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

Surrey RCMP on scene of a crash involving a motorized scooter and a car in the intersection of 102 Avenue and City Parkway on Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Photos: Shane MacKichan)
Elderly man sent to hospital after scooter crashes with car in Surrey

Surrey RCMP say it happened at about 8:30 a.m. in the intersection of 102 Avenue and City Parkway

Musician Grant Hill grew up in Surrey and now lives in Los Angeles. “Going to parties in Surrey, you could never let your guard down, even if you were the guy singing,” he says. (submitted photo)
With ‘Fly,’ Surrey-raised musician gives debut album wings at age 53

‘It took a little longer than expected… and I think it’s been worth the wait,’ says Grant Hill

File photo by Tom Zytaruk
Surrey 2021 tree sale begins Friday

City of Surrey says it’s selling quality trees for $20 each

The Washboard Union in the video for the song “If She Only Knew.”
WATCH: Washboard Union’s new ‘double feature’ videos filmed by Surrey director Barberis

‘Double feature’ release for the award-winning country music trio

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix wore pink shirts to showcase this year’s motto: “Lift each other up.” (Twitter/PinkShirtDay)
PHOTOS: B.C. celebs take a stand against bullying on Pink Shirt Day

‘We need to let young people know they are not alone and they can reach out to others for help’

Justin Morissette is still recovering from the injuries sustained in the altercation. He is not yet able to walk without assistance. (Justin Morissette, Twitter)
B.C. man suing city and police over violent altercation with anti-LGBTQ preacher

Justin Morissette argues police knew the threat the preacher posed, and failed to keep the peace

A male customer without a face mask is seen inside a Burnaby Canadian Tire amidst an altercation with store security and staff members. (Video/Screen grab)
RCMP investigating conflict between unmasked customer, staff at Burnaby Canadian Tire

Mounties received reports Monday of a customer having punched more than one employee

Jack Barnes, who was Cowichan Valley Capitals property from May 2020 until last week, scores a goal for the Penticton Vees during the 2019-20 BCHL season. (Brennan Phillips/Black Press)
COVID-crunched BCHL facing trade deadline dilemma with its 20-year-olds

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

UBC Okanagan students are among the most food insecure in Canada, according to a new study by UBC.
(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
UBC Okanagan students among most food insecure in Canada

42.3 per cent either can’t properly feed themselves, or are worried they will soon run out of money

Average response times for critical “purple” and “red” calls were between nine and 10 minutes Feb. 19 in Metro Vancouver, with only less critical “yellow” calls receiving an average response time of 45 minutes. The longer than usual delay was due to a combination of factors, BC Emergency Health Services said. (APBC image)
After a night of one-hour waits for ambulances, union goes public with concerns

B.C. Ambulance Service says high-priority calls were still 10 minutes or less

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Contributed to Kamloops This Week)
B.C. teen in turtleneck, lace-edged dress sent home from school for ‘inappropriate’ outfit

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson was told the lace on the garment made it look like a slip dress

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and former finance minister Carole James roll out “StrongerBC,” a $1.5 billion business support plan for COVID-19, eight months after the B.C. legislature approved the money and four days before a snap election call, Sept. 17, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 business grant fund still mostly unspent

$300 million pandemic assistance approved almost a year ago

Most Read