussing the discrimination faced by Indigenous People.
“I will say it’s been very difficult to listen to the conversations that have been going on and Indigenous experiences being discussed as if non-Indigenous peoples will ever be able to fully grasp what it means to be Indigenous in Canada,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2020.
The Canadian Press