The civilian group that oversees the London police force is welcoming an Indigenous healthcare expert and a Muslim city councillor to the table when it sits for the next time.
Vanessa Ambtman-Smith and Mo Salih are the latest individuals to join the Police Services Board that is growing from five to seven members.
Ambtman-Smith, who identifies as Métis-Cree, was appointed by the province, whereas Salih was chosen by London City Council Oct.31, where he currently serves.
"I am very concerned about the safety of Indigenous people and police services have the most vital role in ensuring their safety," Ambtman-Smith said.
She is coming to the board with experience working for the Southwest London Heath Integration Network (LHIN) as its Indigenous health lead, and is currently completing a graduate degree at Western University in health geography.
Goals at the table
London police have had challenges in recent years with the alleged treatment of some First Nations people, including an officer currently under investigation for his role in the death of Debra Chrisjohn, a woman from the Oneida reserve.
Ambtman-Smith also points to the stories emerging from the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) that highlight a historical disregard for investigating Indigenous claims.
"On day one, I want to make it clear that Indigenous people have had an experience with policing that has not been positive," she said.
"There needs to be an opportunity to question why that is."
'More space for Indigenous women'
Salih said he is looking forward to be working with Ambtman-Smith calling her appointment an "historic moment."
"There needs to be more space for Indigenous women and Vanessa sets a great example for our community."
Salih and Ambtman-Smith will be sworn in on Dec.12, 2017 and will attend their first meeting two days later.
Currently serving on the London Police Services Board:
- Mayor Matt Brown
- Michael Deeb
- Jeannette Eberhard
- Susan Toth
- Councillor Stephen Turner (departing)