Published in Windspeaker newspaper | March 2013 | Circulation: 145,000
Canada’s national police force insists it is taking seriously allegations of widespread police misconduct and abuse against Native women, including several rapes, death threats and violence, brought forward by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).
In its Feb. 13 report entitled “Those Who Take Us Away,” the group documented dozens of allegations from more than 50 interviews in 10 northern B.C. communities.
“The stories shared in this report are heart-wrenching and absolutely appalling, particularly given this is only a small sample of the conditions and experiences of Indigenous women, girls and families across our territories,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo in a statement. “I commend the courage of all those who’ve shared their stories, and continue to urge others aware of violence or misconduct to speak up.
“We cannot accept violence against or among our peoples. We owe it to the families who’ve lost loved ones, and to our children and future generations to achieve safe and secure communities for our kids to learn, grow and thrive.”
Meghan Rhoad, a researcher for the report, told Windspeaker she was “deeply troubled” by the allegations, not to mention the significant “level of fear” witnessed amongst complainants that police would retaliate if they stepped forward.
“In too many of the cases we heard described, there was impunity for the violence committed against them,” said Rhoad.
“I would like to see… the government and police look seriously at what they can do right now to set a new path, in terms of their relationship to Indigenous women and girls.”
RCMP Chief Supt. Janice Armstrong released a statement soon after the report’s release, promising the force would examine the accusations carefully but only if alleged victims’ identities were released or filed formal complaints.