Métis People, the RCMP, and Reconciliation: Navigating History, Connecting with Community, and Creating Ethical Spaces to Start Again

By Merelda Fiddler-Potter, PhD., October 2021

This Métis position paper was researched and written by PhD candidate Merelda Fiddler-Potter in October 2021. In it she asks the question, "Is reconciliation between Métis people and the RCMP possible?" She has provided a response connecting history and contemporary efforts while examining what it will take to create a foundation for a new relationship.

This paper accompanies other research and will inform the development of the RCMP National Strategic Plan for reconciliation (anticipated to be produced in 2022). It also provides key insights from a Métis perspective to inform distinctions-based approaches for the RCMP as we continue to move forward with reconciliation efforts and building trust with Indigenous peoples.

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Executive summary

In Métis People, the RCMP, and Reconciliation: Navigating History, Connecting with Community, and Creating Ethical Spaces to Start Again, Merelda Fiddler-Potter asks the question, "Is reconciliation between Métis people and the RCMP possible?". Submitted in October 2021, this paper connects history, contemporary efforts, and examines what it will take to create a foundation for a new relationship.

Navigating history

For many, the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Final Report was the end of the truth telling and the beginning of the reconciliation efforts. At the time of writing this paper, 215 graves had been found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, followed by another 751 more at Cowessess First Nation. These discoveries, and the many more that did and will follow, are a reminder the truth piece has not been completed in the Truth and Reconciliation process. This is also the case for the history of the Métis People and the RCMP. Acknowledging and sharing these truths, as well as the role of the then North West Mounted Police (NWMP) affirms Métis histories and experiences, demonstrates the RCMP's commitment to learning and sharing the truth, and helps foster a more meaningful reconciliation process.

Connecting with community

Through the National Action Plan, many recommendations have been made to improve and change how groups like the RCMP (and the Federal government and its departments and agencies) interact with Métis people and communities. In addition to this work, there are also numerous recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Final Report and Calls to Action, as well as the Final Report from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry and its Calls to Justice. Many more lists of recommendations can also be found in additional reviews, reports, and other documents. However, the work the RCMP has already undertaken in Métis communities through specific programs and the experiences of Métis officers is largely unknown. Assessing what is being attempted, with what is being recommended, is key to charting a course ahead.

Recommendations

As Former Justice Murray Sinclair says, "Reconciliation is not a spectator sport, you cannot sit back and wait for other people to do things," (CBC Radio, Unreserved, Sept. 25th, 2021). As such, this process is one which the RCMP will need to undertake with Métis people. The author recommends the following steps be taken to start this process.

  1. Create an historically accurate account of relations between Métis People and the RCMP from contact to present. This should be available to every Canadian via the RCMP website.
  2. Ensure culturally accurate training so all RCMP operational members and staff understand who Métis people are and how the Métis define themselves.
  3. Undertake an evaluation that looks at what has been asked of the RCMP, including calls from the TRC, MMIWG Inquiry, and goals laid out in the National Action Plan. This must include current RCMP initiatives and should be completed by an external body.
  4. Finally, a significant act of reconciliation would be to include a permanent monument on the F Division grounds in Regina, Saskatchewan where Louis Riel was hanged.

To build a strong relationship, Métis people and the RCMP need to meet each other on a human to human level, as outlined by Willie Ermine (1999) in the Ethical Space of Engagement. Acknowledging our entire history, as well as the more recent efforts of the RCMP, will help create that ethical space from which this process might finally be achieved.

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