By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The over-representation of Indigenous people in Canada’s justice system and the number of deaths of Indigenous people at the hands of police has the vice-chief of national Indigenous organization up in arms.
“85 percent of all inmates in provincial custody from Ontario west are Indigenous,” Congress of AboriginalPeoples (CAP) national vice-Chief Kim Beaudin said. “It feels at times like Indigenous people are being targeted by police. We call Saskatchewan `the Alabama of the north,’ and the authorities here haven’t given us any reason to conclude otherwise.
“Systemic racism, discrimination and prejudice among police forces is not just an American problem,” Beaudin said.“The cases of Pacey Dumas (Edmonton), Chris Amyotte (Vancouver), William Favel (Saskatoon), and Chantel Moore (Edmundston) are just a few examples of police brutality and death here in Canada.”
According to a recent Statistics Canada report, Indigenous people were twice more likely than non-Indigenous people to have little or no confidence in their local police service, Beaudin said.
The differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this regard were greatest in Saskatchewan and in the territories.
Several police forces, including the Vancouver Police Department and Edmonton Police Service have refused to address this latest tragedy, and continue business as usual, CAP said in a statement. On Tuesday, Beaudin said Indigenous people are often targeted, followed and harassed unnecessarily by police.
“It happens all the time! Police will see an Indigenous person walking down the street and follow them, find a reason to hassle them, and often, what happens next is an escalation of that harassment,” he said.
Indigenous Peoples’ have long been over-represented in Canada’s justice system and police forces must take responsibility for their role in this injustice, said CAP’s national Chief.
“Police brutality is rooted in racism and discrimination, regardless of whether it’s in the United States or Canada,” said National Chief Elmer St. Pierre. “Leaders must ensure police officers are given cultural training and taught to de-escalate situations rather than turning to violence.”
Beaudin said any deaths at the hands of police is a tragedy, but when this many Indigenous people are dying, despite representing 10 percent of Canada’s population, it’s part of disturbing trend.
“It has to stop. And it has to stop now,” he said.
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with IORI:WASE. The LJI program is federally funded. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.