(OTTAWA) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said having an Indigenous person as the next RCMP commissioner would be “a great idea,” but cautioned that he doesn’t believe such a designation would be enough to address the problems of the federal police.
He made the comment in response to questions from reporters in Winnipeg on Friday about a call from some First Nations leaders for the government to ensure the next person to head the RCMP is Indigenous.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Mr. Trudeau. To see more and more Indigenous leadership in systems and institutions across the country, we should definitely focus on more diversity. »
Nonetheless, Trudeau said the next person to take up the post of RCMP commissioner will be selected through an independent process, the details of which have yet to be announced.
“We will always seek to ensure that the diversity of Canada as a whole and Indigenous representation are part of our considerations. »
Trudeau has made reconciliation one of his top priorities since taking office in 2015. In addition to spending billions on various initiatives, he appointed the first Indigenous Governor General, Inuit leader Mary Simon.
His firm also confirmed Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin, an Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation, as the first Indigenous justice to the Supreme Court of Canada.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is due to retire this month, shortly before the end of her five-year term.
She was appointed in April 2018 and led the federal police for a chaotic few years that included the deadliest mass shooting in modern Canadian history, as well as growing calls to ‘defund’ the police and allegations of systemic racism within the RCMP.
When she was appointed, Ms.me Lucki became the first woman to hold these positions permanently.
The police force, which marks its 150th anniversary in May, has faced criticism over its historical and present relations with indigenous populations. The RCMP is the primary policing force for many First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities through contractual agreements with the provinces and territories.
Officers have faced allegations that they have failed to properly investigate or take seriously the disappearances and deaths of Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
In 2018, Mr.me Lucki apologized to the families of some of the women who were part of an investigation into the matter, saying “for many of you the RCMP fell short during these terrible times.”
In a series of media interviews in June 2020, Mme Lucki claimed she struggled with the definition of systemic racism, which earned her strong criticism from even Indigenous leaders, who pointed out that she promised to improve relations with their communities.
Subsequently, she said in a written statement that she should have acknowledged in a more assertive way that systemic racism exists in the ranks of the RCMP.
On Friday, Trudeau stressed that choosing an Indigenous official to lead the RCMP would not in itself solve the problems of federal policing.
“We need to understand that it’s not just about putting the right person at the helm of an organization to achieve the systemic change needed,” he said. There is a colossal work on the structures in our institutions, including the RCMP, to ensure that the entire force, that the entire system, fully respects indigenous peoples, and diversity. »
An internal report on the RCMP’s progress on reconciliation unveiled in 2022 highlighted its difficulties in recruiting and retaining Indigenous members in its ranks.
The report showed Indigenous representation slipped to 7% in 2020, from 8% in 2010.