Working Together to End Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls National Scan of RCMP Initiatives May 2017
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is committed to the prevention of violence against women. As frontline police officers, we know that Indigenous women are at greater risk of being victimized; because of this, the RCMP Commissioner called for more research on this issue. The resulting 2014 Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview, and the subsequent 2015 Update to the National Operational Overview, provided the most comprehensive and accurate statistics available to date on the extent of the problem of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), incorporating data from police forces Canada-wide.
The 2014 report found 1,181 police-recorded incidents of Indigenous female homicides between 1980 and 2012, and missing Indigenous females dating back to 1951. Of these, there were 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims, making Indigenous women and girls over-represented among missing and murdered women in Canada. The data also found that police solve almost 90% of homicides of Indigenous women and girls; the clearance rate for Indigenous women was 88% versus 89% for non-Indigenous women. The Statistics Canada Homicide Report, 2014 found that Indigenous women are six times more likely to be the victim of a homicide than are non-Indigenous womenFootnote1.
Both the Overview and the subsequent Update made another fact clear: in most cases the perpetrators of these crimes were known to their victims. The most likely perpetrator of solved homicides of Indigenous women were acquaintances (30%) and spouses (29%), followed by other categories of relationships such as other family members and other intimate relationshipsFootnote2. These reports guide our continued efforts, and focus our crime prevention strategies in the communities most vulnerable to violence against Indigenous women.
This report provides a summary of family violence, violence prevention, MMIWG and related initiatives conducted or participated in by the RCMP at the national, divisional and detachment levels. Annex A provides greater detail on the initiatives by division in which the RCMP has policing jurisdiction. Annex B provides a map of RCMP jurisdictions.
There are three broad types of initiatives. The first involves policing, investigations or the justice system. The second relates to outreach and prevention activities (as part of the outreach, RCMP employees participate or hold short-term workshops and presentations on crime prevention topics for specific audiencesFootnote3. These have been identified separately for clarity). Finally, there are special initiatives such as shelters specifically for Indigenous women and children seeking refuge from violence, which are outlined under “Other Initiatives.”
While the RCMP is only one partner among many agencies that must work to improve this issue, we are cognizant of the key role we play in Canada’s communities. A collective focus on healthy familial relationships, particularly in vulnerable communities, is needed to mitigate violence towards Indigenous women. We remain committed to not only resolving outstanding cases and providing justice for families, but striving to prevent future tragedies from occurring.
Policing, Investigative and Justice Initiatives
Alternative Service Models
Community Constable Program
The RCMP’s operational response is based on cultural awareness and sensitivity to the issues involved in policing Indigenous communities. In order to ensure an appropriate and culturally effective policing response, the RCMP has a number of initiatives in place.
In 2011, the first pilot troop of Aboriginal Community Constables graduated from Depot. This troop was focused on providing an alternative service delivery option in some Indigenous communities in Canada. In 2013, the Senior Executive Committee approved the rebranding of the program as the Community Constable Program and expanded the pilot program to any community to participate. The first troop of Community Constables graduated from Depot, the RCMP’s training academy, in Regina, Saskatchewan, in February 2016. There were candidates from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and British Columbia in this first troop. An evaluation of the Community Constable Program is scheduled for the 2017-18 fiscal year; at this time, the program remains a pilot.
The Community Constable Program involves armed, uniformed peace officers recruited from the communities they serve. Their primary focus is on crime prevention and building relationships within their communities.
Three Community Constables have been serving in “D” Division since 2013. They were hired through the original Aboriginal Community Constable pilot program. They are now complemented by an additional four Community Constables who completed Depot training in April 2016. The four new Community Constables are Indigenous.
In response to the termination of the federal Band Constable Program, in November 2014, the Government of Manitoba tabled Bill 5, The Police Services Amendment Act (First Nation Safety Officers), creating the First Nation Safety Officer Program. The program contains significant improvements to the former Band Constable Program through a focus on qualifications, training, and a clear legislative foundation and program parameters, as well as defining the relationship between the First Nation Safety Officers and local policing authorities.
Manitoba had 31 First Nation communities that received funding through Public Safety Canada for the Band Constable Program. With the termination of the Band Constable Program, the Province of Manitoba has secured the previous federal funding, and provided additional provincial funding towards establishing the First Nation Safety Officer Program in these communities. Approximately 80 First Nation Safety Officers were trained prior to March 31, 2016. First Nation Safety Officers will assist with community safety, crime prevention, restorative justice and the enforcement of First Nation bylaws, along with select portions of provincial legislation, e.g., Highway Traffic Act, Liquor Control Act.
First Nations Policing Policy and Program
The First Nations Policing Policy was approved in 1991 as the framework for the negotiation of culturally appropriate policing arrangements between the federal, provincial or territorial governments and First Nation and Inuit communities. The policy is intended to provide First Nation and Inuit communities with access to police services that are professional, effective, culturally appropriate and accountable, without prejudice to the provinces or territories that are responsible for policing their respective jurisdictions.
The purpose of the program is to support the provision of police services in First Nation and Inuit communities, where such services are presumed to contribute to the improvement of social order, public security and personal safety, in particular for women, children and other vulnerable groups. The program is intended to enhance public safety in First Nation and Inuit communities; it is not intended to replace police services normally provided by the province or territory. The program supports the provision of professional, dedicated and culturally responsive policing services, and has had a measurable and positive impact on public safety.
The First Nations Policing Policy and Program are currently being reviewed to reflect modern policing and policy landscapes, and ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of the program into the future. This renewal exercise is expected to be completed by March 31, 2018, when current agreements will expire. Consideration will be given to how the Policy and Program can continue to address the needs of vulnerable groups, for instance by preventing violence against women and girls.
Coordination and Cooperation
Aboriginal Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit
In 2004, “C” Division created an integrated team to focus on organized crime occurring on Indigenous territories or affecting residents of Indigenous communities in Quebec. This team still exists and primarily consists of police officers from the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec, and various Quebec Indigenous communities. Different police officers from Indigenous communities are rotated through the team every 12 to 24 months. Over the years, the unit has trained and prepared dozens of Indigenous police officers to conduct investigations focusing on organized crime and drug enforcement.
The unit has developed a two-hour awareness workshop on human trafficking with a special emphasis on Indigenous persons. This workshop was given at the 2016 Quebec Aboriginal Chiefs of Police Annual Meeting, which was organized by the Quebec Department of Public Safety.
The Hub/Cor Model provides immediate, coordinated, and integrated responses through the mobilization of resources to address situations facing individuals and/or families with acutely elevated risk factors, as identified by a range of service providers. The model has decreased crime rates and improved the lives of individuals. The Hub/Cor model is being utilized in “D”, “E”, “F”, “J” and “K” Divisions. It is based on the model first set up in Canada, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Other communities have employed similar Hub‑type committees. For example, in 2001, four community organizations in Selkirk, Manitoba, became concerned that youth requiring multi-agency involvement were falling through the cracks. Each organization held a piece of the puzzle, but no one had a complete picture. Carefully treading uncharted territory and with the Youth Criminal Justice Act mandating multi-disciplinary approaches, they created a collaborative communication network so that agencies could work together in the best interest of the youth and their families. This collaboration became what is now the Selkirk Team for At-Risk Teens (S.T.A.R.T.) Program. On May 2, 2013, the Coordinator of S.T.A.R.T. attended the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to talk about and answer questions about the S.T.A.R.T. model. The model is now being used in four other communities in Manitoba, with growing interest at the national level.
Inter-Agency Family Violence Coordination
The RCMP works with key stakeholders to identify victims at highest risk. Victims can be safely removed from danger while the RCMP investigates the offender. Victims are provided with emotional and financial support. Inter-agency cooperation is key due to certain challenges, including geography and a lack of cell service in some areas. These are mini-Hubs, which utilize the resources available in communities, nearby and further afield, as necessary.
Risk Management Team
Similar to Hubs, the composition of the Risk Management Teams differs by community, but usually it involves representation from the RCMP, Crown Counsel, probation, mental health and addiction counsellors, nurses, Elders, and the Chief and Council, who meet regularly. The group discusses issues and trends and identifies “at risk” community members. Those at risk are typically victims of family violence and/ or those with high risk lifestyles. Interventions are specific to individuals. For example, the group may offer enrollment in addictions treatment, or have conditions placed on an accused to protect the victim from further abuse. Safety plans are put in place where needed prior to court to protect the victims. In other models, families with lower risks are identified, with the permission of the families themselves, and they are referred to intervention teams to assist with resource options.
Third Party Reporting
Third party reporting is an initiative between the RCMP and the Yukon Women’s Transition Home to address the fact that sexual assaults are one of the most underreported crimes in Canada. Many victims of sexual assault do not report to police, particularly those from Indigenous communities. Third party reporting is a process where a victim can report a sexual assault to the police anonymously, while at the same time receiving support and assistance. Police are able to evaluate the information and then follow up with the victim by requesting that the third party ask the victim contact a specific police officer.
Western Canada Criminal Operations Officers Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Missing Persons Working Group
RCMP Criminal Operations Officers from western provinces (“D”, “E”, “F”, and “K” Divisions) meet to discuss MMIWG and missing persons investigations in order to identify challenges and gaps and share best practices.
Operational Policy Development, Review and Updates
Operational polices are continually reviewed and updated, and new ones added as necessary. Selected policies are noted below.
Child Abuse: The Child Abuse Policy is currently being updated.
Elder Abuse: The Elder Abuse Policy is new. It is awaiting publication.
Matrimonial Property: The Matrimonial Property Policy is new. It is awaiting publication.
Missing Persons Intake Form: The RCMP has developed a new Missing Persons Intake Form, which will record information to assist in missing persons investigations, and potential future investigations of repeat occurrences. This is a mandatory, national form and will enhance the quality of missing persons investigations across the country. The form is part of the RCMP’s National Missing Persons Strategy. The updated Missing Persons policy was published on December 12, 2016. A Missing Persons Investigators course is also being created. The expected roll-out of this course is May 2017; it will be a mandatory course for all members who investigate missing persons.
Restorative Justice: The Restorative Justice Policy is new and was published on June 24, 2016. Transgender Persons in Custody: The Transgender Persons in Custody policy is new and was published on July 12, 2016. It addresses transgender persons as they are being taken into RCMP custody, while they remain in RCMP custody, or while being transferred by the RCMP.
Truth and Reconciliation: An analysis of the actions recommended in the Truth and Reconciliation report related to policing and justice is underway. The RCMP is preparing policy in direct response to Call to Action #25, which states: “We call upon the federal government to establish a written policy that reaffirms the independence of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate crimes in which the government has its own interest as a potential or real party in civil litigation.” Furthermore, the RCMP participates on a federal Truth and Reconciliation Working Group which is developing the whole-of-government response to the Calls to Action.
Victim Assistance: The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights came into effect in April 2015. The RCMP kept its employees advised via Frequently Asked Questions and information about the repercussions to the RCMP and how to implement the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights requirements. The Victim Assistance Policy was updated to reflect the Canadian Victim Bill of Rights. The updated version was published on January 1, 2016.
Violence and Abuse in Relationships: The Violence and Abuse in Relationships Policy has been significantly updated and was published on March 2, 2016. Youth Officer: The Youth Officer Policy is new. A Youth Officer, also known as a School Liaison Officer, School Resource Officer, or Youth Liaison, is a RCMP member designated to work with youth, in schools, with parents, and in community agencies to foster positive relationships between youth and the police. It was published on December 30, 2015.
Improving our Understanding of the Issues
Detachment-Specific Family Violence Statistics
Reviewing statistics by detachments allows detachment commanders and crime reduction units to work with local First Nations Chief and Council to identify ways in which services can be provided and for crime prevention initiatives to be targeted specifically at the community needs.
The RCMP participates in and partners with experts on a variety of initiatives related to this issue. Detachments in the North District of “E” Division have participated in a multi-year hitchhiking study undertaken by the University of Northern British Columbia. As part of the initiative, GPS devices were provided to commercial carriers along Highways 16 and 97; when a driver observes a hitchhiker, they press a button to log the time, date and coordinates. Detachments along the highways’ corridors developed policies which direct RCMP members, when operationally feasible, to make personal contact with people they see hitchhiking. Specifically, these people will be queried in the Canadian Police Information Centre database with their locations noted. These people are also informed of the inherent dangers of hitchhiking. In addition, the Canadian Police Information Centre will continue to be used to ensure there are no outstanding matters (e.g. missing person reports) with respect to the person being checked.