In my race, class, and colonialism class, the discussion of what is Canadian culture? always rears its ugly little head. Some people claim that we are a multicultural country *blech* I beg to differ.
What do you think of when you think of Canada? Maybe polar bears, igloos, “Indians,” or maybe the RCMP! Well, apparently, that is one of nation’s symbols. So it wouldn’t be wrong to think of the RCMP when you think of Canada but don’t you think it is kind of odd that we are a country who’s identity is also associated with police?!? I thought we were supposed to be all nice and peaceful… police, especially the RCMP are anything but *gasp* what we expect Canadians to be.
Look at Riza Santos, Miss Universe 2013 contestant! She displayed her culture proudly by wearing an RCMP uniform! At an international level.
Note: RCMP officer’s don’t look anything like the above.
But wait, how did the RCMP come to be or is this post going to be all about bashing RCMP? No. It’s a brief glimpse into the history of the RCMP (formerly the NWMP).
The information page on the RCMP site does offer a little glimpse into the history of the RCMP (source). The RCMP states, ” Its immediate objectives: to stop liquor trafficking in the North-west; to gain the respect and confidence of the natives; to collect customs dues; and to perform all the duties of a police force.” And in Racialized Policing, Elizabeth Comack states something similar. Yet, she also highlights that they were also created to “protect the Aboriginal population of the Northwest from whiskey traders and other outlaws and ‘to ensure that all people of the Canadian North West — Indians and Metis, settlers and traders — might have the opportunity of living under a system of law impartially enforced and guaranteeing equal rights to all” (67). The NWMP started off with 50 men then grew to be about 300 (I guess is a lot to protect the poor Indians from the whiskey traders and other outlaws).
But really though, is that all the NWMP was created for? To protect the poor little Indians from dangerous criminals? To guaranteeing equal rights to all?
As Comack also points out, that this particular history of the NWMP and later the RCMP ignores colonialism. One story that is often underreported within the history of Canada is the role the NWMP (and later the RCMP) played in carrying out the colonial project, to assimilate Indigenous peoples. The NWMP was involved in playing “an instrumental role in carrying out this colonial project or ‘civilizing mission'” (Comack 73). This civilizing mission also including signing of the treaties, the Indian Act, and the residential school system. The role of the NWMP, as highlighted by Comack, was to “ensure the submission of Indigenous peoples to colonial rule… and the primary reason for establishing it was to control the Indian and Metis population of the North West” (74) with the main concern being “to keep peace between Aboriginal people and settlers in order to encourage economic development” (74). Their role was also to keep Indigenous peoples on reserves and in an essence, criminalized them if they did so. When these statements are contrasted with the issue happening on the east coast right now (source), I see no difference in the role of the NWMP then and the role of the RCMP now.
Really though, maybe except for a colorful uniform, what is the difference?
RCMP “secretly monitoring” protestors in field in camo and armed with weapons
RCMP pepper spraying peaceful protestors
RCMP protecting Fracking vehicles (corporate interests)
Do we really want our nation to be associated with a police that protects corporate interests? I guess that is all you can ask of a colonial country. Corporate interests over human rights. The sad but honest truth.