By Jensen, Randy on June 20, 2020.
Submitted by Blood Tribe Chief and Council
The Blood Tribe joins the many voices in speaking out against systemic racism and the detrimental effects it has on the health and well-being of Indigenous people and other people of colour, not only in Canada but also around the world. All people have the right be treated fairly, equally and with respect, compassion and dignity regardless of ethnicity.
Blood Tribe members have had their share of encounters with systemic racism in all areas including the criminal justice system such as in policing, and accessing other services off the reserve in health, education, employment, housing and retail. Like other people of colour, Blood Tribe members have also been subjected to racial profiling by police and border crossing officials. Issues in policing came to a head in the late 1980s, resulting in the Rolf Inquiry on “Policing in relation to the Blood Tribe,” which investigated suspicious deaths of a number of Blood Tribe members.
Chief Roy Fox and Council had successfully convinced the provincial and federal governments that a public inquiry be conducted on inadequate police investigations regarding homicides of Indigenous people in southern Alberta. Unfortunately, the reaction of certain police forces to the inquiry resulted in physical and planned attacks to Chief Fox and his family as well as other Blood Tribe members, even before the inquiry started. The Chief was ambushed and assaulted by members of the RCMP near his home; and a fellow tribal member was shot and killed in broad daylight by a member of the Lethbridge City Police.
The Chief was charged with assaulting two police officers; however, he was found not guilty due to credible witnesses. No charges were laid against the Lethbridge police officer who shot and killed the Blood Tribe member on the eve of the inquiry hearings. These incidents happened over 30 years ago and even though some of the recommendations of the Blood Inquiry resulted in limited positive changes, systemic racism is alive and well today in the south and obviously in other parts of Canada.
The inquiry’s recommendations resulted in the establishment of an independent Blood Tribe Police Service (BTPS) replacing the RCMP and the Kainai Corrections Centre, a minimum-security facility. The BTPS continues to function as an independent service but not without funding challenges. Unfortunately, an arbitrary classification of Indigenous inmates as medium security or higher risk, without considering a lesser classification, resulted in KCCS losing potential inmates/clients, the end result being the defunding and closure of the Kainai Corrections minimum security facility. After 20 years of operation, its closure ended a valuable Indigenous-based corrections program that was seeing great success and was a means of addressing the systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
Two summers ago presented another particularly problematic time, leading Blood Tribe Chief and Council to pursue the development of a multi-phased research study that would attempt to get at the substantive issues behind racism and reach out to its non-Indigenous neighbours to work collaboratively on new relationships that would lessen the impacts of racism on Blood Tribe members, especially children.
Funded by the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund, the study is now underway. Dr. Gabrielle Lindstrom, a professor at Mount Royal University, is leading the study. An online and mail-in survey will soon be available for Blood Tribe members to complete. Blood Tribe also intends to conduct circle dialogues with its members and key target groups in the surrounding areas of southern Alberta.
Studies have proven that racism is a form of violence that has long-term effects on people. For racism to be experienced as violence, it does not have to be physical. Violence causes trauma, which interferes with a child’s development and has lifelong effects on a person’s mental and physical health.
Racism is systemic in that it is based on the core ideology of the dominant group and this ideology is manifested in its culture and institutions and expressed in the attitudes and behaviours of its members toward other groups who are seen as racially different. Contrary to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki’s statement last week, systemic racism is very much a part of Canadian institutions such as the RCMP.
We can, however, work collectively to address racism. The move in Canada to reconcile with Indigenous Peoples should really be a move to address and eliminate systemic racism in all institutions and all areas of life, anything less than that would be a futile exercise.