RCMP Depot Division – Reconciliation Strategy
In the summer of 2021, the mirror described by Elder and Academic Willie Ermine reflected to all Canadians some of the darkest parts of our history. Thousands of graves were revealed on several former residential school grounds across Canada providing undeniable proof of what Residential School Survivors had already shared, thousands of Indigenous children never made it home. For many, it was a shocking series of revelations and each new discovery at every subsequent school reflected a more troubling and tragic past. Included with these discoveries were stories of the RCMP enforcing government legislation, such as the Indian Act, by taking Indigenous children to these schools or tracking down those who had runaway and forcing them to return. As hard as these stories were to hear and accept, we must do both. Without these truths, reconciliation is not possible.
What follows is our mission. We are familiar with missions. We know what a mission is and how to complete it. By coming here to this site, we elected to be part of this mission and we are grateful you did. We need everyone, those who work here, those who learn here, and those who visit here, to contribute to our mission.
On May 23, 1873, the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) was formed. Not long after, the ability to offer police training became a concern. Initially, recruits were trained in the Division in which they were first employed. This resulted in inconsistent and sometimes even no formal training, as Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) in short-staffed divisions often did not have the time to take on training in addition to their duties. To address this, Depot was created and has remained the training home of the NWMP, the RNWMP and now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
The original purpose of the NWMP/RCMP as Sheehan & Oosten explain, “included 'to gain the respect and confidence of the natives, preservation of peace, prevent crime and apprehend criminals, stop liquor trafficking in the North West,'” (Sheehan & Oosten, (2006), pg. 11)Footnote 1. However, after the events of 1885, the relationship between the NWMP and Indigenous peoples changed. NWMP officers were actively involved in some of the public disorder leading up to the final Battle at Batoche in 1885. Later that same year, Depot Division was officially established on November 1, 1885, and located just outside the core of City of Regina. Just 15 days later, Métis leader Louis Riel, was hanged on Depot’s grounds. Among the spectators, were children from the nearby Regina Indian Industrial School. Witnessing the hanging was part of their education. As a result, the RCMP became a symbol of power and fear. As the enforcement arm of the government, NWMP/RCMP also enforced policies like the Indian Act which in part attempted to suppress and assimilate Indigenous peoples. This lesser known history conflicts with the romanticized flashing Red Serge as a national police force which is the “stuff of legend”, pride, and Hollywood films.
Some may say this history is not relevant today because we have changed. However, our present-day struggles and need to reconcile are a direct result of this history. In addition, police organizations, including the RCMP, face lack of public trust. This in turn affects operations, officer morale, retention and recruitment, and attempts to meet more modern mandates and goals. To reconcile, we must acknowledge why these relationships did not work in the first place. In turn, we acknowledge this history as an important first step in our mission.
Hearing the Calls
The public, government and mandated expectation of the RCMP are many, as well as the work we do has become more complex and demanding since our inception. Following the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, several commissions, inquiries and other audits have outlined the need for change within police organizations. While there are no specific calls for the RCMP in the “Truth & Reconciliation - Calls to Action”, many recommendations were directed at police in the “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry’s Calls to Justice”.
“We call upon all police services and justice system actors to acknowledge that the historical and current relationship between Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people and the justice system has been largely defined by colonialism, racism, bias, discrimination, and fundamental cultural and societal differences. We further call upon all police services and justice system actors to acknowledge that, going forward, this relationship must be based on respect and understanding, and must be led by, and in partnerships with, Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, (MMIWG Calls to Justice,).
At Depot Division, we have heard these calls. We also acknowledge the additional recommendations laid out in the National Action Plan, as well as those from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis working groups. While detailing each is not possible in the body of this strategic plan, the overwhelming similarity between these commissions, reports and actions plans center around truth, education, and action. In addition, Canada’s implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples through Bill C-15 is also adding more calls change and will require our attention.
As part of the larger “RCMP strategy 2023 and Beyond” plan, we have renewed our commitment to work with Indigenous communities:
“Our shared and unique history with Indigenous Peoples provides an environment in which we can work collaboratively to improve community health and wellness. We are committed to continue building upon these relationships as we encourage, sustain and foster honest and open dialogue among Indigenous partners,” (RCMP 2023 and Beyond).
Indigenous policing is one of the RCMP’s five strategic operational priorities. The overarching goal is to contribute to safer and healthier Indigenous communities and includes recruiting more Indigenous officers, developing culturally competent police services, maintaining and strengthening partnerships with Indigenous communities, and promoting alternative justice measures. Today, as Canadian public policy continues to change, albeit slowly, Depot Division is ideally positioned to contribute at both the local and national level.
RCMP Depot is located in Treaty 4 Territory. In this time of reconciliation, we believe it is important to recognize and to give proper recognition and honour to the original Treaty 4 Nations of this land.
These are the territories of the nêhiyawak (Cree), Anihšināpēk (Saulteaux), Dakota, Lakota, and Nakoda, and the homeland of the Métis/Michif Nation.
Reflecting this is part of our mission. This begins with education, something that the very land we sit on and the history we have learned as a result, provides for us.
Acknowledging and learning begins with our Cadet Training Program (CTP). Currently, a full review of all content in that program is underway to update historical facts and examine bias. In addition, we increase the use of the unique space, ceremonial gifts and teachings we have to enhance the education and growth of every staff member and cadet is part of our most sincere intentions. This includes:
- ensuring our Heritage Centre is a place learning and reflection;
- produce a monthly calendar of events and activities;
- hosting and encouraging everyone to attend traditional feasts with our Elders and advisors;
- hosting Speakers Series events including retired Indigenous members and community members with connections to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
This will enable improved connection and learning directly from our communities.
As part of the larger calls to be inclusive and build a new relationship with all Indigenous peoples, we are incorporating Land Acknowledgements into every space, physical and virtual, at Depot. These actions are part of always remembering the land must be shared and we must work with the Original Peoples of Canada in everything we do. Under the guidance of Elders and our Indigenous Advisors we continue to update and care for our Indigenous Ceremonial Spaces, both within our facilities and on our physical outdoor grounds, ensuring the proper protocols are always followed. We will also be engaging with Indigenous academics to help our senior leadership (initially) better assess how to manage the change within our organization through Culture Change Management seminars.
Each of these initiatives is meant to ensure we create space for cultural interaction, reflection, and learning in every space our membership needs.
We will endeavor to strengthen our efforts to recruit more Indigenous peoples from across the country through the Indigenous Pre-Cadet Training Program and Field Coaching project for graduating cadets. This is a critical piece in continuing to build on our diverse membership throughout Canada. These connections between community and our services are vital to the overall strength of our organization.
We started this discussion of actions acknowledging the land on which Depot Division sits upon. As we continue to enact our reconciliation strategy, we recognize the struggles of those who have come before and those we face now together as we rebuild our relationships to realize our larger mission.
The success of our mission requires two things: a willingness to be part of the changes as outlined above and regular evaluation of the goals to keep us on track. As we work with Indigenous leaders and Elders, we recognize how fortunate we are to have partners to help us shape our own policies to ensure we honour the history and importance of the land on which we sit. From our dedicated Place of Reflection for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to each display in our Heritage Center, our libraries and additional collections, it is our intention to retell the story of our shared history, the struggles, the moments of pride, and our dreams going forward.
We wish to build on the Reconciliation that has already been adopted into Depot, including the use of an Eagle Feather for swearing in of new members and the incorporation of the Métis Sash into the Red Serge uniform and the creation of the Indigenous Spirit Room. There is a lot of work still to be completed in the next four years. These efforts require commitment, not only our commitment to this mission but also dedicated resources to ensure this mission is completed. Depot Division is in the process of hiring an individual to oversee these plans, to guide us when we are making decisions, to act as our liaison with community and to keep us on track. These changes are essential and without a driver it will be difficult to make real progress. As part of this process, we will build in timelines and reporting mechanisms to ensure this individual is supported in this mission.
Learning through change is not easy, because as we noted above change is not easy. However, we have learned much since the release of the TRC’s Final Report and the MMIWG Inquiry. The events of the summer of 2021 continue to remind us that what we have learned so far needs to be honoured and we must continue our education together. This mission requires us to humbly step forward, relearn our history, engage in community activities, meet Indigenous peoples on that human to human level in a safe space and commit ourselves to this process. Public policies that change our structure or rules can only go so far – our intentions and efforts will take us the rest of the way.
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