October 29, 2011
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Speaking Notes: Deputy Commissioner Steve Graham
I am pleased to be here today on behalf of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to present our research report before members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and survivors of the Indian Residential School system.
The RCMP’s report covers more than 100 years of history and is the first complete assessment of our involvement in the Indian Residential School system from a law enforcement perspective.
We recognize that the Indian Residential School era represents a dark and painful chapter in Canadian history. Our goal in researching and publishing this study was to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Indian Residential School students, First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities, RCMP members, as well as all Canadians — Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal — in the healing and reconciliation process.
As an organization, this research can help us to better understand Aboriginal life experiences. This is an important component of our “Aboriginal and First Nations Awareness Training” which is mandatory for all new RCMP members. Assessing past practices, actions and accomplishments also allows us to improve future ones.
For the survivors and all those impacted by Indian Residential Schools, this report will hopefully provide some healing and contribute to greater awareness and understanding of the police role in the school systems.
In May 2004, the RCMP formally apologized to the Aboriginal people of Canada for the role we played in Indian Residential Schools and for the abuse that took place in that system. We stand behind the apology today.
While we did not have a full understanding at that time of our role within Indian Residential Schools, we acknowledged that as the police service of jurisdiction in many areas where the schools were located, we may have unknowingly contributed to the problems taking place in some of the schools.
Although the research found that the RCMP was not an active participant in the Indian Residential School System, it did conclude that the RCMP assumed a responsive, law enforcement role within the system.
The RCMP’s role included:
The report shows that Indian Residential Schools were essentially a closed system. As a result, the problems within the schools didn’t attract police attention or police intervention because they were mostly dealt with internally or were unknown to the police.
During interviews, many former students confirmed that the RCMP could not have known about the abuse inside the schools because they would not be told of these occurrences. This was largely due to a lack of trust of the police by some Aboriginal people.
When allegations of abuse were brought to the RCMP’s attention by survivors of Indian Residential Schools, they were taken very seriously. To this day, we continue to investigate allegations of abuse and have a number of on-going investigations.
The RCMP is proud to work with many of Canada’s Aboriginal communities and is dedicated to continuing to build upon our valued relationship.
Today, we provide policing services to over 600 Aboriginal communities across the country. RCMP members at many detachments participate in local activities in order to build and maintain relationships, creating an environment that fosters tradition, equality and trust.
In closing, I would like to thank of all those who came forward to share their stories with us, including former students, school staff, the religious community and RCMP officers – both active and retired. Without all of you, this report would not have been possible and we are extremely appreciative of your participation and support.
We look forward to continuing the healing and reconciliation process and working together toward our common goal of building safer and healthier Aboriginal communities.