The Current

Indigenous people must hold society to account for how they're treated, says activist

Inquiries and commissions will achieve nothing if their recommendations are not acted upon, says an advocate for Indigenous equality.
Nakuset addresses the panellists at the town hall event; she spoke about the challenges faced by Indigenous communities in the province. (Elise Jacob/CBC)

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Efforts to improve relations between the police and Indigenous communities in Montreal are falling flat, according to an advocate based in the city.

Nakuset is the director of Montreal's Native Women's Shelter. She has worked on collaboration initiatives with the police, designed to provide officers with sensitivity training.

One workshop involved a blanket exercise — an activity where participants inhabit the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, exploring the trauma and marginalization experienced over the centuries.

"We had to ask police officers to stop laughing," Nakuset told Duncan McCue at The Current's town hall in Montreal, "to take it seriously."

Carlo DeAngelis, the Montreal police's liaison officer to the Indigenous community, said in a statement that there have been 80 sensitivity sessions held, with more than 1,500 officers.

He added that further training is planned, but Nakuset is critical of both the police approach and lengthy inquiries into Indigenous life in the province.

The Viens commission has spent a year examining ways to improve Indigenous access to public services, but she says recommendations must be backed up with action, not turned into a book and left on a shelf.

"Indigenous people need to hold society to account for how they're being treated," she says.

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page, where you can also share this article across email, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

The Montreal town hall event on race relations in Canada was produced by The Current's Yamri Taddese, Pacinthe Mattar and Ruby Buiza.