Manitoba

'It's racism': Jennifer Catcheway's father says he has no faith in RCMP

Wilfred Catcheway says he is happy to hear RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson admit "there are racists in my police force."

Missing girl's father happy to hear RCMP Commissioner admit 'there are racists in my police force'

'It's racism': Jennifer Catcheway's father says he has no faith in RCMP

7 years ago
Duration 1:41
The father of a Manitoba woman who has been missing for more than seven years said he was happy to hear RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson admit there are racists inside the police force.
The father of a Manitoba woman who has been missing for more than seven years said he was happy to hear RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson admit there are racists inside the police force.
Wilfred Catcheway, the father of a Manitoba woman who has been missing for more than seven years, said he was happy to hear RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson admit there are racists on his police force. (CBC)

"I'm happy that it was brought out to the open," said Wilfred Catcheway, the father of Jennifer Catcheway who went missing in 2008. "From what I see, they haven't taken my daughter's case seriously since day one. Since that day, they brushed off my daughter at the police station."

On Wednesday, Paulson addressed an annual meeting organized by the Assembly of First Nations in Gatineau, Que.

He said, "I understand that there are racists in my police force. I don't want them to be in my police force." 

On June 19, 2008, Jennifer Catcheway said she would return home to Portage la Prairie to celebrate her birthday but never did. The RCMP's response was frustrating, her father said.

"The police officer just said that, 'She's out. Give her a week. She's out drinking," said Catcheway, "To put it bluntly, it's racism."
On June 19, 2008, Jennifer Catcheway said she would return home to Portage la Prairie to celebrate her birthday but never did. (CBC)

Catcheway has "no faith in the RCMP" and has requested the investigator on his daughter's case be removed. The family has since organized its own searches, most recently this fall on Dakota Tipi First Nation.

Paulson's response came during an exchange with Doug Kelly, the Grand Chief of the Stolo Tribal Council in British Columbia.

"We encounter racism every single day," Kelly said.

Paulson said First Nations communities could call him directly to report racist officers and said changes have been made to the RCMP Act. 

RCMP in Manitoba won't comment on allegations of racism in the Catcheway case.

A spokesperson said the investigator in charge has regular conversations with some of the Catcheway family.

"We certainly understand that for the family affected, it is never enough," said media relations officer Sgt. Bert Paquet. "This case is actively investigated and has been since it was first reported to us. Outstanding tasks are being assigned and worked on as we speak. Investigators are not always in a position to discuss or disclose some of the details of the case, as this is an active and ongoing investigation."

"We hope that this renewed interest will prompt someone with information to contact our investigators, or crime stoppers, and our officers continue to make that appeal."

Rob Creasser, the media liaison for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, said there are people in the RCMP who have views that are "concerning."

"I think it's not widespread at all, but I think, like any agency -- whether it be lawyers or doctors or teachers -- any of those professions have people within those professions that maybe shouldn't be there," he said.

He said no screening process is going to be 100 per cent effective in identifying those people.
On Wednesday, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson publicly admitted there are racists inside the police force. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

"In terms of saying, 'I'm accessible,' by all means, [Paulson is] accessible, but what happens as a result of that accessibility is yet to be proven, and he doesn't have a good track record there," said Creasser. "The piece of legislation he talked about to the chiefs yesterday, the enhanced RCMP Accountability Act has several problems with it, withstanding a charter challenge. It's great to say he'll take swift action against those that have racist tendencies or whatever, but that piece of legislation has been around now for, I believe, over a year and how many people has Commissioner Paulson sent on their way?"

'Brave statement,' U of M prof says

"I thought it was a really brave statement for [Paulson] to say, 'There are racists in my police force,'" said Elizabeth Comack, University of Manitoba sociology professor and author of Racialized Policing: Aboriginal People's Encounters with the Police.

But Comack said she is concerned with the way Paulson framed the issue.

"I think if we really want to address this issue, police services across the country, the RCMP included, are going to have to make a concerted effort to look at the ways in which racism is or might be embedded in their institutional practices," said Comack.

Comack said that would mean not just looking at individual acts but also standard operating procedures and cultural frames of reference that officers might bring to their work.

with files from Susana Mas

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