The head of Canada’s largest First Nations organization argues that the only way to overcome racism in the Canadian police force is to impose systemic change and a zero tolerance policy to eliminate cases of excessive use of force.
Perry Bellegarde, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations, spoke briefly to reporters Monday during a conference call during which he expressed his anger over a series of violent, sometimes even fatal, confrontations between the police and First Nations people across Canada.
“The police are there to protect and serve citizens, not to assault and kill them,” he said from Ottawa.
“We must stop these tragedies, prevent First Nations people from being injured and / or killed by the police. […] We know there is racism, both systemic and deliberate. […] To end systemic racism, systemic change is needed. “
He again called for an independent third-party investigation in the next two weeks into the deaths of two Aboriginal people at the hands of police in New Brunswick.
The Quebec Bureau of Independent Investigations has been asked to look into the shootings in New Brunswick since the province does not have its own police agency oversight office.
Asked whether there should be another independent investigation, apart from that of Quebec, Bellegarde noted that there will always be “concerns and mistrust about the police overseeing the police.”
He said he favors civilian oversight and the involvement of First Nations “in the investigations” to ensure their transparency. He did not, however, request another separate investigation.
“I would prefer the involvement of citizens or First Nations leaders,” he said. Unfortunately, we are subject to the rules in place. “
The shootings also led others to call for independent investigations and a reform of the province’s police systems, where the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has previously stated that there is a problem of systemic racism.
In addition, these events have received special attention due to international discussions on racism and police brutality since the death of a black man during a violent arrest by a white police officer in Minnesota on May 25.
Bellegarde also discussed the recent video demonstrating the arrest of an Aboriginal chief by Alberta police, calling it an attack by the police.
The 12-minute video captured by the camera from the dashboard of a patrol car demonstrates the arrest of Allan Adam, chief of a Chipewyan nation, on March 10.
At the start of the video, an officer is seen approaching Chef Adam’s truck outside a casino in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Chief Adam can be seen getting out of his vehicle, then being thrown to the ground by a police officer, who then punches him in the head.
“When you see a second police officer running in and violently throwing Chief Allan Adam, it is excessive use of force,” said Bellegarde. There is no discussion. There is no attempt to calm the situation. It’s a direct assault. A zero tolerance policy would send a strong message to all police forces – that it is not tolerated. “
RCMP reported that the number plates on Chief Adam’s truck were expired and that the video shows Chief Adam entering and leaving his vehicle, aggressively removing his coat, cursing and complaining of being harassed by the police.