REGINA—The head of Canada's national police force apologized to the families of missing and murdered indigenous women yesterday while pledging improved relations with aboriginal communities.
“On behalf of myself and my organization, I'm truly sorry for the loss of your loved ones and the pain that this has caused you and your families and your communities,” RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki testified in Regina at the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
“I'm sorry that for too many of you, the RCMP was not the police service that it needed to be during this terrible time in your life,” she added.
“It is very clear to me that the RCMP could have done better and I promise to you we will do better.”
The inquiry has been holding hearings for more than a year, and time and again stories have surfaced of police not taking the cases of missing indigenous women seriously.
Victims frequently were seen to be written off by investigators as sex-trade workers or addicts.
Lucki said the RCMP has made changes to its cadet training curriculum to include more indigenous material.
One of the added modules includes a scenario involving an 18-year-old indigenous woman whose back story is constructed from testimony heard at the inquiry.
Lucki said she wants the cadets to get exposure to those situations.
“Given some of the things that have come out of the testimonies, it's important that they have recognition of the cultural sensitiveness of these investigations and the importance of knowing what to expect with these investigations,” she noted.
Another addition to RCMP training includes a blanket exercise in which cadets are taught to better understand the different issues facing indigenous people.
That program has been introduced over the last four-six months, and Lucki participated in the first one.
Heather Bear, vice-chief with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said there must be oversight to see if this new training changes attitudes.
She said it's going to take time to notice a difference, noting she still gets calls from indigenous women who have experienced police violence.
“By having this training, the awareness, for our people, the measuring is going to be when the harassment stops. Then we'll know it has succeeded,” Bear said.
“Today, these are words and these are attempts, so I guess the test of time is what I'll be watching.”
In Lucki's cross-examination, she said two officers went through a restorative-type process in consultation with the indigenous community after allegations of a racist Facebook post, that reportedly said Colten Boushie deserved to die, were founded.
Boushie was an indigenous man who was killed at Gerald Stanley's farm in Biggar, Sask. in 2016.
Stanley was charged with second-degree murder but found not guilty.
Lucki added the RCMP has to work to have better trust with the communities they serve. That includes being more inclusive and more tolerant.
“Are we going to eliminate racism? I don't know if we will," Lucki conceded. "But we can hold those to account and make sure it doesn't happen again, and use those as examples.”
Marion Buller, the inquiry's chief commissioner, said she thought Lucki's apology was heartfelt and sincere.
“I think it's certainly a good beginning," Buller said. "The proof will be in what happens on the ground.”