#idleknowmore

Police Crime and The "Indian Problem"


Police crime and the “Indian Problem”
An image that defines Canadians and their collective identity is the image of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Comack 2012: 66). The RCMP is a Canadian institution that is also often viewed as a respectable institution displaying commitment to communities through “unbiased and respectful treatment of all people; cultural sensitivity; open and honest community” (RCMP 2006). However, with the recent Idle No More movements, there have been an increase in allegations of police abuse and mistreatment, and also an increased in reporting of gendered violence committed against Indigenous women by non-Indigenous males and the failure for our current Canadian government to protect Indigenous women. Governmental crime is used as an umbrella term to capture various forms of crimes committed within a governmental context (Friedrichs 2010: 128). Friedrichs further makes a distinction between political white collar crime and state crime where the latter is defined as “harmful activities carried out by the state or on behalf of some state agency” (Friedrichs 2010: 128). He emphasizes that central to state crime is “the extension or maintenance of power” (Friedrichs 2010: 128). Friedrichs’ chapter on governmental crime calls attention to police crime as a form of governmental crime. With these definitions of state crime, it can be argued that the current Canadian institution, the RCMP, is an extension of this power, an abuse of power, as a form of state-organized crime.
            Friedrichs chapter on governmental crime highlights police crime as either state-organized crime or occupational crime. The difference between the two, state-organized crime and occupational crime, are their underlying objectives. For occupational crime, it can be seen as having individualistic, personal motivators involving corruption (Friedrichs 2010: 146). Meanwhile, for state-organized crime it can be seen as originating from within the organization, as if to inherently exist in its mission, vision, and values. Historically, the RCMP had originated out of the North West Mounted Police (NWCP) which was established in 1873 and whose mission was to play an “instrumental role in carrying out the colonial project or ‘civilizing mission’” (Comack 2012: 73). The colonial project is described as the attempted assimilation of Indigenous peoples into Canadian society as “civilized human beings” by removing their children from their homes and forcing the children to attend residential schools, by forcing Indigenous peoples to live on smaller parcels of lands, and by criminalizing the use and practice of their Indigenous languages and cultures. For many Canadians today, this colonial project is often seen as something in the distant past. However, the last federally run residential school closed in 1996 (Comack 2012: 78). With this fact, it can be seen that the colonial project is not a thing of the past.
            Consequently, and since the Idle No More movement began in November 2012, there has been a spotlight on the issues Indigenous peoples face on a repeated basis. One particular alarming issue that keeps re-emerging is the gendered violence that Indigenous women/girls face at the hands of non-Indigenous males and also the institutional violence that they experience within the criminal justice system, particularly the violence committed at the hands of the RCMP against Indigenous women/girls. In December 2012, a young Indigenous woman was attacked, raped, and left for death; fortunately, shortly thereafter, the Thunder Bay Police began to continue its investigation into this hate crime (Canada.com 2013). With more than 600 missing and murdered Indigenous women, this incident calls attention to this gendered violence. Then in February 2013, a young Indigenous woman had called Edmonton police to report a rape only to be arrested herself, and later having no adequate assistance to deal with the traumatic experience sat waiting and sitting in blood-stained clothing for 5 days before a rape kit was administered (Cherrington, 2013). In addition to these incidences, a more damaging report conducted by a human rights watch group reported that there were incidences of rape and abuse of Indigenous women/girls at the hands of the RCMP in northern British Columbia (Human Rights Watch, 2013). With the incidences in Thunder Bay and Edmonton, and the report highlighting the treatment of Indigenous women/girls by the RCMP in British Columbia, it is apparent that the mistreatment and abuse of Indigenous women/girls is not an isolated occurrence and is demonstrative of the state-organized crime against Indigenous women/girls as part of the continued colonial project.
            One might argue that the current Canadian government has taken steps to increase the safety of Indigenous women/girls by allocating more funds to policing agencies and with his “Tough on Crime” agenda. However, these efforts are not addressing the root cause of the gendered and institutional violence that Indigenous women/girls face. It appears that the system is built to do exactly what it is meant to do: get rid of the “Indian Problem.” In a joint press release by Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) and Families of Sisters in Spirits (FSIS) in response to the continued police injustices, the connection between the Indian Problem and the RCMP’s legacy is demonstrated with this quote, “But what folks don’t know is that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was originally created to control and manage the ‘Indian Problem’, which included using force, violence and coercion against our peoples. This is the RCMP’s living legacy.” While one might say that Indigenous peoples would be better off if they just assimilated into the rest of society, this statement ignores previous assimilative efforts, which have failed to provide any successful results. For example, this can be seen with the residential school system, wherein in Indigenous parents were given a false choice: either let the Indian Affairs agents take your children to the school or face arrest and your children will be taken anyways. The intergenerational effects of the residential school can be seen in the intergenerational trauma passed down from generation to generation. Today, these colonization efforts can be seen through the neglect to protect Indigenous women/girls from harms experienced at the hands of non-Indigenous men and Canadian policing agencies.
            Perhaps a part of this colonial project in a present day context is the dominating and controlling of Indigenous women’s bodies through carelessness in investigations of the 600 missing and murdered Indigenous women/girls across Canada and a complete disregard for the current state of Indigenous women/girls by the Canadian government itself. Most significantly, perhaps a part of this ongoing colonial project is the current Canadian government’s actions to withdraw funding of the Sisters in Spirits project, which was documenting the incidences of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada (Human Rights Watch, 2012). The current Canadian government needs to take action to protect these Indigenous women/girls from harms that are experienced at the hands of non-Indigenous men and at the hands of those meant to protect society, the RCMP and other policing agencies. Indigenous women/girls are the life-givers and life-bearers of Indigenous peoples. They are the backbone of the Indigenous existence. If it were not for Indigenous women/girls, Indigenous people would not exist, or perhaps, as mentioned earlier, the system is built to do exactly what it is meant to do: To get rid of the “Indian Problem.”
References
Canada.com. 2013. “Woman’s abduction, rape investigated as a hate crime.” <http://www.canada.com/news/Woman+abduction+rape+investigated+hate+crime/7791540/story.html&gt;
Cherrington, M. 2013. “She looked down and cried.” The Cat Box: A Youth Worker’s Website. <http://catbox.ca/she-looked-down-and-cried/&gt;
Comack, E. 2012. Racialized Policing: Aboriginal People’s Encounters with the Police. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.
Friedrichs, D. O. 2010. Trusted Criminals: White Collar Crime in Contemporary Society. 4th ed. California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Human Rights Watch. 2012. “Canada: Investigate Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women.” <http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/12/17/canada-investigate-missing-murdered-indigenous-women&gt;
Human Rights Watch. 2013. “Canada: Abusive Policing, Neglect Along ‘Highway of Tears.’” <http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/02/13/canada-abusive-policing-neglect-along-highway-tears&gt;
Native Youth Sexual Health Network. 2013. “Police (In)Justice: Responding Together to Change the Story” <http://www.nativeyouthsexualhealth.com/policeinjusticerespondingtogethertochangethestory.pdf&gt;

#IdleNoMore and the changes to the Indian Act explained

I have debated a great deal about writing this blog post but after attending an event on my university’s campus, I was inspired to write about this topic and share the information I have gathered over the last little while.
I am not writing the Idle No More movement in general. Rather, I am writing about a specific topic and that is the assumption that the paternalistic, unilateral omnibus bill that received its third reading on December 12, 2012 does not mean economic prosperity or property ownership to help with economic prosperity for First Nations and its on-reserve members. When this movement began, I was a little overwhelmed with joy in how fast it was growing. It must be noted that this isn’t the first time Indigenous activism has ameliorated itself within North America. It would be a safe assumption to say that Indigenous activism and Indigenous political activism has been around since confederation of Canada.
To begin this post, I was motivated to write something after one of my amazing friends on campus asked me if I had a resource that was easy to read on the bill that received so much attention since beginning of Idle No More (INM). So I have provided some of those resources to her and also for my readers listed below.
There is an easy to read article HERE and a resource on the INM site HERE. I would recommend reading over those two articles before continuing onto reading the rest of this post because there is a wealth of information in either two resources. I would also recommend checking out this resource HERE and also reading this INM for dummies article HERE.
The article that she forwarded to me was a little bit disturbing because it was entirely wrong with respect to the references it made to the Indian Act. While this post she forwarded to me was well-written and somewhat thoroughly researched, it did not provide an accurate representation of what the real issues are with Harper’s latest assimilative efforts and misinterprets much of the resources the blogger, Mr. Bergen, makes reference too (Thank you to Mr. Bergen who provided the resources and links to them so that I didn’t have to do too much digging around). Mr. Bergen states the following,
”The explanatory notes say that the changes are as a result of concerns with the current land designation regime voiced by the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and the Auditor General.  The original land designation process was at the request of a First Nation back in 1988, so they would not have to initiate a land surrender.  I therefore find the claim of no consultation to be a little false in this case.” – Dan Bergen
The way the Indian Act works is quite intricate and sometimes it is hard to understand when you read it at first glance. The Indian Act also has several regulations attached to it, which Mr. Bergen fails to take into consideration. This initial consultation that Mr. Bergen reference was done back in 1988 and was done with the Kamloops First Nation in an effort to change the way economic development is done with the First Nation. The problem with this bill is that it assumes that all First Nations have the same needs and the same wants. That is not true. That is colonial in nature. I thought it was interesting that this post pointed out the fact that the initial consultation was done in 1988 over 20 years ago. I am sure that the needs and wants of the First Nation and its member probably changed, just like the rest of society has changed over the past 20 years. This is where First Nations are sort of left in a double bind: we cannot grow and change with the rest of society and we are expected to remain in the same position we were in 20, 50, 100, 200 years ago. Yet, when we assert our rights to sovereignty, we are ostracized for allegedly interfering with our own and the rest of the country’s economic growth.
When my friend sent me her message, I told her simply that the argument made in Bergen’s post are wrong. I told her plainly that what these changes to the Indian Act would mean for the Canadian government:
They [the Canadian government] need to get permission but they don’t have to have everyone’s permission from the community because even the last and final decision will be made by the Minister and sometimes can be made by the Minister without the community’s input”
Mr. Bergen, who I previously referenced, even provided the awesomely inadequate summary made by the Canadian government itself. That summary can be found HERE.
In this summary, the government gives it reasoning how these changes were brought about and why these changes are being made. It references the 1988 consultation with Kamloops First Nation. It also mentions how long land designations take which is approximately 2-4 years in length. The reason it takes this long is due to the fact that First Nations take the adequate steps to ensure that all community members can vote on the land designation process, including those First Nation members who live off reserve and who have status with the First Nation. This process is explained in detail within the Indian Referendum Regulation which can be read in full detail HERE.
Another major problem with these changes is the unilateral enactment of these legislative changes. The Harper government unilaterally enacted these changes because of the agreement of only some First Nations, as cited in their summary. These changes also force First Nations to agree to a simply majority voting threshold. So instead of having a referendum wherein the majority of the electorate (meaning all those band members who are registered with the band and either living on or off reserve and are over the age of 18 years) would vote for change in land designation, the band only requires a simply majority meaning only 51% or as was described at the INM event on campus, only 51% of those attending the referendum voting process. There are also no changes in the way the Minister can act either for or against a First Nation’s request for a referendum, which means the Minister can request a referendum even if the First Nations members do not want one. The obvious major problem with this change is that it silences the voices of young people who have a truly vested interest in the way the lands that belong to their community can be used. It excludes them from the referendum process and it also potentially excludes off-reserve band members. Again, this places First Nations in a double bind: we cannot move off the reserve to obtain gainful employment or attend university/college. Rather, we must stay on reserve land and continue to, as the media has been putting it, live off the backs of the federal government and allegedly not pay our taxes (a hugely ignorant and uneducated racist stereotype).
Another assumption about these changes is that it would allow First Nations people to finally own land and gain their own economic independence. The National Post even thought it would be a good idea to have the input of a northern First Nation on-reserve doctor, who no longer practices medicine on northern First Nations, to be published. The doctor’s letter to the post can be read in full HERE minus the Appendices the doctor references in his letter. Like with many other people who do not understand the legislative changes, the doctor assumes that owning land is simple and that allowing First Nations members to own land will help with economic prosperity. It is quite entertaining to read these arguments because most of the arguments fail to take into consideration that First Nations members already own the land although as a collective. Yet, as demonstrated above, the referendum process silences the voices of young people and also potentially exclude the adequate process of informing off-reserve band members and allowing them enough time to vote in the referendum process. There are First Nations who have been developing their own land registry systems such as Six Nations here in Ontario. Much of the land issues that occur today can be partially blamed on the fact that much of the land registry software does not recognize Aboriginal title or Aboriginal land claims. Having experience with the widely used Teranet/Teraview which is a land registry/titles program used by law offices and lawyers, I know for a fact and with hands-on experience that Aboriginal title/land claims do not require a lawyer’s signature. What is done within this registry system is that the title or claims are usually placed as a side note and sometimes these notes are overlooked. Along with this, because anyone can edit these notes referencing Aboriginal titles/claims within this software without a lawyer’s signature, these claims/titles sometimes are ignored for that reason: a supposed illegitimacy. Yet, these claims/titles are not illegitimate. They are very real. This is how issues arise such as the one at Caledonia where developers assert that they have the right to develop the land because they claim they did not “know” (in other words, they ignored the note) that there was an Aboriginal land claim on the land they wished to develop. Again, this is colonial in nature.
Along with these above issues, the major issue is that the legislation is paternalistic in nature and continues to act unilaterally against the rights of Indigenous peoples and their sovereignty. As mentioned before, the final and ultimate decision, and sometimes only decision that has to be made, lies in the Minister’s hands. It can be argued that the Minister does not always act in the best interests of First Nations and its members which is evident when current Minister ordered Attawapiskat to be placed under third-party management and the Federal court later ruled that Harper’s government acted unreasonably with this decision.
In the end, for all those who are confused about INM, I suggest that you read and educate yourself on the issues at hand. These issues are not just related to Indigenous peoples and their rights. These issues affect all Canadians and even call attention to the government’s own disregard to our constitution and law. These issues also draw attention to the Indigenous activism and Indigenous political activism that happened before INM and will continue to happen so long as our rights as all Canadians continued to be ignored. INM is not just for Indigenous people; INM is concerned with the rights of all people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, within Canada.