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For immediate release
June 10, 2020
Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is concerned about a growing number of reports from Indigenous peoples across the country who are experiencing violence, and even death, as a result of their interactions with the RCMP and other police.
Grand Chief Garrison Settee offers his condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones due to police violence. In recent days, 26-year-old First Nations woman Chantel Moore was killed by an RCMP officer during a wellness check in New Brunswick. Earlier this year, three First Nation citizens lost their lives due to Winnipeg Police shootings. The victims of the police shootings were 16-year-old Eishia Hudson; 36-year-old Jason Collins; and 22-year-old Stewart Andrews, who was from MKO territory.
“MKO is very concerned with the handling of incidents across the country where the RCMP or other police forces have been called for assistance,” said Grand Chief Settee. “In the most recent case of Chantel Moore, we understand that the police were called to perform a wellness check. That wellness check absolutely should not be death for a young Indigenous woman, who now leaves a young child without a mother. The police have a duty to protect and yet it seems like we have to protect ourselves against them now. We need to see immediate changes to the ways in which the RCMP, and other police, are working with Indigenous peoples.”
MKO is also concerned with stories coming out of Nunavut and Alberta involving the RCMP and Indigenous peoples. In Nunavut, an Inuk man was recently knocked over by an RCMP’s moving vehicle. In Alberta, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has come forward to share his story of experiencing police brutality as a result of having expired tags on his license plate. Both incidents were caught on video.
One of MKO’s objectives is to protect the citizens of MKO regardless of where they live.
“We know that Indigenous peoples are mobile. Citizens from MKO First Nations live across the country. We are concerned for the well-being of Indigenous peoples from coast to coast to coast. These police-involved incidents require thorough investigations and immediate action,” stated Grand Chief Settee. “I urge the RCMP as well as the Winnipeg Police Service to investigate what is happening within their ranks. They must work closely with Indigenous leaders to eliminate the systemic discrimination that exists within police forces.”
Over the last 30 years, many reports have been published outlining recommendations to improve relationships between First Nations and policing and justice systems. In 1988, the province commissioned the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (AJI) after the shooting of JJ Harper by Winnipeg Police. The AJI provided recommendations to build positive relationships and regain the confidence of First Nations with Justice Manitoba. In recent years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls have echoed the need for initiatives to improve the relationships between police services and Indigenous peoples.
“Police brutality is not new,” said Grand Chief Settee. “The one thing that is new is almost everybody now has a mobile phone on which they can record these incidents. It should not be the case that citizens are required to record interactions with police. Leaders at all levels must work together immediately to end the police brutality and violence against Indigenous peoples.”