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Political leaders call for overhaul of RCMP, inquiry into accountability of national force

Last Updated Jun 17, 2020 at 11:10 am PDT

FILE - Green party Parliamentary Leader Elizabeth May leaves after holding a press conference on Parliament Hill amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for an overhaul of the national police force

The Green party's Elizabeth May wants a full inquiry into the RCMP

NB premier criticized for refusing to hold public inquiry into the deaths of two Indigenous people killed by police

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — Political leaders continued Wednesday to call for more accountability from the RCMP following deadly encounters with Indigenous people and slow responses to formal recommendations.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for an overhaul of the national police force. He said it would require systemic change and there are a host of steps that can be taken.

One, Singh added, would be to make de-escalation tactics a priority for RCMP.

“When police are called to deal with a situation, often we see the approach, the aggressive commands, the quick display of weapons as escalating the conflict as opposed to deescalating, and there needs to be a focus on de-escalation,” he said.

“That [aggressive] approach doesn’t work. It creates more tension.”

He also said there needs to be a review of the use of force.

‘”When is it appropriate to use force?”

Singh added there could also be a clear shift in resources, adding money should be spent on health care workers to respond in several situations rather than police.

Earlier in the day, the Green party’s parliamentary leader, Elizabeth May, called for a full inquiry into the RCMP. She said the national police force’s culture of unaccountability must be put under a microscope.

RELATED: Ceremony to be held for families of two Indigenous people killed by N.B. police

She added the issues go beyond anyone RCMP commissioner, or incident, or report.

“It’s an organizational-cultural problem and it’s been a long duration,” May said. “So I can’t have confidence in any part of the RCMP, at this point.”

A Saskatchewan senator said earlier this week that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki should resign or be removed to ensure the national police force can properly serve Indigenous communities.

Sen. Lillian Dyck said Lucki has shown recently she does not fully understand systemic racism or have the knowledge and skills to be the country’s top police officer.

Lucki initially stopped short last week of endorsing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assessment that the police force, like all Canadian institutions, is systemically racism. Lucki then expressed regret on Friday for not doing so.

RELATED: Mi’kmaq Chief questions police shootings of Rodney Levi, Chantel Moore in New Brunswick

Meanwhile, the premier of New Brunswick is being criticized for refusing to hold a public inquiry into the deaths of two Indigenous people killed by police in the past two weeks.

One of them, Chantel Moore, was originally from Vancouver Island and a member of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. The 26-year-old woman, who had moved to Edmunston with her five-year-old daughter, was shot by an officer with the Edmundston Police Department on June 4. The police had initially being called to do a check on Moore’s wellbeing.

Chiefs representing six First Nations in New Brunswick said Premier Blaine Higgs has refused to support a call for a public inquiry to investigate the recent police shootings of two Indigenous residents.

RELATED: ‘Racism is alive and well’: Indigenous leaders condemn police shooting of Tla-o-qui-aht woman in New Brunswick

The chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation issued a statement Wednesday after taking part in a video conference call with the premier, saying they specifically asked Higgs to appoint an independent commission of inquiry to look into the deaths of Moore and Rodney Levi, who was shot and killed by RCMP near Miramichi when he went to his church looking for help.

The chiefs say they told Higgs and members of his cabinet the inquiry should be led by Indigenous people and should have tight timelines to ensure prompt action.

The chiefs also say they raised concerns about systemic bias and racism against Indigenous people in New Brunswick’s police and justice systems.

The six chiefs say they were disappointed with the premier’s response.

On June 10, New Brunswick’s Aboriginal affairs minister, Jake Stewart, said he would push for an inquiry into systemic racism in the policing and the justice systems.