Manitoba

Winnipeg Police Board's sole Indigenous voice weighs in after 2 members removed

Indigenous representation is down to one member on the Winnipeg Police Board — Mary Jane Loustel, who is Métis — following the removal of Leslie Spillett this week.

'Leslie Spillett brought a perspective to the board that I can't bring,' says Mary Jane Loustel

Mary Jane Loustel, who is Metis, is an original member of the Winnipeg Police Board. (CBC News)

The last Indigenous woman on the Winnipeg Police Board says she is disappointed two of her colleagues had their terms cut short.

Mary Jane Loustel said she was surprised when she heard Leslie Spillett and Angeline Ramkissoon had their appointments revoked by the province on Wednesday.

"I did have confidence that their performance was making a big difference and contributing to the police board," said Loustel.

She said the loss of these women means a loss of diverse perspectives on the police board.

​Loustel, who is Métis, said she can't do it alone.

"While I am a strong advocate and I do work to help to increase participation of Indigenous people in our society and in our economy, I believe that Leslie brought a perspective to the board that I can't bring," she said.

Loustel vowed to make sure the Indigenous community's concerns are heard. She plans to take advantage of the resources already at the board's disposal, including the Indigenous Council on Policing and Crime Prevention and the Indigenous Liaison Committee. 

"There's a lot of work to be done, not only at the board level but within the city of Winnipeg," she said. "It is not just up to the board; it's not just up to the Winnipeg Police Service. The challenges that we face in regard to full inclusion and reconciliation are challenges that each and every citizen of Winnipeg are responsible for."

'Been there done that,' new appointee says

Allie Szarkiewicz, one of the province's new appointees on the board, is an immigrant.

She was born in Poland and moved to Canada when she was two.

"Just because I'm white doesn't mean I'm not going to be a strong voice for the people of Winnipeg, Indigenous included," said Szarkiewicz.

Allie Szarkiewicz is one of two new people appointed by the province to the Winnipeg Police Board. (Facebook)
She said she is disappointed by people's reactions and comments about the police board lacking diversity.

"I'm very familiar with poverty and the struggle that new Canadians and or Aboriginal [people] or any person goes through," she said of growing up in the North End. "I can honestly say, 'Been there done that.'"

Szarkiewicz is a retired English and social studies teacher. She has two grown children and has run for the Conservatives both federally and provincially.

She said she is looking forward to her first meeting and taking part in selecting the new police chief.

"The chief of police should be chosen not just by his or her colour, creed or religion; the person chosen has to be prepared," she said. 

The other new board member appointed by the province is businessman Larry Licharson.

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