Commission finds RCMP actions against Mi’kmaq land defenders were non-discriminatory, but training on “Indigenous cultural practices” needed

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo by Jen Choi/CBC.

Following complaints about RCMP tactics against Indigenous land defenders and allies during the protests against fracking on unceded Mi’kmaq territory in New Brunswick in 2013, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, currently chaired by a 30-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, began to investigate.

Seven years later, a final report has been released.

On November 12, the CBC reported: “The commission found that RCMP members assigned to the operation did not have sufficient training in Indigenous cultural matters. However, it said based on the available evidence, it is satisfied that officers did not differentiate between Indigenous and non-Indigenous protesters when making arrests.”

The article adds: “The commission made multiple recommendations related to training on Indigenous cultural practices and the handing of sacred items. The RCMP said it will implement those recommendations.”

In her response to the report, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki commented the RCMP is making ongoing efforts “to provide members with a solid knowledge of cultural elements and history of our Indigenous communities.”

Other media reports have told a different story.

This past June, the CBC reported: “[Sipekne’katik land defender Lorraine] Clair said she was hospitalized on two different occasions after being manhandled by the RCMP.”

“[Clair also] said she saw many instances where police were disrespectful with valued objects such as feathers and drums and pipes and that they interfered with people in prayer.”

Furthermore, that article notes: “Jim Emberger [of the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance] testified to commissioners that the discrimination was blatant. He said he witnessed Indigenous protesters being rounded up and arrested while non-Indigenous protesters were told to leave the area or were left alone.”

In addition to these issues, the CBC article on the release of the final report also highlights: “Some RCMP tactics … may have broken the law, while other practices raise concerns about how Mounties conduct surveillance on protesters…”

The report states: “In relation to police roadblocks and stop checks and the collection of open-source intelligence, the commission has expressed concerns about the reasonableness and, at times, the legality of the practices engaged in by the RCMP.”

This report also has implications for the Wet’suwet’en peoples.

In January of this year, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs asked the Commission to initiate an investigation into unlawful actions by the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory in relation to the construction of the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline.

The Commission responded that it would not undertake an investigation because of this investigation into RCMP actions in New Brunswick.

For the full report, please see Commission’s Final Report into the RCMP’s Response to Anti-shale Gas Protests in Kent County, New Brunswick.

This article will be updated with comments from Mi’kmaq land defenders and allies as reactions to the report begin to be shared on social media.

Photo: Lorraine Clair and Oasogatesg Augustine both told CBC News they suffered arm injuries while being arrested by the RCMP in 2013.

Photo: Among the findings in the report: “The Commission did not find any evidence of direct physical contact between police service dogs and protesters. The evidence shows that police service dogs were used as a psychological deterrent only.” 

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