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Relationship between police, Squamish Nation improving but work still needed

Last Updated Jul 11, 2020 at 6:50 pm PDT

FILE (Courtesy West Vancouver Police via Twitter)

WEST VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — With interactions between police and people of colour coming under intense scrutiny over recent months, the Squamish Nation says its relationship with police is “encouraging,” and “developing,” however, there’s still some room for improvement.

Chris Lewis is a councillor with the Squamish Nation and says the West Vancouver Police Department has an Integrated First Nations Unit, something that can help bridge the divide between police and first nations communities.

“Officers are delegated to the unit to liaise with the nation and address any kind of community issues,” he tells NEWS 1130. “And also to kind of address the historic relationship between Indigenous peoples and the police.”

LISTEN: Indigenous relationship

Lewis says more must be done to address the problem of systemic racism, but he’s grateful at what’s been accomplished so far.

“We’re really heartened that we have a process, and an agreement that allows us to address those issues,” he says. “I would say we’re in a better spot than many other indigenous peoples in Canada.”

The Integrated First Nations Unit operates as a “communication link” between Indigenous communities and police. Now, there are calls to review and enhance the policing agreement, which was developed over a decade ago.

Lewis adds he hopes by updating it, the agreement will address the issues that are more relevant to today’s world, “so that we can move forward.”

He adds, the West Vancouver PD has been open to the review.

The Police Chief in West Vancouver, Len Goerke, adds his department could always do a better job of listening, and that will continue to be one of the key strategies moving forward.

– With files from Lasia Kretzel