I call this meeting to order.
I am acknowledging first of all that in Ottawa we meet on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people. Here in Hamilton East—Stoney Creek we have the territorial lands of the Anishinabe, Haudenosaunee and Chonnonton nations.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted on April 29, 2021, the committee is continuing its study of enforcement on first nations reserves.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I remind our guests that participants may speak and listen in the official language of their choice. On the globe in the bottom centre of your screen, you can select “Floor”, “English” or “French”. Whichever one you select, if you change from one language to another as you're presenting, there's no need to change the technology. You can simply switch languages. When speaking, ensure your video is turned on, and please speak slowly and clearly. When you are not speaking, your microphone should be on mute.
Pursuant to the motion adopted on March 9, 2021, I must inform the committee that all witnesses have completed a technical pretest.
With us today for the first hour by video conference, we have the following witnesses: From the RCMP, we have Staff Sergeant Ryan How, detachment commander, Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan; Inspector Jeff Preston, officer in charge, Campbell River, British Columbia; Inspector Dustin Rusk, officer in charge, indigenous relations services; and hopefully soon we'll have Amichai Wise, the counsel from legal services.
Than you all for appearing with us today.
Inspector Preston, do you have your opening remarks in front of you?
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for having us today.
My name is Jeff Preston. I'm the officer in charge of the Campbell River detachment on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I'm speaking on behalf of Inspector Dustin Rusk from RCMP indigenous relations services. He's having technical difficulties, so I'm going to read his opening remarks on his behalf.
I'd like to start off by recognizing that I am speaking from the traditional territories of We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum and Homalco first nations here on beautiful Vancouver Island.
The RCMP has an important role, along with other government and non-governmental agencies, to support the enhanced safety and well-being of indigenous communities. It is one of the RCMP's strategic priorities.
It is important for all frontline enforcement service providers, including the police, to be kept abreast of any legislative developments involving aspects of indigenous legal matters that are pertinent to law enforcement activities for indigenous communities. The RCMP and other policing service providers work in partnership with the ministries responsible for the safety and well-being of indigenous communities. The RCMP supports the need for enforcement on first nation reserves in relation to COVID-19 measures to control the spread of the disease and will continue to engage with the leaders of indigenous communities where the RCMP is the police service of jurisdiction.
At the onset of the pandemic, the importance of enforcing band-created bylaws related to COVID-19 became acute. The RCMP's response was to work with indigenous communities, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada—known as PPSC—and other partners to find ways that were lawful and respectful. Under sections 81 and 85 of the Indian Act, first nation communities may establish band bylaws relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of particular relevance, section 81(1)(a) states that a band bylaw may be passed “to provide for the health of residents on the reserve and to prevent the spreading of contagious and infectious diseases”.
When investigation is warranted, the RCMP will carry it out and determine if there are reasonable grounds to lay a charge under a band bylaw. Generally speaking, band bylaws are treated as federal laws that are enforceable by the RCMP, the police of jurisdiction or the band bylaw enforcement officers. A contravention of the band bylaw is a summary conviction offence. The offence and circumstances will determine the appropriate form of release, appearance notice, undertaking or summons.
RCMP personnel continue to exercise judgment and operational discretion to enforce the COVID-19-related band bylaws, in accordance with relevant statutory and constitutional law as well as national and divisional policies. If there are any questions or concerns about whether charges are warranted or supported, RCMP personnel may consult the regional PPSC office for a Crown opinion.
With respect to COVID-19-related band bylaws, first nation communities may elect to consider entering into a prosecution and enforcement protocol agreement with the PPSC regional office and local law enforcement, often the RCMP, for the enforcement of a specific bylaw that relies on section 81 and/or subsection 85(1) of the Indian Act as a legal authority. There are several published examples of this protocol approach currently in effect in which the RCMP as well as other police agencies were involved.
A key example of this emanates from Duncan, British Columbia, where a protocol with the Cowichan Tribes was signed into effect in January 2021.This protocol sets out a procedure for the investigation by the RCMP and prosecution by the PPSC of offences set out in bylaws adopted by Cowichan Tribes and specifically enforced to address the COVID-19 pandemic through the bylaws. A significant aspect of this protocol is the option to consider restorative justice. Before submitting a report to the Crown for charge approval, the RCMP will consider whether the matter is appropriate for diversion to the Cowichan Tribes restorative justice program.
As indigenous communities continue to deal with the pandemic and to protect their members, the RCMP will continue to work with these communities in a collaborative manner and to prioritize their safety.
Thank you for having us today. We look forward to your questions.
Thank you to our witnesses from the RCMP today. We appreciate your taking the time to join us so that we can learn from your experience and your knowledge as we consider the study on enforcement in first nations communities. We look forward to the advice you can offer to us as we develop a report and bring recommendations forward to the House of Commons.
I'm going to focus my questions on Staff Sergeant How this morning, because we have some history and relationship.
Staff Sergeant How, I think you have a unique opportunity to offer advice to us. If I'm not mistaken—and please correct me if I'm wrong—you grew up in a northern community that had many first nations surrounding it. Your entire time in the force has been in serving northern Saskatchewan communities, where you have shared borders between a town and first nations and a village and first nations. I think the detachment you command now serves a small city, a rural municipality, a couple of first nations and a Métis community as well.
With that unique experience and that kind of perspective, what lessons could you share with the members of this committee on the things you have learned about successful enforcement in first nations communities that have relationships with neighbouring communities?
Thank you for the question.
Good morning, Mr. Chair, and good morning, everybody.
That's correct. I grew up in northern Saskatchewan. I have been fortunate enough to be posted here for my entire service.
Many of the communities I have worked in have first nations communities literally separated by a hedgerow from non-first nations communities. One thing I have learned in dealing with the leadership on those first nations communities is that they feel the inequity, that they aren't in control of some of the laws and in requesting enforcement that the non-first nations communities are able to enact under their own bylaws.
In my current situation, I am managing a municipal policing contract for a city, a provincial contract for the regional municipality, two CTAs and a Métis community. They're very unique communities with unique demands, all in a very small geographic area.
Even our two first nations—Waterhen and Flying Dust—though they are only 60 kilometres apart, are very different communities. The ability for them to tailor laws and enact their own bylaws causes some frustration for them, being unique communities. Flying Dust is, again, right next to Meadow Lake, which is the city we police. They are essentially one community, but there are very different policing aspects, and very different approaches are needed from our young members when they are responding to calls in the different communities.
If that answers your question, I will leave it there.
I will go back to some experiences I have had on the negative.
Some of the first nations leaders and all the community leaders have told me that for quite a few years, they felt the RCMP told them what their policing needs were. Reverse that and approach the community leaders and have them tell us what their needs are, because the community knows best.
I think the biggest lesson I take from that is to approach policing in any community with humility and open communication. Listen to what the community wants. What we may feel as a detachment is a policing priority may not be recognized as what the community wants. Unless there's that communication, we're not understanding, and then there's a complete disconnect. As hard as the RCMP may be working to achieve goals that they feel are important for the community, they may be missing the mark on what the community wants.
Humility and communication were the two lessons I've taken away from all the communities I've worked in.
I think it's very important to differentiate between a criminal matter and a bylaw matter.
In a criminal matter, here in British Columbia at least—I know it's different in some contract provinces—if we have enough evidence, we will forward all the information to the prosecutor, who will determine whether or not a charge is approved. That's for offences under the Criminal Code or the CDSA, which are federal statutes.
The disconnect is that in most cases brought under bylaws, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada will not prosecute. They will have the individual band hire lawyers to act as the prosecutor. It becomes very expensive. You can well imagine that for some communities of 100 or so individuals, it's unattainable, because the costs are prohibitive.
As I've stated, in each contract province in which the RCMP is the police of jurisdiction, there are over 100 statutes and regulations that we're expected to enforce. Unfortunately, not all of those regulations or statutes are applicable on reserve.
I'll give an example. Here in British Columbia, the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act, a pretty standard act, is not applicable on all roads within reserves. For example, in one of the communities here, on one of the roads going into the community, the Motor Vehicle Act applies, but as soon as you turn off onto a different road, still on the same reserve, the act doesn't apply. It becomes very difficult.
As officers, this is what we do for a living, so we get to know where we can and cannot apply the law, but it becomes very difficult to explain to the general public, and it builds mistrust when a member of the community calls and reports that so-and-so is driving when they know they're not supposed to be. We say, “Well, actually that doesn't apply on that road; please call us when they actually go over to a different road.”
As I say, it's very difficult to explain to the general public and it leads to mistrust and a loss of community confidence in their law enforcement.
With regard to band bylaws, it becomes even more difficult because of all the things we've talked about already, such as what it takes to enact the law itself and for the chief and council to actually come up with the law, because they have to work with lawyers. It gets to be very expensive, and then it comes to the enforcement. Who will enforce it; and if we do enforce it, what mechanism do we have in place for a dispute? If someone disputes that they were breaking the bylaw, who is going to hear that? Who's going to be the prosecutor? Who's going to be the judge?
It all becomes very complicated, and a lot of times communities do not have the capacity to roll with that.
I don't know if Staff Sergeant How wants to touch base, but I can quickly speak.
We do have some training, but one of the biggest things, as I said, is those individual relationships. Yes, we do transfer around, and that's just the nature of our work. The hope is that the trust is there and that if I leave and I'm a trusted member, the next person coming in can build upon that relationship and is not starting at ground zero.
When you have a breakdown in that relationship, as we've had in the past as a result of the enforcement of unpopular or unjust laws, such as the residential schools, it takes a long time to start building up those relationships. We hope that people start to see past the uniform, see the individual who's wearing the uniform, know they can trust that person, and won't dwell on the fact that they may have had a bad experience with that uniform in the past.
With regard to how we fix transferring around, I don't have an answer for that.
Thank you for the question.
I've been policing now for 25 years, and in every one of the detachments I've served, I've had the privilege of working with first nation communities, both treaty and non-treaty. This has afforded me the opportunity to work with first nations on enacting of Indian Act bylaws. I'd like to say it's been an enjoyable procedure, but it has not. It's been fraught with a lot of issues.
As an example, I worked with a first nation community with an intoxicant bylaw here on the west coast. The community has been long suffering from alcoholism, and they wanted to rid the community of alcohol. I was there for three years. It took over three years to just get it to the point where they could vote on it.
One of the pitfalls was that the community did not have the legal expertise to draft the bylaw, so they ended up having to utilize outside legal services, which were very expensive for a community that did not have a lot of money. Then, from that point forward, they also didn't have the capacity to have the dispute mechanism in place.
At the end of the day, even though the law was passed, it became somewhat unenforceable. For the police to enforce it, we have to have a mechanism for someone to dispute. When it isn't there, it falls apart. Also, they did not have the support, I guess, of the Public Prosecution Service to prosecute that bylaw.
I'm going to follow up a little bit on some of what Ms. Damoff said around the prosecutions. We've heard this threaded throughout the testimony. I want to start with Staff Sergeant How on this, because we've had some conversations about this in the past.
Last week we also heard from a number of department officials about some of the challenges around prosecution. As I listened to the testimony—and I think it was last Thursday, if I can keep my days straight—I immediately wrote down the words “jurisdictional quagmire”. That was my response to the testimony. I'm not pointing fingers at anybody. That's not my purpose.
Staff Sergeant How, in your policing both on and off reserve, can you share some of your experiences with the challenges and frustrations of that kind of enforcement, followed up by appropriate prosecution on or off reserve in these small northern Saskatchewan communities?
I think I can go back prior to 2014, when I was living even further north on a first nation, and we were able to enforce bylaws pursuant to the Indian Act. The first nation was very pleased with that. It was a dry reserve. We were able to do our best to keep alcohol off the first nation, which, of course, cuts down on serious offences afterwards.
After 2014, we weren't able to enforce the bylaws anymore, and that caused an immediate friction with all of the police, who were seen as the ones who suddenly stopped. It was perceived as our decision. For the poor junior member going out at three o'clock in the morning and being asked to enforce a band bylaw, they would take the heat, the flack and an earful for the decisions made far, far above them and take the community frustration of why they couldn't deal with that problem when the community wanted it dealt with.
In other posts I've had, the most common question was about how they could get to the point where the police could enforce it. My message to the first nation was that the RCMP is standing with you. We support you and we want this to happen; we just can't enforce it until there's prosecution.
We offer whatever support we can to make it happen and guidance within our wheelhouse, but it's certainly a point of frustration and friction, unfortunately, between the police, who are perceived as the face of it, and the communities.
I'll start by echoing what a lot of my Department of Justice colleagues said on Thursday, which was that the problem is how to effectively enforce and prosecute band bylaws. Because your question goes a little bit more into the prosecution realm, I'm going to tiptoe around it a little bit and leave that to my PPSC colleagues. However, what I can say is that what goes into the operational discretion of RCMP members in enforcing band bylaws is important. Their mandate to preserve the peace and investigate crime is paramount.
When you get a bylaw, to the previous witness's statement that in 2014 there were issues, there was no mandatory review from Indigenous Services Canada at that point. What you had were bylaws that perhaps did not meet constitutional muster or had other problems, which led the RCMP, potentially as part of their decision-making, to decide whether to enforce it or not, and it became a larger issue there.
It's quite complicated, and that's an understatement. You've been hearing that for a couple of days now, but again, with the prosecution piece, the jurisdictional quagmire between the provincial attorneys general and the federal Attorney General exists. I'm no expert on that, but it definitely is a problem that requires a whole-of-government response.
That's an excellent question. In fact, that has happened here in my home detachment, where all three of the first nation communities have put up roadblocks to entering into the community.
Although there is no bylaw in place right now to say that these are enforceable, the RCMP has worked with each of the reserves to ensure that we will be there with them. If they run into issues with people trying to go past the blockade, and they have, we'll stand by and keep the peace and ensure that those laws are enforced.
Unfortunately, the issue is we have to stand by and keep the peace, which means we have to rely on the band representative to stand there and say, “You are not welcome on reserve” for whatever reason, and they are then the ones who are to tell people they have to leave. We will stand by. When I say "keep the peace", we'll be there to ensure that this individual isn't assaulted or threatened. If they are, or if it looks like they're about to be assaulted, then we'll step in, but we don't have the legal authority to stand there ourselves and say that someone can't come in and enforce this bylaw. We have to work with the community.
I would have to pass on the training that's going on at Depot right now to our headquarters, because it's been 25 years since I've actually gone through it.
However, we do have online training here. I know that nationally, each officer must take a first nations online course. One thing I would love to see is to have members, when they do come to the community, meet with elders to learn the local customs and meet with chief and council so the new officers understand what problems do exist on reserve.
We do have an orientation package here at my detachment. We give all new members this package, and it has a history that was provided by each of the communities, so we do have something, but I think more could be done in that way.
Staff Sergeant How, I'm not sure what you have at your home detachment.
Yes, that's absolutely correct.
Further to the relationship-building aspect, when the members are so busy and responding to calls for service, and usually violent calls for service, this situation makes it extremely difficult for them to be in a mind frame to go and build a relationship in any spare time they have. We have to remember that they're people too.
Bearing in mind that we're recovering from a pandemic and our depot was in a shutdown, our resources are going to be thin here for a while.
However, absolutely, resources are an issue in terms of relationship building.
I want to follow up on where the conversation has been going on the concept of relationships and communication. Obviously this is my last opportunity today and I want to end it on a relatively positive note.
Staff Sergeant How, I know you have some stories in your own experience of some really positive things you've been involved in personally, and also some that your members, for whom you've been a leader, have been involved in. Back in your time as the commanding officer of Meadow Lake, when I was the mayor, you initiated a communication strategy to tell some of the good stories about what the RCMP was doing in our community, so that it wasn't always about the negative things. It wasn't always about the enforcement things.
I want to give you an opportunity to share two or three of these positive stories and how the impact of those positive stories could benefit those who are policing in first nations communities, both those that are neighbouring non-indigenous communities and those that are more remote and northern.
Thank you for the question.
I read through Chief Blake's comments last week from the Tsuut'ina Nation. He made a comment about enforcement being only a very small part of our job. I very much agree with that. There is a lot of restorative justice going on behind the scenes. It's as simple as Mr. Vidal was saying.
A few years ago, we had a Mountie from Quebec. He was posted to a northern first nation in Saskatchewan. He had never been on a first nation before. He went to a powwow. As soon as he heard the drum, he started dancing in his own way. You may have seen it; it was national news. We had the dancing Mountie. The fact that he let himself go and stepped outside of his professional persona won the community over. It was just a simple three- or four-minute escape for him, I suppose. It's things like this that you don't see and that are outside of the enforcement.
In my time in Loon Lake, we were dealing with an extremely violent gang that was terrorizing the whole side of the province using the colour red as a method to intimidate and scare the community. I was so frustrated, because kids couldn't even walk to school. They were terrified that these gangs were always out and they always had firearms.
One of my young members made a comment about the colour red. He said that we wore red first, hearkening back to our red tunics. We met with the community leaders and were informed that red is a very important traditional colour in first nations as well. We said, “Let's take this back.” Again, this is totally outside of enforcement. It's thinking outside the box and relationship building.
What was thought of was to get the community mobilized all in red and walk around and tell the gangs “no more”. This was our community. We mobilized over 350 people to walk around the community that day. We were very impressed with the community because it was willing to stand with us, and we were willing to stand with them. That had far more impact than any enforcement that could have been done.
Just to reiterate, the common theme I'm hearing is that it's all about relationships and hundreds of thousands of positive contacts between the police and all communities, especially first nations, every day that don't get noticed.
I appreciate Mr. Vidal's question and his letting me get the message out there that while there are legislative barriers, it's very important to acknowledge that there's excellent work being done.
Thank you for the opportunity.
As Staff Sergeant How said, we have hundreds of thousands of interactions with the general public each day or year. The only things that seem to get publicized are the one or two that go negatively.
There are a multitude of good stories being told throughout the province here. I can speak of, and I know Ms. Blaney will know, Corporal Chris Voller, who worked the north end of the island here, very close to my detachment. He has worked super-hard with the community in Port Hardy. He was basically indoctrinated into the community and was given a first nations name. He was loved by all because he truly became part of that community.
Unfortunately, when he left, it left a hole there, but he has now gone to Quadra Island here and is working with We Wai Kai first nations. He started off on a great footing, trying to do some reconciliation work with the community.
I could go on and on. I have an officer here who, when it does snow—we don't get a lot of snow on Vancouver Island, which is great—he'll take out his personal snow blower and go and blow the snow out of the elders' driveways. It's things like that.
Speaking of reconciliation, we just recently brought all the detachment commanders from the island here to put on a village workshop. If you're not aware of it, it's a workshop put on by an educator here from the university that outlines the impact the residential schools have had on first nation communities. The hope was that those commanders could then take that knowledge to their detachments and spread it to each officer and hopefully even bring that education to the detachment by bringing the educator there.
Thank you for the question.
Regardless of who is paying—what we call a collator—or who is funding your position, the role and responsibility of every officer is to uphold the various statutes regardless of whether you're federally funded or provincially funded or municipally funded. You're there to enforce the laws and regulations that are on the books, the ones that are enforceable. The frustration for the community occurs when they believe there is a law and they don't think that the police are enforcing it.
I go back to my example of the Motor Vehicle Act. It's not that we don't want to enforce it, but that there's case law that says, “No, that law doesn't apply on those specific roads.” That's a very difficult thing to try to explain to the general public when it's hard enough for the officers themselves to understand and keep straight.
The short point of it is that regardless of who is funding your position, your job is to uphold the various regulations.
Good morning to everybody.
I'm speaking to you from Treaty 8 territory in northwestern Alberta. I'd like to give you a bit of my own history and the history of our police service.
I'm about to enter my 43rd year of policing, so I've been around for a while and have seen a lot of this go on.
Our police service is moving into its 13th year of operation. I spent my first 30 years with the RCMP. I left to become the first chief of police for the Lakeshore Regional Police Service and to build the police service from the ground up.
I'm very proud of the men and women who work here. I'm also very proud of the communities that have stood behind and supported first nation policing.
The issues I want to speak about today are around enforcement, but enforcement within the realm of self-administered first nation policing. We are on the cusp of moving forward in this area, which for years has been neglected. The potential for what can happen there has not been fully recognized.
With Alberta moving forward with Bill 38 last year and recognizing self-administered first nation policing in the province, we were put on equal footing with all policing in Alberta, including all municipal policing and the RCMP. That gave us 48% of the recognition we required. We need the other 52% of recognition as an essential service and a true policing service, and that needs to come from the federal government, our 52% partners in self-administered first nation policing. We hear that is moving forward, but unfortunately I've been hearing those things for quite a while.
Part of what I'll share with you today are stories that show the distrust and the lack of belief within the first nations for this truly moving forward.
I'll share with you a story from six years ago. The called together everybody in first nation policing from across Canada. Our meeting was held in Alberta. There were representatives from Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia there. The minister got up and spoke for 45 to 50 minutes. Within that speech, he said at least five times, “I am here to listen to you and hear what it is you need.” He finished speaking and walked out of the room. I was sitting beside an elder, who looked at me and said, “I wonder if he could hear us from out there.”
Those are the types of things that have caused that distrust. Unfortunately, that distrust moves to the policing realm as well. I can tell you it has taken us 12 years to build that trust, and we are in part the victims of our own success.
Our calls for service—and our belief that when people call, somebody will come—have moved forward, and we are sitting with more files than we have officers to police them. Our issue right now is resourcing. I don't sleep at night because with the resources at our police service, I usually have one police officer working.
For everybody to understand, our area consists of five separate first nations. The total area is over 160 kilometres from one end to the other. With only one police officer working, I'm asking police officers to decide which priority one call they will go to first. Do they go to the mental health call where somebody is in possession of weapons or do they go to the domestic dispute where somebody is being hurt? What do they do when there is only one person to go? They can't be split in half. Those are the issues we have out there.
The other story I'll share with you is about an issue that bothers me to this day. Since we do not have enough resources to police around the clock, there are four to five hours each day when nobody is actually working, even though they are on call. At 3:30 a.m. on a blizzardy February morning, we got a call for an assault and stabbing on one of our nations. Our member was called out. He defrosted his vehicle, got on the road and drove through the blizzard. By the time that had all happened, the ambulance had been called.
The ambulance works 24 hours a day. It arrived at the scene. The victim was inside, bleeding profusely, and the family was outside, begging the ambulance attendants to come in and treat their son. However, ambulance services have a policy that attendants can't go into dangerous situations without the police being there. That resulted in a homicide.
Those are not things I'm able to justify to my community, my elders, or to those families.
Those are the areas where first nation policing has moved so far past what it originally came out as—that is, core policing and response policing. We have the trained members, the ability and the community confidence to be able to supply all the services that are required out there.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before the committee today.
I am Captain Marie-Hélène Guay, the officer in charge of the Municipal and Indigenous Community Relations Services, at the Sûreté du Québec.
I will introduce the police services offered by the Sûreté du Québec in indigenous communities. I will also tell you about our good practices.
Quebec has 55 indigenous communities, 44 of which are served by the 22 indigenous police forces. The Sûreté du Québec provides services to 11 indigenous communities. Indigenous communities receive the same services as other municipalities and communities served by the Sûreté du Québec. The services provided to indigenous communities are based on the principles of community policing.
It is important to note that seven communities have a public safety committee. The committees help identify issues and determine public safety priorities. They also make recommendations to the band councils in the communities.
As a national police force, the Sûreté du Québec has a role to play in communities that have their own police forces. Its role is essentially to assist the indigenous police forces in a number of ways, such as operations, investigations, specialized services, and administrative or management support.
On average, the Sûreté du Québec receives more than 500 requests for assistance per year. It is important to note that the Sûreté du Québec and the indigenous police forces regularly co-operate on the various operations under way in terms of road safety, investigations, intelligence and surveillance activities.
As for the sharing of responsibilities within the Sûreté du Québec, strategic coordination and partnerships are the responsibility of the indigenous community relations division. The division is composed of 12 indigenous liaison officers, deployed across Quebec by nations. Some of the indigenous liaison officers also work in urban areas. Their role is to develop and maintain ties with elected and non-elected members of the communities, to identify the public safety needs of the communities and to respond to them with tailored solutions or programs, to advise the managers of the Sûreté du Québec and to focus their actions in the indigenous environment and, of course, to act as facilitators during events or operations.
Operational coordination is the responsibility of another unit, the emergency measures unit. This type of coordination takes place during the deployment of special operations, situations or conflicts, and in the assistance provided to indigenous police forces.
It is important to note that services for the 11 indigenous communities we police are provided by the local police stations.
Let me now tell you about the services provided to indigenous people outside communities. As you know, from a cultural safety perspective, many cities have a strong indigenous presence and many of them are served by the Sûreté du Québec. These cities have the services of urban indigenous liaison officers who, along with other members of the Sûreté du Québec, co-operate on a regular basis with the indigenous friendship centres in those cities. The Sûreté also sits on the local urban service accessibility tables for indigenous people.
We are also in the process of creating joint teams called ÉMIPIC, or joint response teams of police officers and community workers. Two of those teams are already in place in our territory.
In the next three years, we also plan to create four other teams. The teams of police officers and community workers are the avenue of choice for responses to people in vulnerable situations.
We also have the joint indigenous community police station (PPCMA) in Val-d'Or. My colleague Captain Durant will tell you about this great initiative.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
Let me introduce myself. I am Captain Robert Durant. I am a police officer with the Sûreté du Québec and the director of the Val-d'Or Service Centre.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity today to present to you what we have put in place in Val-d'Or in order to promote relations with the first nations and to improve our responses with vulnerable people.
For a number of years, the City of Val-d'Or has been dealing with various social problems, particularly the situation of vulnerable, socially marginalized clients, affected by drug addiction, mental health problems, poverty and homelessness. This vulnerable clientele includes a number of indigenous people from various communities in the region.
Since 2015, the Sûreté du Québec has been working to find alternative solutions to ensure public safety, to help vulnerable indigenous and non-indigenous groups, as well as to actively participate in citizen reconciliation. The objective is to find sustainable alternatives that are in line with the values and culture of both the indigenous peoples and the population of Val-d'Or, in compliance with current laws.
In November 2015, the Sûreté du Québec launched its first response model. We hired a social worker and set up a joint response team of police officers and community workers, known as ÉMIPIC. At that time, the team was composed of one social worker and one police officer from the Sûreté du Québec, both female.
The ÉMIPIC was set up to work with those who were the cause of repeated police actions and calls because of disruptive behaviour or criminal acts. The target clientele has vulnerability factors such as drug and alcohol dependency, mental health problems or homelessness.
The role of the ÉMIPIC is a second-line service in assisting police officers of La Vallée-de-l'Or RCM when the situation involves a vulnerable, intoxicated, homeless person or a person who is likely to become so. Its role is also to help mitigate certain interventions through an adapted and integrated community approach. If necessary, the team takes over in some situations that require referral to specialized resources other than those of the legal system.
In addition, the ÉMIPIC patrols the sensitive sectors of La Vallée-de-l'Or in order to prevent potentially objectionable conduct and to assist those likely to engage in it.
The ÉMIPIC quickly realized that it could not meet the needs of vulnerable people in the area on its own. In November 2016, the management of the Sûreté du Québec announced the creation of a pilot project for a joint indigenous community police station, the PPCMA, located in downtown Val-d'Or.
Since the station was created, its achievements have helped to improve the partnership between, and the work with, various organizations and public services, and to effect alternative and sustainable solutions. These are in line with the values and culture of the indigenous people as well as the population of Val-d'Or, and improve ties with all the residents.
The entire response philosophy of the PPCMA is based on an essential premise: partnership and communication. In order to establish joint responses, co-operation, partnership and consultation between those involved are essential. The objective is to promote a community approach based on the real needs of the vulnerable clientele. Through this approach, tailored and targeted responses seek to achieve sustainable management of each case. The helping relationship seems to be more effective because the concerted actions focus the resources towards a common objective: the needs of the people.
What distinguishes the PPCMA is the implementation and application of the ÉMIPIC approach by the staff. Targeted second-line or upstream responses, proactive work separate from and complementary to the traditional patrols, and a case management approach seek to direct the clients to appropriate services other than the legal system.
In July 2019, the PPCMA was formalized as a permanent station of the Sûreté du Québec. Our team is now composed of a station director, 11 police officers, four social workers, from the partnership with the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Abititi-Témiscamingue, and a civilian receptionist.
Starting in 2018, we were also able to count on the services of a civilian indigenous employee and an experienced indigenous police officer, both female and both on loan from the Anishinaabe community of Pikogan. These loans certainly enhanced the services provided by the PPCMA. However, due to a lack of resources in the communities, the loans had to be discontinued in the fall of 2020. Requests have been made to the two neighbouring police forces, but they are also affected by the labour shortage.
Through our philosophy of response, connection, partnership, and sensitivity to indigenous culture, we have been able to make a difference in our community.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to introduce the PPCMA.
I will provide the clerk with four links to YouTube videos. You will be able to see the merits of the PPCMA in our community.
Thank you for your attention.
Thank you. Yes, in all the years of my first nations policing, this has always been an issue.
The band bylaw is looked at basically as the bottom end of the legal system. You start with your Charter of Rights and Freedoms, go through your federal statutes and your provincial statutes, and then you get to your bylaws, which are mostly involved in municipal policing.
In first nations policing, they look at band bylaws as well. Bands absolutely have the right under the Indian Act to enact them. The problem is, as everybody has said before, with the prosecution.
Even with the Indian Act, the federal statute.... I have gone on at least on three occasions to three different public safety prosecution people who were assigned to Alberta to see if they would prosecute things like trespassing under the Indian Act. All three told me that it wasn't a priority and that they would need further direction from Ottawa before they would utilize resources for prosecutions under the Indian Act, so that was a non-starter.
What I've done in working with our first nations is that when we talk about band bylaws, we have to sit down and first of all ask what that they want to achieve from this. From that, possibly I can find another way to get around that. Perhaps either provincial or federal prosecutors will take it on because another statute federally or provincially can be applied. In some cases, that's not possible. I have one nation that has started bylaws, and they've committed to fund the prosecution of those bylaws because there is no one else, which means that before I lay a charge, I have to be able to know that due process will take place. There are areas in there that are a problem.
We do utilize the Indian Act for things like trespassing. We lay the charge. We release them on long form information with conditions that they have to meet until they get to court. Then, if they breach those conditions, we can rely on the Criminal Code.
Yes, it still is a problem, and I think a possible solution is an overall look at a first nations justice system whereby the crux of what we're trying to get to and the results we're trying to get can be resolved in the nations themselves.
I'm going to be quoting from a website I found, the Olthuis Kleer Townshend website. It's a legal firm that does a lot of work with indigenous communities. They talk specifically about this issue of bylaw enforcement on first nations.
Let me cite from them, because I think it's a good summary. It says:
While section 81 of the Indian Act allows bands to make on-reserve by-laws in areas including traffic control, residency, public health, and intoxicants, and while some of these by-laws can include penalties such as fines and/or imprisonment, the Indian Act does not specify whether the provinces/territories, federal government, or First Nations themselves are responsible for prosecuting by-law infractions. Lack of federal and provincial/territorial coordination or leadership on this issue has led to a situation where oftentimes neither federal nor provincial/territorial levels of government are choosing to prosecute these laws.
I'm thinking Chief Cox is the one to address this to. You've been doing this for 40 years. I hear a lot of frustration from both the indigenous community and the police services about not enforcing the bylaws.
This law firm makes some suggestions, and you've been around, Chief Cox, long enough to maybe know about this. What about section 107 courts? Under the Indian Act, the federal government has the power through section 107 to create federally appointed justices of the peace for the prosecution of bylaws on reserve. I looked up section 107, and it's really there.
In 2004 the Harper government halted the practice of appointing section 107 justices of the peace. The federal government has never resumed this practice. They also suggest the possibility of these bylaws being prosecuted by the province. Apparently in Ontario that was the case, but funding was removed for that.
The federal government could reinstate section 107 courts. Do you have any familiarity with those? I've heard and I understand your other suggestions, but there seems to be in the Indian Act a mechanism that we're not using.
Do you have any comment on those courts?
This has been a very interesting day. We've heard about problems of unclear jurisdiction. We have also heard about things on reserve that would complicate matters, such as when there's a conflict between the Wildlife Act and treaty rights. We've also heard from one of the RCMP people about even enforcing road traffic safety laws when the laws are different for one road versus another road. Then we heard about operational discretion of the RCMP in enforcing laws. We heard about the administration of justice agreements to allow agreements between the first nation communities and the PPSC about prosecuting bylaws.
I don't know about you, but when I look at this area, I throw up my hands and say this is just too damned complicated. You can't even start to act, because there are so many different laws.
I know you can't change the Constitution and we're probably not going to change the Indian Act, but let's say you could. I'll ask both of you. I know you have to do your job, and it should be a lot easier for you to do your job without having to deal with this unbelievable complexity that is handcuffing you in what you can do.
What would be your suggestions if you were in Parliament? What would you change to make this easier?
I will ask that to both police services here.
Thank you for the question, Ms. Bérubé.
As I was saying earlier, as far as the indigenous communities are concerned, the services we provide are similar to those in the cities served by the Sûreté du Québec.
We respond according to the principle of community policing. The services include 24-hour patrols in the communities, responding to requests for assistance from residents, enforcing laws and regulations in the communities, crime prevention, community relations, police investigations in various fields, responding to emergency situations, such as search and rescue operations in the forest, and any event that requires police deployment.
The community patrol aims to bring people closer together. It is about breaking the mould a little and interacting with them during community activities organized by the band councils or schools. We get out of our vehicles in order to have a kind of closer relationship with the people.
The first ÉMIPIC was created in 2015. It is the joint indigenous community policing station, which Captain Durant just told you about.
We are currently in the process of creating a second team in Sept-Îles, on the north shore. It is a partnership between the Innu community of Takuaikan Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux. This team will operate in the city of Sept-Îles, which is right next to the community of Uashat, and will serve the population of Sept-Îles.
When the protocol was signed, the indigenous police force of Uashat was not able to join the project, particularly because of a staff shortage, but it is supposed to join the project in the coming year.
As for the next four ÉMIPICs that will be created, one is in the town of Maniwaki and Barriere Lake, in the Outaouais. We are currently in the process of drafting a protocol agreement with the Sûreté du Québec, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux and the community of Barriere Lake. What makes this team special is that it is a joint team, as my colleague explained earlier. It is made up of police officers and community workers from the Centre intégré de santé et de service sociaux.
However, we will have a second worker join the team, from the indigenous friendship centres of the communities in question. A person from the indigenous friendship centre will be able to support the people of the community of Barriere Lake or Kitigan Zibi, the two communities located next to the town of Maniwaki.
In addition, a fourth person will join the team as an indigenous liaison officer from the community of Barriere Lake. This person will be designated by the band council of Barriere Lake and will assist with the various resources of the community, the band council, the families of vulnerable people and any organization in downtown Maniwaki.
Over the next three years, a team will be created in Roberval, Lac-Saint-Jean. The municipality has a strong indigenous concentration, with members of the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan, but also of the Innu community of Mashteuiatsh. This team will also be based on local realities. We will work in partnership with the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux and with the indigenous friendship centre, but also with an indigenous liaison officer from the Atikamekw community or from the Innu community of Mashteuiatsh.
Our goal is really to respond in a safe and culturally-sensitive way, in line with indigenous values and the indigenous way of life.
The third team will be in Chibougamau, also in the north. The team will be based on the same model as the one for the Maniwaki and Roberval teams, but will also be mindful of local specifics. In Chibougamau, there is a high concentration of people from the communities of Oujé-Bougoumou, Mistissini and Waswanipi, which are all Cree nations. Chibougamau also has Atikamekw from Opitciwan.
Once again, we will use the same resources.
Thanks, all of you, for your testimony today. It's been incredibly informative.
I will start with you, Chief Cox.
I'm just trying to understand. When you talked about the services that you deliver, I think I heard you say that there was a four-hour window when you don't have anyone on duty, just folks who are on call.
Can you explain where that gap is? Is it a tripartite agreement? Where is that gap? It seems like a fairly significant gap, and of course the example you gave us of somebody being in harm's way and the ambulance workers not being able to get in there to help was just tragic. Could you just explain where that gap is?
The gap comes through our policing agreement. It is 52% federal, from the first nation policing program, and 48% from the Alberta Solicitor General.
For whatever reason—I have no idea, and they can't explain to us how they arrive at how many police officers we need—a random number is set, and that is what we are given. It isn't tied to our crime stats, which are now based on crime severity. Our crime severity in my area is four times higher than the federal level and three times higher than the provincial levels.
What that means is not that we have a dangerous place but that these investigations that we take on are very complex and are going to take a lot of hours of work and a lot of dedication from police officers in following through from one end to the other to do the right type of investigation. For whatever reason, we don't have that.
Our agreement talks about a negotiation period. During this year, we'll enter into our eighth amendment to our agreement, which has been a one-year extension of the agreement. In the 13 years that I've been here, there has never been negotiation between the police commission, the board of chiefs and the police service with the funding partners, federal or provincial, to discuss any of the areas of the agreement, an agreement that we usually get at the 11th hour, when we are told to sign it or else we won't have funding for the next year and our police service will be dissolved.
Those are the areas, and the board of chiefs has said that enough is enough. This year when they came to me with the agreement, we stipulated to them that we would sign the amendment in order to keep the police service and the safety for our communities in place, but we requested that the federal government—the first nation policing program—give us a commitment to seriously meet and negotiate a long-term agreement before the end of the second fiscal quarter.
I have a letter from them. I don't know to what extent that will come to be. I presented it to the chiefs. They said it was fine, but they really don't believe anything will come of it. They think it was done just to make us happy and get us to sign the agreement.
We're not a one-size-fits-all. What happens is, if everybody recalls, three years ago the federal government came up with extra positions for first nation policing. That was rolled out. Out of those extra positions, we got two, which brought us up to 13 or 15 members. Because of the 48%, we were not in a position to fund it. Three years ago, those positions were announced and given to us. I finally received the funding for them last January that allowed me to hire those two extra members. It has been a year and a half, nearly two years, from when the funding was announced until we actually were able to hire the bodies to put on the street, and they're in training right now.
There's a disconnect there. It has to be understood that it's not one size fits all. Just because you have this much money, the idea isn't just to randomly put it out so it goes equally to everybody. What has to be looked at is where the need is, and the need has to address, first of all, public safety, and then officer safety. Once those two are addressed, let's look at the other programs that we can put out there, but those are the first two that we need.
We are a public service. That means service to the public, but if we don't have those numbers, we can't give it. It has cost me members. I've burnt out my members. In the last year and a half, the RCMP has recruited six of my officers away from me because my officers were worn out. They never got time off. If they went home on their time off, they were called back to work on one of these calls or to back up that single member who was working. They just said their family life wasn't there and they were worn out. They said they would go work for somebody else so that when they're off duty, they're off duty.
I can fix my situation. Give me four more policemen and I can solve all my problems. That's $800,000 a year, and then I can solve my problems and put 24-hour policing, plus extra programs, into my police service.
The RCMP are our neighbours in all our non-indigenous communities around us, so we share the highway with three different RCMP detachments. We have a very good working relationship at the frontline level. We have a gentleman's agreement among all the detachment commanders of those three detachments and my police service. We're all on the same radio system, and when there is a call for emergency service and somebody's life is in danger, it doesn't matter what colour the stripe is on your uniform: That police officer will get there and preserve safety until the police service of jurisdiction gets there. We work very well together in those areas.
However, in my first nation area, the first nations come to me. They're very much aware if the RCMP comes into their nations. It's from a history of not good relationships with the RCMP that they come to me. I'll get a phone call at my office, asking “Why are the RCMP on our nation?” Then we'll explain where it is.
The RCMP understand that first nations have said they want their own police service, so that's who should be there. They want it resourced so that it can do all the jobs, but right now I have to call on the RCMP for specialized services, in some cases for homicides.
I had a fatal hit and run. It took eight hours for the RCMP to get here. Those are areas that we need to expand on, but on the front line, the day-to-day work, our officers and the RCMP back each other up and support each other as best we can.
Oh, my goodness, this has been a bone of contention.
Funding for the restorative justice program was put under the jurisdiction of the board of chiefs. Unfortunately, the board of chiefs has enough other things to do so and isn't able to oversee it. In the 12 years that we've been here, we've been through nine different restorative justice directors. All of it has failed, and it comes from a lack of understanding of what the restorative justice process is about and having skilled and qualified people to fill those roles.
From the policing side, we've led that charge to try to get it up there because it is a valuable asset and is going to help us resolve matters much more quickly and keep indigenous people out of the corrections system, but we need the justice side to be on it. It's part of the justice system. It's not part of the police system. I would like to see the justice system step up in the province, or even federally, and give proper training and proper direction to these people and then screen them to do the job that we need to do.
Our police officers and our communities are screaming for this service, and we can't get it.
Thank you so much for the testimony so far. This has been extremely interesting.
I do have a question for the SQ regarding the Viens commission.
In September of 2019, the Viens commission released its final report. The commission was formed in reaction to allegations from 10 indigenous women of abuse by Sûreté de Québec police officers assigned to Val-d'Or between 2002 and 2015. That commission's report was put forward with 142 calls for action.
Could witnesses please provide the committee with a progress report on implementation of the Viens commission's recommendations? For example, has there been a review of the ethics complaint process?
My next question is with regard to call for action number 37, which asks that a mixed intervention patrol—police officers and community workers—be set up for vulnerable persons, both in urban environments and in first nations and Inuit communities. Could you please give us an update on how that is going?
Anybody from the SQ can answer.
One of the major recommendations of the Viens Commission was to educate our police officers on indigenous realities. We have therefore established an ongoing program of training.
As soon as they join the Sûreté du Québec, new recruits must follow a five-step training program. This training is part of their onboarding process at the Sûreté du Québec.
The first step consists of a meeting with people from my unit, who give them a presentation on the indigenous communities. It must be said that not all officers have had the opportunity to work with first nations peoples. So this is the first step in introducing them to indigenous culture.
The second step is an online training on indigenous realities. It is mandatory for all new recruits and all members of the Sûreté du Québec, police officers or civilians.
The third step is when the recruits arrive at the police station where they are assigned. They are then immersed on site, in a nearby indigenous community. The liaison officer from my office meets the recruits and takes them in a patrol vehicle. The officer introduces the recruits to the key players in the community—the band council members, the people from the clinics, the social workers or anyone else. The goal of this exercise is once again to help the recruits become very familiar with the indigenous realities, which will help them to respond in a more culturally safe manner.
This is followed by two days of more technical training on cultural safety and a number of first nations concepts. The residential school part of the training lasts one day. On the second day, a worker from a community comes to talk about their reality and the way they perceive police services in order to help our recruits understand how to improve their practice.
The last step includes more specific training depending on where the officer is stationed. For example, it could be about the realities of indigenous women. We are in the process of developing that training, which will be launched across the Sûreté du Québec. We are also working on implementing training on the indigenous realities in urban areas. We have been focusing more and more on this in recent years.
There have been several successes since the PPCMA was implemented.
First, there have been user-related successes. Several people who might have fallen into homelessness have been able to keep their housing. We supported them so that they could keep it, and we made sure they were able to pay their rent.
Second, we have created connections with communities. In downtown Val-d'Or, many people experiencing homeless or vulnerability have reconnected with members of their community, and this connection has enabled a few people to return.
Third, the PPCMA made a major breakthrough with the development of the clinical committee, which is made up of several stakeholders who work in the field with all users in Val-d'Or. The members of this committee meet once a week in the PPCMA offices to discuss the well-being of the users and to find a sustainable solution. They are looking for solutions for the people, not for society. They try to find mechanisms to achieve this. Case management is done by the group, and one person takes responsibility for their work.
Fourth, Dr. Sébastien Gendron, a psychiatrist at the Malartic hospital centre, became aware of our work. He offered to attend the clinical committee's meetings. When we discuss cases, he listens. He may decide to assess certain individuals to dtermine if they have a mental health issue. If necessary, he can make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.
Fifth, we have indigenous staff in our police station. That's a big step forward. These people are from first nations. We are very grateful to the Pikogan community for lending these services. It has opened our eyes to the realities of indigenous communities. It has also helped us to better understand the internal functioning of these communities and given us tools to better intervene with individuals. For instance, we use keywords in the Anishinabe language, which helps us to create a bond of trust with vulnerable indigenous individuals in our community.
Because of the cost restrictions in having to hire their own lawyer to prosecute any of these offences, of my five first nations, I've only had one, and they've only stepped forward to deal with access to the nation, which means banning people they don't want there and putting a bylaw in place for that.
We work together on this. We have an agreement and a partnership that if they find somebody, we will talk to them. Most of those people who they find are an issue are drug dealers and probably are not band members but are living on the nation or coming onto the nation.
If we don't have the grounds to prosecute them for the actual offence, what we will do then is we can prosecute them under the bylaw for being on the nation. There was a band council resolution passed and notice was served upon those people that they were not to be there, and if they do come in, we charge them.
We then work with the band to relay the charges to them so they can move them on to their band lawyer, who will prosecute them at the band's expense.
So far, we've only had one of those happen. Most of it has worked through our taking the band council resolution to the offending party, serving it to them and advising them as to what they will be facing if they do come back on.