RCMP will 'give careful consideration' to MMIWG recommendations, says commissioner

The head of the RCMP won't commit to the recommendations out of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry, which lambasted decades of police 'indifference' and called for fundamental policing reforms, but is promising to review the report.

Inquiry's report calls out 'long-standing indifference from the police'

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki speaks during a press conference on the RCMP's new Interim Management Advisory Board in Ottawa on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. Lucki says the RCMP will study the final MMIWG report and its recommendations (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The head of the RCMP won't commit to the recommendations coming out of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry, which denounced decades of police 'indifference' and called for fundamental policing reforms — but RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is promising to review the report.

The 1,200 page report, delivered to the federal government in a nearly four-hour ceremony in Gatineau, Que. Monday, included a long list of recommendations for government, lawyers and police to address the levels of violence endured by Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people.

"The RCMP will study the final report and its recommendations, and give careful consideration to changes that strengthen investigations, support survivors and their families, bring stakeholders and partners together, and reduce violence against Indigenous women, girls and the two-spirit-LGBTQ community," said Commissioner Lucki in a statement.

The inquiry called out "long-standing indifference from the police," which it said contributes to a "relationship of distrust and animosity."

The report recommends that the federal government create an independent national police task force to reopen cases or review investigations and establish a "robust and well-funded Indigenous civilian police oversight bodies" to prevent police negligence and misconduct in rape and sexual assault cases.

"The RCMP have not proven to Canada that they are capable of holding themselves to account — and, in fact, many of the truths shared here speak to ongoing issues of systemic and individual racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination that prevent honest oversight from taking place," it reads.

'We want action'

Michèle Audette, one of the commissioners and a former president of the Quebec Native Women's Association, specifically called for fundamental reforms at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"They made an apology but we want action," Audette said, referring to Lucki's testimony in front of the inquiry last summer.

"We have solutions in the report. We want it now. We want to work with you. I want to work with the police ... the justice system that is in place right now across Canada — it's not functioning, it's bitter and we know it. The women and families told us they don't want to go through that system. That has to stop."

The report also recommends the hiring of more Indigenous judges, justices of the peace and police officers across the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, holds a copy of the report presented to him by commissioners Marion Buller, centre, Michele Audette, third from right, Brian Eyolfson, second from right, and Qajaq Robinson at the closing ceremony for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Gatineau, Que., on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

"We call upon all governments to immediately and dramatically transform Indigenous policing from its current state as a mere delegation to an exercise in self-governance and self-determination over policing," it reads.

"The federal government's First Nations Policing Program must be replaced with a new legislative and funding framework, consistent with international and domestic policing best practices and standards, that must be developed by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments in partnership with Indigenous Peoples."

Court case ongoing

In her statement, Lucki said the force already has investigators across the country reviewing the files of missing and murdered women.

She also pointed to steps the force already has taken, including updating awareness training for all its employees and consulting more with Indigenous leaders.

"On behalf of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, I want to thank the national inquiry commissioners for their important work," Lucki wrote.

"I also thank the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and survivors, who courageously spoke their truths."

The inquiry has taken the RCMP to Federal Court to fight for access to files on two specific cases it says are at the core of the inquiry's mandate.

The RCMP has argued disclosing those two files could jeopardize ongoing investigations and says the inquiry does not need access to them in order to complete its mandate.

"Over the course of the Inquiry's mandate, we produced 119 investigative files and 226 policy and other relevant documents. Four senior members of the RCMP, including myself, provided testimony in public hearings," said Lucki on Monday.

"We have asserted public interest privilege under section 37 of the Canada Evidence Act to withhold two investigative files. We look forward to the Federal Court's decision, and will not be commenting further on that matter at this time."

With files from the CBC's JP Tasker