Police carding undermines reconciliation, Treaty 6 Grand Chief says

Two First Nations chiefs say police street checks in Edmonton erode trust with the community — with one chief warning it could jeopardize the reconciliation process.

Grand chiefs to invite Edmonton police chief to discuss concerns of racial profiling

Treaty 6 Grand Chief Tony Alexis warns any evidence of racial profiling will undermine attempts towards reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. (CBC)

Two First Nations chiefs say police street checks in Edmonton erode trust with the community — with one chief warning it could jeopardize the reconciliation process.

Treaty 6 Grand Chief Tony Alexis and Treaty 8 Grand Chief Steve  Courtoreille were reacting to CBC stories raising concerns that carding in Edmonton singles out aboriginal people and other racial groups.

"Even if there is the appearance of racial profiling — that will undermine any attempt towards reconciliation between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples," Alexis wrote in response to the stories.   

Alexis stopped short of saying that he believes the practice of randomly stopping and documenting people on Edmonton's streets singles out aboriginal people. Bht he said if it does happen it would be a "serious violation of our human rights."

Citing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states indigenous individuals are free and equal to everyone else, he said "our peoples have the right to walk freely in the city of Edmonton without fear of being singled out by the police for perceived profiling or behavior."

In June, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report noted the huge rift colonialism has created between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

"It will take us a long time to fix it," the commission wrote."But the process has already begun."

Edmonton police insist street checks are never racially motivated, and are instrumental in solving cases and furthering investigations. They said they do not keep track by race, although that information is logged into the system.

Alexis noted police card about 70 people in Edmonton every day.

"To say that this has reduced the crime rate without accurate records kept does not seem to be an appropriate claim," he said.

"I cannot support this random street checking of individuals and will discuss this with the heads of our governments, the chiefs of the Treaty No. 6 First Nations," he wrote.

Some critics have called for a review, including analysis of police data to determine whether certain groups are singled out, as statistics have demonstrated in Ontario.

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley has said there is no evidence carding discriminates against racial groups or violates other human rights.

Either way, Courtoreille said street checks in Edmonton erode trust, and stops should not be arbitrary.

"If a person is made to look like a criminal or is being treated like a criminal in front of people walking by 'oh another Indian in trouble or another immigrant in trouble, they should send them back to the reserve or send them back home,' well, what are you creating within the mind of the general public?" he asked.

In the meantime, he said police should be required to inform people up front of their right to disengage, without answering questions or providing ID.

"Whoever they're stopping needs to understand what their rights are" from the start, he said.

He encouraged those being carded to ask for a badge number and inform the officer they would record the discussion and reason for the stop for the safety and wellbeing of both.

Courtoreille also urged anyone who believes they have been mistreated to lodge a complaint with the chiefs, and not to be afraid to make a complaint to authorities, so they can be addressed.

He said a balance must be found between keeping the public safe without further alienating disenfranchised people.

Carding will be on the agenda when the grand chiefs meet in October, said Courtoreille They plan to invite Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht to address concerns.

"We'll find a way to work through that."




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