Public distrust in the RCMP emerged as the main issue at a public meeting Thursday of a Yukon government review of policing services in the territory.
About 60 Yukoners attended the public meeting Thursday night in Whitehorse. Some of those people left the meeting, which had been rescheduled twice before, after organizers broke everyone into groups to interview each other.
"We recognize there was a few people that left earlier when we were starting the process," said Kevin Barr, a local musician and counsellor who attended the meeting.
Later the floor was opened to questions, with many asking the RCMP how it had fallen out of favour with the public and what it plans to do about it.
Promises civilian oversight
Yukon RCMP Chief Supt. Peter Clark, who is co-chairing the government's policing review, said proposed federal legislation will ensure civilian oversight, meaning no more cases of police officers investigating each other in serious cases.
"So we'll get rid of all that 'blue on blue' perceptions," Clark told the audience.
Clark also said there are good ideas coming through the policing review, adding that he is encouraging Yukoners to come forward with their concerns and suggestions.
"The RCMP is open and welcoming to those kinds of discussions," Clark said.
"It's the responsibility of citizens to bring them forward and to challenge us when they have questions, and we're certainly seeing that happen."
Some remain doubtful
But the sister of Raymond Silverfox, a Yukon First Nations man who died after spending 13 hours in Whitehorse RCMP cells in 2008, said she doubts the RCMP will change.
Silverfox's sister, Debbie Silverfox, observed Thursday night's public meeting with other family members. Silverfox said she will only believe changes are happening when she sees them.
"I just don't find much trust in this process because I don't think that there's going to be much changes that will happen," she said.
"Like, it seemed like they're all talk and no action."
A recent coroner's inquest into Raymond Silverfox's death heard that RCMP officers and guards did not seek medical help for Silverfox, even though he had been vomiting profusely during his time in custody.
Some officers and guards even mocked Silverfox, who was left lying in a pool of his own vomit and excrement for hours. When personnel in the cell area noticed Silverfox had stopped moving he was taken to the hospital where he died of acute pneumonia.
The government review is due to be completed this fall, with the review panel expected to submit its report to Justice Minister Marian Horne by the end of September.