MMIW cases won't stop until root causes addressed, says Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police
'If you can't fix those root causes, we're going to continue to have missing women'
Saskatoon's police chief says looking at the way plane crashes are investigated could help officials understand the reasons behind the estimated 1,200 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
"I would suggest to you if it was plane crashes the government would be going right back and saying, 'What's causing those planes to crash? Are we training people properly? Are we giving them proper funding for the aircraft? Are they getting built properly?' Because they know if you don't fix the planes they're going to keep crashing," said Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill at a meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in Winnipeg Tuesday.
"We're hoping that inquiry will start to focus on what are the root causes that are delivering young women to be in vulnerable situations — the poverty, the poor housing, the disadvantage, being left behind — because if you can't fix those root causes, we're going to continue to have missing women. Just like if you don't fix what's going wrong with the planes, they're going to keep crashing," he said.
Weighill is the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police which is hosting a two-day conference with police, policy makers and Indigenous leaders with the goal of improving relations.
"We have to work closer with the Indigenous community itself. We have to work with people that have lived experience, that can understand the issues, help guide us through some of the problems that unfortunately Aboriginal people face," he said.
Engage the community, says chief
Lennard Busch, chief of the File Hills First Nation Police Service in Saskatchewan, agrees with the idea of engaging with Indigenous communities.
"In my particular police service we engage the community a lot. We have a board of police commissioners made up of community members," said Busch.
Elder Dave Courchene said the police are making a move in the right direction with Tuesday's meeting.
"I think that what they're doing here and what I've witnessed from this gathering that the police association is making an effort," said Courchene.
"I find it very hopeful."
Courchene said there is still a lot of work that has to be done to improve trust between Indigenous communities and police. "What the young people in our communities … need is an expression of compassion," he said.
"The most important thing I would want from the police association is to show a complete spirit of compassion and generosity and kindness."
Chief Weighill said one way of helping at-risk Indigenous youth is by putting more resources into the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
"It's a good act. It allows the police to divert youth away from the criminal justice system. The unfortunate part is there is no infrastructure around that act. No place really for us to divert the youth. We need addiction centres, we need programming for the youth," Weighill said.