H Division Reconciliation Strategy 2021-2024
Mi'Kmaq people are a significant part of Nova Scotia's culture and heritage and the Nova Scotia RCMP values its relationship with them. Over the past several years, the division has participated and initiated a number of activities to improve communication, consultation and collaboration with Mi'Kmaq and Indigenous Peoples throughout the province. Some of the ways that this is achieved is through a variety of divisional initiatives, including regular consultation and meetings, recruitment, working with youth and community members and training our people. Building trust through positive engagement with Mi'Kmaq communities and Indigenous Peoples is one of H Division's six APP priorities.
From apology to action
A just reconciliation requires more than simply talking about the need to heal the deep wounds of history. Words of apology alone are insufficient; concrete actions on both symbolic and material fronts are required. Reparations for historical injustices must include not only apology, financial redress, legal reform, and policy change but also the rewriting of national history and public commemoration.
Reconciliation is a step-by-step progressive endeavour to learn from our past, while moving forward together, nation-to-nation. It is a process of continually learning about the impact of our words and our actions, positive and the negative, and build upon these impacts in a meaningful way.
Along with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, the division is also using the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Final Report's Calls for Justice as a framework to guide its objectives going forward.
Divisional reconciliation efforts include employees participating in a number of initiatives in the communities we serve. These efforts help employees understand some of the challenges and issues being faced in the communities and improve upon the relationships with Mi'Kmaq and Indigenous Peoples in Nova Scotia.
Strengthening relationships with Indigenous communities is an ongoing priority for the Nova Scotia RCMP. This takes place through regular reporting, meetings, collaboration, engaging with youth in the communities, training our employees, some of whom work directly in the communities we serve to understand and address policing concerns in their areas. RCMP employees work to foster relationships within communities by liaising between the RCMP and community members to explore ways to better work together.
From the MMIWG Inquiry, Call for Action 9.4.ii stipulates, "
Specialized Indigenous policing units are to lead the services' efforts in community liaison work, community relationship building, and community crime-prevention programs within and for Indigenous communities." The division supports this call through the dedicated work of the Indigenous Policing Services team.
Since August 2017, H Division Senior Management has been notifying the First Nations Chiefs in Nova Scotia through "Situation Reports" about incidences taking place in their communities. The initiative was developed to improve communication between the RCMP with the first nation communities. The titles of the reports are written in Mi'Kmaq to reflect the Mi'Kmaq's desire to retain their languageFootnote 1. This is what Chief Gerald Toney of Annapolis Valley First Nation had to say about the process:
I find the Situation Reports informative and they increase my level of awareness on issues affecting FN Communities within the Province. They demonstrate that the RCMP is pro-actively communicating with FN Communities on a broader scale.
CO's Mi'Kmaq and Indigenous Advisory Committee
The Commanding Officer's Mi'Kmaq and Indigenous Advisory Committee is made up of Indigenous and Mi'Kmaq representatives who meet regularly to provide insight and advice to the Commanding Officer on issues affecting Indigenous and Mi'Kmaq people in Nova Scotia. The Committee began in 1990 as a way to enhance relationships with Indigenous communities and to better understand policing issues in those communities. It provides an opportunity for committee members to voice their concerns and to address challenges they are being faced with.Footnote 2
The RCMP proactively recruits Indigenous persons to ensure the organization is more representative of the communities we serveFootnote 3. In addition to this, the RCMP provides support and mentorship to Indigenous cadets to increase success rates.
The Pre-Cadet Training Program and Depot Youth Camp offers Indigenous teens and young adults to get an inside look at the life of a police officer. This training runs for three weeks and is based around the Depot training environment. Each year, H Division sends youth to these programs.
H Division has a pro-active recruiter who holds recruitment sessions in Mi'Kmaq communities to increase localized recruiting efforts. The division also holds Leadership Days approximately three times a year for the past several years in Mi'Kmaq communities throughout Nova Scotia. These sessions highlight the various careers available in the RCMP and help generate interest in recruitment.
Involving community members in events
In 2019, an opening ceremony was held for the new RCMP building located in New Minas, NS. Elder Lorraine Whitman, a band member and Elder of Glooscap First Nation was invited to provide a smudge and opening remarks for the ceremony.
As a young person, I never thought I would be in an RCMP detachment providing opening remarks on such a special occasion while also being encouraged to share my cultural teachings.
The Division invites Elders to participate in a variety of other Indigenous ceremonies such as the Eagle Feather and Sweat Lodge openings.
Participating in cultural eventsFootnote 4
Each October, divisional employees participate in Treaty Day and Mi'Kmaq History Month that include various activities that celebrate Mi'Kmaq culture and heritage and strengthen our relationships with Mi'kmaq and Indigenous communities. Some for the initiatives include:
- Raising of the Mi'Kmaq Flag
The Mi'Kmaq flag is raised at RCMP Headquarters for the month of October to raise awareness about Treaty Day and Mi'Kmaq History Month.
- Sisters in Spirit Vigils
Each year on October 4, vigils are held across the country to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Employees learn about the vigils through internal communication, a display set up at Headquarters and have an opportunity to participating in a moment of silence coordinated to honour the lives lost.
- Moose Hide Campaign
The Moose Hide Campaign is a Canadian movement that asks men to stand up to violence against women and children. Each year, RCMP employees receive a Moose Hide pin to wear to show their support and then share it with a community member.
- Blanket Exercise
Over the past few years, a number of Blanket Exercises were held in the Division, often facilitated by Elder Debbie Eisan of the Halifax Friendship Centre. Employees have the opportunity to participate in the interactive and educational program that teaches the history of indigenous peoples in Canada. The exercise, which is offered a few times a year as part of the Indigenous Perceptions Training course, involves participants standing on blankets that represent the land that was inhabited by Indigenous people that eventually became Canada.
Sweat Lodge at Headquarters
Through the dedication of Cpl. De-Anne Sack, an Indigenous Policing Co-ordinator and a member of Sipekne'katik First Nation, a permanent sweat lodge was erected at the RCMP Headquarters in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and officially opened October 9, 2018. It is part of Indigenous tradition to provide a space for purification ceremonies or "sweats" to take place for the purpose of spiritual cleansing. Prior to the pandemic, H Division was in the process of coordinating monthly ceremonies for RCMP employees to attend for self-reflection and prayer.
Training our people
The Indigenous Perceptions Training Course was developed to provide employees with a better understanding of Indigenous culture and history and Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia. The five-day course is taught by Indigenous Elders and community members and allows the opportunity for participants to take part in group discussion, collaborate with colleagues and Indigenous teachers and in traditional Indigenous events such as a sweat lodge. To date, approximately 296 employees in H Division have attended the course.
This course provides a distinctions-based learning opportunity, which along with other RCMP cultural awareness course offerings such as Using a Trauma-Informed Approach and Aboriginal and First Nations Awareness Course, support MMIWG Calls for Justice 9.2.iv and 9.3.vFootnote 5.
In 2017, the Nova Scotia RCMP introduced the Eagle Feather as a new option for victims, witnesses and police officers to swear legal oaths, similar to a Bible or affirmation. Indigenous spirituality believes there is a direct connection between the Eagle and the Creator. The Eagle feather can also be offered as a comfort for a client when interacting with employees at a detachment. The Eagle Feather was another first for the RCMP in Canada and is now available in all 54 RCMP detachments in Nova Scotia. A ceremony was held at RCMP Headquarters announcing the initiative along with a video and poster which were produced to allow for further understanding of the Eagle feather's significance.
The Mi'Kmaw Legal Support Network (MLSN) was created in parts of Nova Scotia to develop and maintain a sustainable justice support system for all Mi'Kmaw and Indigenous people in the justice system, with the goal of enhanced relationship building. One of the Divisional APP items has an initiative specific to increasing the number of referrals to MLSN which includes tracking the number of offenders and victim to the program.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action can be directly linked to the Mi'Kmaw Legal Support Network, including: youth over representation, implementation of an Aboriginal justice system and over representation, high rate of victimization. While these may not be directed at police, its important to understand their significance and demonstrate how we can work together.
In 2019, the publication of the MMIWG Inquiry's Calls for Justice, further emphasized the need for enhanced use of restorative justice practices. Call 5.11 stipulates "
We call upon all governments to increase accessibility to meaningful and culturally appropriate justice practices by expanding restorative justice programs and Indigenous Peoples' courts."
A longstanding objective of the division is for increased referral numbers, which were successfully on the rise in recent years. To accomplish this, the division's computer services added an MLSN icon onto each vehicle's Mobile Work Station so that officers became able to initiate referrals while on the road. Survey codes were also created in the Police Reporting and Occurrence System, specifically to focus on referrals to MLSN. Information sessions were also provided to members in recent years.
Working with youth
The Nova Scotia RCMP makes youth in the communities we serve a priority. Members are working in Indigenous communities throughout the province and School Safety Resource Officers are in the schools working regularly with Indigenous youth with the goal of building trust and positive relationships.
In May 2019, Pictou District RCMP held a contest with Pictou Landing Elementary School to invite students to submit traditional Mi'Kmaq artwork to be used as community logo decals for two new First Nations police vehicles. The decal reveal ceremony was held at the PLFN school.
This was an example of how well the local detachment listens and works with their community. The vehicle decals added a sense of pride for the community.
National reconciliation activities
The RCMP has made a clearfix commitment to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. An apology in 2018 by Commissioner Brenda Lucki in relation to MMIWG and former Commissioner Robert "Bob" Paulson's statement to the Assembly of First Nations "to put words into action" are just a couple of examples of the RCMP's intent to demonstrate action in improving relationships with Indigenous Peoples.
H Division's reconciliation efforts aim to improve community safety and wellbeing, to enhance investigative standards, and to deliver the highest quality policing services. Efforts are also implemented within the organization to support the over 1,900 Indigenous employees of the RCMP and to inspire a culturally engaged, trauma-informed workforce.
Commitment – Going forward
Reconciliation efforts will continue to be a priority in H Division, however, it cannot happen overnight. We must be committed to taking actionable steps forward, knowing that progress is being made, yet more can be done.
- 1. Engagement
Regular discussions will take place to address issues or other items brought forward by the Commanding Officer's Mi'Kmaq and Indigenous Advisory, senior management and members working in Indigenous communities in the province.
Enhancing relationships with Mi'Kmaq Communities and Indigenous Peoples will continue to be an Annual Performance Priority so that reconciliation remains at the forefront of operations and activities.
- 2. Cultural awareness training
Improving our employees' understanding and knowledge of Mi'Kmaq and Indigenous culture and traditions remains a priority for the division. Efforts will continue in offering the Indigenous Perceptions Training course, and employees will be encouraged to participate in the various other courses available.
- 3. Developing a more representative workforce
Recruitment efforts will continue in hopes of garnering interest from Mi'Kmaq and Indigenous community members through the Pre-Cadet Training Program, the Depot Youth Program, and through recruitment sessions in Indigenous communities.
- 4. Restorative Justice referrals
Through the MLSN, the division has a goal of an increase of 5% in referrals.
- 5. Supporting Indigenous employees
A CO's Internal Indigenous Employee Committee is under development and messaging went out in 2020 to the division to seek interest in employee participation. An internal committee would provide an avenue for Indigenous employees to collaborate and discuss key topics, ideas and issues so they can be brought forward to senior management.
As well, the Indigenous Strategic Planning Committee formed in 2016, and exists to find opportunities for growth or to overcome challenges in relationship building. The Committee consists of employees from various sections and levels who were instrumental in the development of the eagle feather implementation across the division and in adding the MLSN in Pros. Their ideas and initiative will be supported for ongoing objective setting and execution of projects.
- 6. Initiative tracking
On a quarterly basis, senior management will be required to report to the Division Executive Committee (DEC) on the initiatives taking place and progress so that updates to the strategy can be made as required.
H Division has implemented various initiatives to ensure that information is frequently reviewed and aligns with divisional priorities.
The most important piece will be to continue to connect with Mi'Kmaq and Indigenous communities in the province to better understand a shared perspective of truth and trust, and how the RCMP can continue to make progress along the path of reconciliation.
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