Trudeau says an Indigenous commissioner for the RCMP is “an excellent idea”, but hasn’t yet commented on the demand to abolish the C-IRG
The Canadian Press reports that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says having an Indigenous person serve as the next commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is “an excellent idea” but that it “is not just about putting the right person at the top.”
Trudeau added: “There is a huge amount of work on structures within our institutions, including the RCMP, to ensure that the entire force, the entire system, is fully respectful of Indigenous people, respectful of diversity, inclusive in everything it does, and responsive to the real needs on the ground.”
One step would be for the Canadian government to abolish the RCMP’s community-industry response group (C-IRG).
The controversial unit was formed in 2017 to police Indigenous and community resistance to resource extraction projects in British Columbia.
They have been implicated in multiple human rights violations.
There appears to be at least three challenges against the C-IRG now.
1-Complaint to the CRCC on C-IRG actions at Fairy Creek
On January 23, CBC reported: “More than 100 grievances accepted for investigation contain allegations of excessive force, illegal tactics, unprofessional behaviour, racism, discrimination and charter violations by the force’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG).”
“The complaints contain unproven allegations and were released by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) with names, genders and identifying information censored following an access-to-information request by CBC News.”
CRCC communications director Kate McDerby says: “The CRCC is aware of the systemic issues raised by many of these complaints and is exploring options to determine how best to address these issues within our mandate.”
2-An application to the BC Supreme Court on C-IRG violence
On March 2, Global News reported: “Twelve Wet’suwet’en land defenders have applied to the Supreme Court of British Columbia to have criminal contempt charges stayed following RCMP raids in 2021.”
Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) says: “Society is rightly concerned with how a special unit of RCMP (C-IRG) acts with impunity, using racist language and violence against unarmed Indigenous women. Now it’s in the court’s hands to decide if this is still acceptable in 2023.”
3-Statement of claim alleging C-IRG collusion with Coastal GasLink (CGL)
The CBC has also reported that Sleydo’, Janet Williams and Lawrence Bazil allege that the RCMP used intimidation, harassment, invasions of privacy, seizure of private property and unlawful detention against Wet’suwet’en land defenders.
Their notice of claim further alleges that the C-IRG carried out the alleged intimidation campaign “with the full knowledge, co-operation, and assistance of [the private security company] Forsythe and CGL.”
They filed their claim in June 2022, but it wasn’t until January 2023 that BC’s Minister of Public Safety, Mike Farnsworth, responded through another court filing. That response says their enforcement, led by the force’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), was “commensurate with the circumstances” and not “unlawful or overzealous”.
Campaign to abolish the C-IRG
Peace Brigades International-Canada has recently joined an informal network of activists, academics, lawyers and organizations that is calling for the abolition of C-IRG.
Leadnow has an online petition calling on federal Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino and BC Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to Dismantle the C-IRG and conduct a public inquiry into its actions. To add your name alongside the 2,182 people who have already demanded action, please click here.
For an in-depth read, please also see The C-IRG: the resource extraction industry’s best ally by Molly Murphy and Research for the Front Lines (January 5, 2022).