Doug White III, chairman of the B.C. First Nations Justice Council, speaks at the endorsing and signing of the First Nations Justice Strategy March 6, 2020, at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Doug White III, chairman of the B.C. First Nations Justice Council, speaks at the endorsing and signing of the First Nations Justice Strategy March 6, 2020, at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

By Adam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com

The grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference held this week that featured speakers from across Canada. Viewership fluctuated throughout the event, but attracted several hundred virtual attendees Tuesday and Wednesday on Zoom.

Starting on July 7, four panels tackled the topics of policing reform, complications within the legal system, institutional racism.

Speaking Wednesday afternoon, Doug White, chair of the BC First Nations Justice Council, described the challenges of Indigenous life within Canada.

“Systemic racism is a simple reality of this country,” White said. “It’s built into the foundations of Canada. We need leadership of the governments and the RCMP to deeply understand that.”

With recent widespread protests against police brutality occurring across North American and around the world, White and the other participants spoke about why they felt it necessary to come together and hold these discussions.

“This is an issue that is sharply at the attention of everyone in this country,” White said. “We’ve seen our brothers and sisters in the Black Lives Matter movement: Black Canadians and Black Americans who have also been suffering a similar kind of treatment from police and we’ve seen the outrage that’s been expressed across the U.S. and Canada.”

The Summit found support from the Indigenous Bar Association, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, BC First Nations Justice Council, Membertou First Nation, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Indigenous Community Legal Clinic (UBC), Testify: Indigenous Laws + the Arts, and other groups and organizations.

While a variety of viewpoints were expressed, multiple moderators and panellists shared a common persective— Immediate action is necessary to disrupt current practices of oppression at all levels of Canadian policing and justice systems.

The second day of the webinar opened with a keynote address by Marion Buller, who served as the chief commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“We as Indigenous people need to feel safe in our own homes and communities,” Buller said. “We need to be respected and we need to be heard. These are not just needs. They are our rights as Indigenous people.”

Buller emphasized the need for Indigenous policing strategies to be nuanced.

“We live in a variety of locations and circumstances across Canada,” she said. “There is a great diversity in safety issues, community resources, cultures, languages, practices. There’s not one-size-fits all solutions.”

Steven Point, former British Columbia lieutenant governor (2007-2012) and current University of British Columbia chancellor, was the keynote speaker on the day’s second panel titled Indigenous Approaches to Justice Reform.

“Future abuses of police authority will continue to be documented,” Point said. “We cannot wait until the social fabric of Canada is being literally torn apart.”

Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and former chief of the Hupacasath First Nation located at Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, B.C., discussed local approaches to wellness checks as one immediate action that can be implemented.

“Let’s start a campaign to not call 9-1-1,” she said, referencing the recent death of Chantel Moore during a wellness check at the hands of an Edmundston, N.B. police officer. Moore was a member of a Nuu-chah-nulth Nation, Tla-o-qui-aht.

“Of course, we need other teams that can go in… I think we need to put in place community wellness teams and peacekeepers. Let’s make sure these teams are trauma-informed. Indigenous people all know the trauma that we’ve gone through. Most police don’t,” Sayers said.

Joseph Murdoch-Flowers, an Iqaluit-based lawyer and former Justice of the Peace Court, expanded on the poor training and education mechanisms in place for police forces, particularly when dealing with Indigenous people.

“It is worthwhile to ask the appropriateness of police responding to mental distress,” he said. “We have to strategically examine the realistic reallocation of resources.”

“We demand that the police act in too many roles — social workers, crisis negotiators, coroners, and more,” Murdoch-Flowers added. “If you spread the resources too thin, you’re going to end up with an inferior service. And that’s not fair to anyone.”

Summit attendees received a list of 10 “Immediate Action Points”, which included guidelines for creating a national Indigenous-led police oversight body, local Indigenous court services, and a multi-pronged de-escalation strategy centred around limiting police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities.

The Action Points also stressed specific changes to the existing court system, including increasing Indigenous representation as “Police, Crown, Judges, police commissions, and within the prison and parole systems” within the next five years, as well as a redirect of “Public Safety” funding to services that increase community safety and help combat social issues such as poverty, substance use, and lack of housing.

READ ALSO: New First Nations justice strategy being created in B.C.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

IndigenousLaw and justice

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First responders were on the scene at West Oaks Mall following a collision involving a pedestrian on Sept. 29, 2020. (Kevin MacDonald file photo)
Man charged in relation to hit-and-run that injured pedestrian in Abbotsford

Collision took place in September 2020 in crosswalk at West Oaks Mall

Harrison Hot Springs Resort employees continue to await word on labour negotiations. (Grace Kennedy/Observer)
Hospitality workers in Harrison, beyond await word on labour negotiations

UNITE HERE Local 40 reps say lockout notice still in effect

Google Maps screenshot taken at 8:08 a.m
UPDATE: All Lougheed Highway lanes open after rollover crash

Crash had multiple lanes in both directions closed this morning

Ripy Jubbal of Abbotsford has received a 30-month jail sentence for the fraudulent use of credit cards and credit card data. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford woman sentenced for $80K in fraudulent credit card purchases

Ripy Jubbal and spouse used identities of 19 different victims, court hears

....
Dutch Canadian Liberation Society donates commemorative panels to Abbotsford school

Upper Sumas Elementary School receives artwork highlighting students work with Dutch Heritage Day

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Members of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. (File photo)
B.C.-wide #DayOfMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15

‘Our colleagues across the province have figured out new ways to perform and connect,’ VSO boss says

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

(File)
With revenge porn on the rise in 2021, B.C. seeks feedback for new legislation

New legislation could help victims take down images and receive compensation

(Kamloops This Week file photo)
Federal police unit takes over probe of B.C. regional district’s spending

Financial Integrity Sensitive Investigations Unit is now reviewing the case

A black bear made a visit to downtown Vancouver Tuesday, May 4. The animal was spotted on train tracks in Gastown shortly after at 2:30 p.m. (Twitter/Craig Minielly)
VIDEO: Black bear spotted meandering around downtown Vancouver

The bear was reportedly tranquilized by conservation officers Tuesday afternoon

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Interior Health locks out Kelowna martial arts gym following COVID violations

Actions were taken after all other steps to gain compliance were exhausted, says health authority

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read