Manitoba

'Something is terribly wrong' in RCMP, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says in call for reform

Video of an Albert First Nation chief being tackled, punched and choked by police "is a testament to the fact that something is terribly wrong and rotten in the RCMP, and we need to make very quick steps to address it," said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.

Some funding could be redirected toward First Nations law enforcement agencies, says Grand Chief Arlen Dumas

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says redirecting money toward law enforcement in First Nations communities would provide better policing services in those communities, and ease the burden on RCMP. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is calling for reform within the RCMP and reallocation of some of the agency's budget to First Nations law enforcement agencies in Manitoba, after the prime minister acknowledged systemic racism in all police forces, including the RCMP, on Thursday.

Police forces across Canada and the United States have been under increased scrutiny in recent weeks, following the death of George Floyd, a Black man from Minneapolis who was killed by a white police officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

On Wednesday, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said she was "struggling" with the term systemic racism, and denied racism is "entrenched in [RCMP] policies and procedures" — a position she walked back in a statement on Friday.

But before that, Justin Trudeau responded on Thursday, saying that the RCMP and other police forces in the country do in fact have systemic racism in their ranks, even if it's unintentional.

"There is a culture that exists within the RCMP," said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas, citing the arrest of an Alberta First Nation chief in March — video of which was released on Thursday.

RCMP dashcam footage showed officers jump-tackling Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam to the ground without warning, punching him in the head and putting him in a choke hold before taking him into custody.

"There is a duty that is to be adhered to by people who are to serve and protect," said Dumas.

"When you see Chief Allan Adam being attacked and beaten the way that he was, [it] is a testament to the fact that something is terribly wrong and rotten in the RCMP, and we need to make very quick steps to address it."

Video released Thursday showed RCMP officers tackling Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam to the ground without warning, punching him in the head and putting him in a choke hold before taking him into custody. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The AMC is calling for reform within the RCMP, and wants some of its budget redirected to First Nations law enforcement agencies as part of a transformation of policing for First Nations.

"I think if the proper resourcing were made for our policing services, it would actually provide better policing services in our communities. It would actually release the burden and difficulties that, logistically, the RCMP face," said Dumas, citing recruitment troubles as an example.

"If we had the resourcing and the ability to do those things, we'd be able to start mentoring and facilitating our own forces."

The AMC advocates for Manitoba First Nations, but Dumas could see First Nations in other provinces getting on board as well.

On Friday, the RCMP commissioner changed her position about systemic racism in the federal police force.

"I did acknowledge that we, like others, have racism in our organization, but I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP," Lucki said in a statement

"I should have.… I do know that systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included. Throughout our history and today, we have not always treated racialized and Indigenous people fairly."

Lucki ended the statement by saying the RCMP is committed to changing its ways and will not tolerate those whose actions don't line up with its core values.

With files from Catharine Tunney, Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell

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