M Division Reconciliation Strategy – Our approach to relationship building

Fortymile caribou herd on Top of the World Highway, Dawson City, Yukon, at sunset

October 2020


In 2010, Yukon undertook to re-build trust and confidence in policing through dialogue, engagement and action. Beginning in April 2010 the Review of Yukon's Police Force invited citizens, service providers, RCMP employees and governments to express their concerns, ideas and vision for Yukon's Police Service.

The Review was Co-Chaired by the Government of Yukon Deputy Minister of Justice, the Commanding Officer of the Yukon RCMP and the Justice Manager of the Council of Yukon First Nations. An Advisory Committee made up of representatives of women's organizations, Aboriginal women's organizations, the Association of Yukon Communities, the RCMP and Government of Yukon Departments of Community Services, Health and Social Services, Justice and Women's Directorate guided the review.

The discussions that occurred with First Nations citizens reflected their complex relationship with the Yukon RCMP. A number of recommendations were made and form part of the existing Yukon story of meeting the needs of our local indigenous peoples and reconciliation.Footnote 1

In December 2010, the Co-Chairs submitted the final report entitled Sharing Common Ground – Final report on implementation of the review of Yukon's police force, containing 33 recommendations and outlining a blueprint for change, to the Minister of Justice. Implementation of the recommendations began in March 2011, with a small ad hoc working group made up of representatives of Yukon Justice, Council of Yukon First Nations, RCMP and Kwanlin Dün First Nation helping to guide the early steps.

The delivery of police services in Yukon has changed in many positive and meaningful ways because of Sharing Common Ground implementation. New services, policies, and programs have been created and integrated into the ongoing business of the partner organizations involved. Strengthening relationships between RCMP, the Council of Yukon First Nations, First Nation governments, Government of Yukon, women's organizations and communities. Community safety issues have been identified and are being addressed in a collaborative manner with lessons learned from the Review forming the foundation for a new way of working together. The Yukon RCMP has evolved from Sharing Common Ground and is continually evolving.

In light of the work that has been done through this and other initiatives, our reconciliation strategy is rather our 'approach to relationship building'. This is our story.


  • The establishment of the Yukon Police Council, which has a mandate to ensure community needs and values are reflected in Territorial Policing policies and practices. The council is comprised of six community members, three of whom are nominated by First Nations. The council provides advice to the Minister of Justice and facilitates input from fellow citizens and promote ongoing dialogue on policing issues important to the community
  • A Specialized Response Unit (SRU) was established within the RCMP to provide a more comprehensive and coordinated response to domestic violence and sexualized assault. This unit provides oversight, guidance, training and investigational support, with a goal of improving police response to these cases Yukon-wide on a 24/7 basis. The Specialized Response Units focus is centered on the needs of the victim, ensuring that the RCMP is responding in a victim-centered, trauma-informed manner
  • The Yukon First Nations History and Cultures program was developed by the Northern Institute of Social Justice, the Yukon College First Nation Initiatives Program, Council of Yukon First Nations, Yukon RCMP and Government of Yukon Departments of Justice and Health and Social Services, to help police and other service providers better understand the communities in which they live and work
  • The Yukon Sisters in Spirit (YSIS) project, established in April 2010, is hosted by the Yukon Aboriginal Women's Council, as the only Yukon-wide regional Aboriginal women's organization, and a sister agency to Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC). YAWC works closely with Canada, Yukon Government, and the RCMP to provide ongoing support to research on MMIWG cases, advocacy outreach prevention, and land-based healing for survivors of violence and MMIWG family members. The Yukon Sisters in Spirit project, established prior to the MMIWG final report publication, is an example of working collaboratively with front line organizations as identified in Calls for Justice 9.7.

    The design of this project included the voices of missing and murdered Indigenous women's families and communities in all aspects of the project, and worked hard to develop and support ongoing relationships based on trust and reciprocity.

    The project was specifically developed to:

    • Research the circumstances and events surrounding missing and murdered Aboriginal women from Yukon
    • Create resources for families and communities of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Yukon
    • Talk to families of the women, and involve them in raising awareness about violence against Aboriginal women
    • Each October, YAWC organizes the Yukon Sisters in Spirit Walk and Vigil. The purpose is to collectively honour the victims and families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Yukon and northern BC and advance the calls for justice of the National Inquiry into MMIWG.
  • The Yukon RCMP continues to be an active participant in the Yukon Sexualized Assault Response Team (SART) implementation committee, as well as the development and training committee. Continuing to evaluate what has been done thus far, where we can improve, and what additionally is needed to enhance the program. The Yukon RCMP's participation within SART allows for reciprocal sharing and receiving of information relating to updates and changes taking place within the organization.

    In September 2020, SART began their evaluation process and RCMP employees assisted by providing interviews and completing surveys in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the program. Yukon RCMP are committed to ensuring investigative excellence and support for victims of sexual assault in Canada.

    The RCMP's objectives within the SART program include:

    • Treat victims of sexual assault with compassion, care and respect, informed by established evidence-based best practices. RCMP has developed new training in the area of Trauma-Informed investigative practices, which is mandatory for all Yukon RCMP officers. These important concepts establish trust, compassion, and respect for all victims of crime.
    • Conduct sexual assault investigations across Canada consistently and to the highest professional standards, with oversight practices established to ensure the greatest level of accountability and stewardship of investigations. National RCMP policy provides the overarching protocols for RCMP practices. Divisional policy specific to the Yukon also guides members in their duties, recognizing that programs and services vary greatly from each Province/Territory.

Current efforts

Commanding Officer's Yukon First Nation Advisory Committee

  • The Commanding Officer's Yukon First Nation Advisory Committee (COYFNAC) was established in 1999 to foster a healthy and positive relationship between Yukon First Nations people and Yukon RCMP through discussion of issues and concerns. COYFNAC meet twice per year, holding one meeting in a Yukon community and the second in Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon Territory. Due to COVID restrictions, COYFNAC has moved to an online/teleconference format for the immediate future.
  • The Commanding officer meets with all First Nations leaders on a regular basis, as well as the Grand Chief when time is available at the Council for Yukon First Nations. In February 2020 the Commanding Officer was invited to speak at the 'Exploring Justice our Way' Conference held in Whitehorse at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

First Nations (Indigenous) Employee Council

M Division is currently exploring the establishment of an Indigenous Employee council.

Restorative Justice

The MMIWG Calls to Justice 5.11 states "We call upon all governments to increase accessibility to meaningful and culturally appropriate justice practices by expanding restorative justice programs and Indigenous Peoples' courts."

The Yukon RCMP recognizes the importance of restorative justice programs in Yukon communities and the benefits of diverting appropriate criminal matters from the conventional court process. In order for a Restorative Justice Program to be successful in a community, it must be community based. Yukon RCMP, Department of Justice, Corrections Branch and The Public Prosecution Service of Canada have collectively signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Although dated, it identifies a commitment to work towards establishing a pre-charge diversion process for adults who commit federal offences where there is community engagement to establish a Restorative Justice Program (RJP). Although there has been an available Restorative Justice Program for youth through Youth Justice, Health and Social Services since 2002, there were limited similar Restorative Justice Programs for adults.

Recent alternative measures in Yukon

In August 2019, to assist Kwanlin Dün First Nation's movement towards successfully developing their own healing and sentencing circles, Whitehorse RCMP Cst. Desmond Jackson planned and organized 'Culturally Relevant Training in Restorative Justice Practices' to Kwanlin Dün First Nation staff, Yukon RCMP members and other government partners.

This training resulted in meaningful engagement focused on the needs of the community. A very prominent indigenous instructor/facilitator attended Whitehorse and facilitated the teaching workshop. KDFN staff, RCMP and RCMP Government partners attended this training on the foundations of effective First Nations based restorative justice practices and principles. This joint training promoted the benefits of restorative practices as an effective compliment to the criminal justice system.

In 2020, the Kwanlin Dün First Nations established a restorative justice program. Previously, no programs were available in Whitehorse, to accept adult diversion referrals. Since its establishment, the RCMP identified two cases involving Kwanlin Dün citizens, which were appropriate for diversion and engaged the program. The two incidents have been heard and resulted in a signed agreement between the offender(s) (property crime) and the victim. The circle(s) included participation of a local First Nations elder that initiated the opening and closing prayer, and ensured the process was traditional in nature. Going forward, the Yukon RCMP will continue to assist and support KDFN as they learn more about this process.

Peacemaker Circle Training

From September 3rd until November 20th, 2020, Cpl. Tim Harper of Carcross Detachment was invited to participate in Carcross Tagish First Nation (CTFN) Peacemaking Circle Training Foundations. Cpl. Harper is the first RCMP officer to attend this training and his participation was well received. "It was an honour to attend and it was a great experience that provided me with an opportunity to learn about the Carcross Tagish First Nation culture, practices, and traditional lands. It provided me with a new skill set and better understanding of the utilization of Peacemaking Circles as an adjunct to the judicial system to promote healing and relationship building. I participated in the program with some very passionate and excellent people from all different walks of life with very interesting stories. I feel that the RCMP being involved in this program is paramount to the continuous relationship building between the community and the RCMP." Cpl. Tim Harper.

The course consisted of four weeks of training focusing on;

  • Traditional Values
  • Inter-generational Trauma
  • In Dignity- Justice on the land and resistance to violence
  • Circle Foundations

Peacemaking circles are based on traditional values and bring together families and communities to deal with traumas and / or conflict. The circle provides the opportunity to acknowledge and respect each individual impacted and provide an opportunity to develop 'consensus based' outcomes. The circle is a process of balancing relationship-building and problem solving. It digs deep into the roots of the underlying issues and seeks to introduce changes, finding common ground or agreement and transform into healthier relationships and healing processes.

In Restorative Justice, a "Sentencing Circle Gathering" would be an appropriate means, with the offender and the victim and supporting parties present. Through stages of the circle, the keepers facilitate the circle process to address the surrounding issues, consensus for action plans, agreements / consensus, extra resources required, and follow up / next steps.

Yukon Advisory Committee (MMIW&G)

The Yukon RCMP Commanding officer participates as an ex officio member of the Yukon Advisory Committee on a Yukon Strategy in response to the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW&G). The Minister responsible for the Women's Directorate in Yukon chairs the committee.

The Yukon Advisory Committee (YAC) has developed a Yukon Strategy based on the National Inquiry's Calls for Justice, a review of other national and territorial reports, and recommendations from past gatherings of family members. This long-term strategy will represent a whole of Yukon approach, outlining specific action plans and roles for all stakeholders and all Yukoners to play. The Yukon RCMP has implemented many changes since the publication of the MMIWG calls for Justice in 2019 and is fully in place to support the Yukon Strategy going forward. The Yukon plan, titled 'Changing the Story to Upholding Dignity and Justice: Yukons MMIWG2S+ People Strategy' was released on December 10, 2020.

Healing Circles (MMIW&G)

The Yukon Aboriginal Women's Council (YAWC) invited the Historical Case Unit (HCU) to participate in six Healing Circles within the Yukon Territory. YAWC delivers sharing circles, gatherings, and healing camps that bring families together to inform them about available resources and services. HCU's participation in the Healing Circles provides opportunity to share information and resources as well as building relationships with other participants. These gatherings have resulted in the re-opening and/or researching of several allegations of Missing Persons, or Sudden Death investigations not previously known to the Unit. This has involved liaising with other Major Crime and Historical Homicide Units across the country as the incident may have taken place outside the Yukon. Healing Circle sessions were held in Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Lower Post BC, Haines Junction, Dawson City and Pelly Crossing. There are several more planned by YWAC with future dates and locations to be announced.

Community engagement

The efforts and involvement of Yukon RCMP in their respective communities are almost too numerous to list. For our employees, community engagement is a way of being and many engagements evolve, on an ongoing basis, throughout the year. These efforts/engagements are documented within the Annual Performance Plans.

Local orientation of new police officers is carried out informally with First Nations and community leaders, and often identifies new areas for development. Going forward, as Letters of Expectation are developed in Yukon communities, having a community mentor identified to provide meaningful orientation have been identified as a priority.

The following are some examples of both current and ongoing efforts in Yukon.

Letter of Expectation

In July 2020, the Acting OIC of Whitehorse Detachment and Chief Doris Bill of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) signed a Letter of Expectation (LOE). The Letter of Expectation (LOE) defines and promotes positive and co-operative relationships and provides policing priorities, goals, and strategies that are specific to the needs of Kwanlin Dün First Nation. The four priorities in the LOE are Communication, Relationship Building, KDFN Youth Partnerships, and Community Safety. The Parties seek to achieve community security and public safety for KDFN citizens and families through a meaningful positive partnership built on openness, collaboration and cultural understanding.

The KDFN Community Tripartite Agreement (the "CTA") provides the opportunity for designated members of the RCMP to provide "enhanced policing services" which are intended to advance community safety through strategies addressing root causes of criminal behaviour. These strategies include but are not exclusive to community engagement and mobilization, victim services, school visitation programs, proactive youth interactions, interagency cooperation and liaison with the community.

Consultation on staffing of Detachment Commanders

Letters were sent to Carcross Tagish First Nation, White River First Nation, Na-cho Nyak Dunn First Nation, and conversations held with the Chief of Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation to seek consultation regarding what attributes/qualities they desired in new Detachment Commanders for their communities.

The Yukon RCMP were pleased to have a member of the Liard First Nations participate in the interview for the vacant Detachment Commander position in the community of Watson Lake.

We are all Treaty People

The RCMP has continued efforts towards Reconciliation with First Nations has identified the re-print and display of the Banner 'we are all Treaty People: Shared History of Canada'. This banner, or learning tool, offers each employee the opportunity to view in their respective workplaces with the intention of developing a greater understanding of the history endured by both the original peoples of Canada and of those titled settlers. Of note, highlighted in display, the years 1990 to 2020 specific to the changing landscape of Indigenous peoples and continuing efforts amendments of 'The Indian Act'.

Burwash Landing/Destruction Bay

In June, the Yukon RCMP Commanding officer met with Chief Bob Dickson in Burwash Landing. Discussion related to the need for more police visibility and drug/alcohol enforcement in the community. Based on this request, the decision was made to have two RCMP members stationed in Destruction Bay/ Burwash Landing area for each long weekend throughout the summer months to increase police presence in these communities. The RCMP in neighbouring detachments also increased the frequency of patrols to these communities.

Fireweed Pins

Beaded Fireweed pin on moose hide.

Many Yukon RCMP Officers have been the recipients of beaded Fireweed Flower Pins, which they proudly wear on their uniforms. Citizens of multiple First Nations in Yukon made these tokens of appreciation for frontline workers. The Fireweed Pins show support for front line workers across the Territory.

Tr'ondëk Hwech'in First Hunt

Members of the Dawson City RCMP Detachment took part in the Tr'ondëk Hwech'in, First Hunt that ran from October 23 to the 26th, 2020. The First Hunt was established to ensure the traditions and knowledge of honouring and consuming from the land and water are honoured. This years First Hunt activities took place at the Tr'ondëk Hwech'in camp at Cache Creek on the Dempster Highway, as well as the Hart River Road. Sixteen youth took part in the First Hunt with the group split in half each day. One group of youth would go hunting and the other group would remain in camp and work on things such as firearms safety and outdoor skills. The Dawson City RCMP members worked with the youth on their firearms safety and helped them with target shooting on the range. After the target shooting, members took part in helping set up an archery range for the youth and helped chop firewood. There were also games such as a tea-boiling contest where youth had to use their fire starting skills to get a fire started quickly and boil water.

Moose hunt

Kwanlin Dün First Nations (KDFN) RCMP members in partnership with KDFN Justice, Recreation, Lands and Community Safety Officers planned and participated in a youth moose hunt in September of 2020. All parties, including a KDFN elder, took part in a three-day hunt/ land based learning experience on the traditional territory of the KDFN. During the event, the elder provided participants with a valuable presentation on trapping and other traditional cultural training. The elder had spent time hunting and trapping on this specific piece of land for decades.

During the event, participants were able to get out on the land alongside the elder who provided the participants with local and traditional knowledge. The elder showed participants a part of his trap line, traps, sets, and presented participants with an opportunity to harvest a bull moose. The elder demonstrated how to dress the animal in a traditional method. Once field dressed, specific parts of the animal were set aside and later delivered by the youth to community elders. This traditional practice in First Nations culture ensures that bonds between youth and elders are strengthened and there remains a bridge for sharing customary skills between generations. Consistent with First Nation community ideals, the rest of the meat was shared with the KDFN community.

The event was a success and provided local youth with land based learning and cultural knowledge, which is a priority. Connection with cultural activities and identification with traditional knowledge reduces the likelihood of being involved in crime.

Bike Rodeo

In Whitehorse, Cst. Dan Fox of the Kwanlin Dün First Nations (KDFN) unit, working closely with the KDFN recreation team, organized a Bike Rodeo Event. Cst. Fox engaged a local mountain bike company, Terra Rides, who brought three instructors to the event to maximize the number of youth that could participate. Through involvement with the recreation team, Cst. Fox obtained a grant to help fund the event, as well as purchase new mountain bikes for the recreation team. This initiative was born of Cst. Fox's engagement with the youth of KDFN and his personal background in mountain biking. It was a wonderful opportunity to build upon existing relationships with KDFN and was a huge success.

Reconciliation – Our vision

Reconciliation is not a single event or something to be checked off a list. It is a commitment to foster a respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples and communities, done in good faith, honour and fairness.

Although reconciliation is rooted in events of the past, it should not dwell upon the past; equally, each positive act of reconciliation should not be viewed as much as an accomplishment unto itself, but as a small step along a continuum. Effectively, reconciliation is a lens through which we monitor our decisions and actions, always with a view to the future.

Reconciliation – A Yukon Policing Priority

Yukon Territorial Policing Priorities for 2020-2021:

Priority 1: Improve engagement to increase public trust.

The primary objectives for this priority include:

  • Trust – so that RCMP members are visible and approachable to the public.
  • Proactive engagement – so that RCMP members commit to outreach, interactions with partner agencies, and collaboration with First Nations resulting in meaningful engagements that are focused on the needs of all Yukoners.
  • Response – so RCMP members are able to contribute to a trauma-informed focus that supports unbiased, respectful and culturally sensitive police response.
  • Wellness – since police are exposed to some of the most challenging and traumatic events in the course of their work, the RCMP must advance self-care, mental health and member wellness strategies as being essential for all members of the RCMP.
  • Public awareness – the RCMP must contribute to public education related to individual rights and responsibilities when interacting with the RCMP. This will help to promote safety and comfort during RCMP interactions. Education sessions should include information on how to make an effective complaint and how to offer comments about RCMP conduct.
Priority 3: Foster meaningful relationships with First Nations, including Elders, and throughout the communities.

The primary objectives for this priority include:

  • Strengthening lines of communication between First Nations, community members and the RCMP to ensure that the delivery of policing services is professional, dedicated and responsive to the needs, traditions and cultures of Yukon First Nations.
  • Engaging partner First Nations to develop meaningful policing priorities for each community participating in the First Nations Policing Program.
  • Including First Nations in the screening processes for RCMP members who are going to communities, and ensuring that new police officers receive a community orientation delivered in collaboration with First Nations, community leaders and other local stakeholders.
  • Supporting RCMP members in all detachments to contribute to community safety planning processes undertaken by their communities.
  • Refining the RCMP's role to help maintain healthy, safe communities; alongside other community supports such as the auxiliary policing program, community safety officers, community safety guards, and the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods unit (SCAN).

Reconciliation – The way forward

Our Strategy is focused on relationship building with our First Nations community members. It is fundamental to policing in the Yukon Territory and is supported at all levels of our Division. To ensure this relationship is never perceived as a 'box ticking' exercise, each RCMP Detachment member in the Yukon is encouraged to develop their own initiatives based on relationships within their respective communities. The innovative efforts indicated in the 'current efforts' portion of this report are an indication of the uniqueness of this relationship building.

Two of the five policing priorities identified in the 2020-21 Territorial Police Service Agreement reflect the foundation for relationship building as a Yukon Priority. Therefore, the Yukon RCMP's Annual Performance Plans reflect these policing priorities in their initiatives and objectives. Each Detachment commander will identify these priorities in their APP and will develop initiatives through engagement with their own unique community.

The RCMP has shared a great deal of history with First Nations communities across Yukon. While much of that history has been well intended and positive, there have been some troubling times as well. The legacy of residential schools is a painful memory for the many who endured and survived it, and an important lesson for all of us to remember. This is not an opinion of mine; it is a simple fact. From a divisional perspective, it is our sincere wish that each employee thinks about reconciliation, and what each employee can do to contribute to it.

The steps that employees of the Yukon RCMP take towards reconciliation do not have to be complex or lengthy, but they must be meaningful and sincere. Reconciliation should be a step-by-step progressive endeavour to not only learn from our past, but also how we must move forward together, nation-to-nation. It is an endeavour to learn, at every stage, the impact of our actions, the positive and the negative, and build upon these impacts in a meaningful way. Contributing to a respectful nation can take on many different shapes and sizes. Small acts of reconciliation can have as much impact as large scale initiatives.

C/Supt Scott Sheppard, Commanding Officer Yukon RCMP.
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