April 12th, 2024

College makes good on decades old recommendation for Indigenous policing program

By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on October 31, 2023.

Lethbridge College photo by Rob Olson Blood Tribe Police Const. Tristan Black Water helps carry the colours during Lethbridge College's annual Stone Pipe Pow Wow earlier this spring. The college has recently launched an Indigenous Policing Micro-Credentials program

After two years in development, Lethbridge College has launched a program aimed at public safety workers to improve services provided to members of the Indigenous community.

Constructed as six individual sections, the Indigenous Policing Micro-Credentials program was originally intended for members of police working on First Nations but evolving to include those working in any part of the country not only in policing but also in public safety and justice.

“Our child and youth care workers would benefit from some of the courses, our social workers, anybody dealing with trauma informed practice,” says Dean for the Centre of Justice and Human Services at Lethbridge College, Trudi Mason.

The reason for the expansion, says Mason, came when conversations between the Lethbridge College faculty and the Blood Tribe began.

“We quickly discovered these weren’t about the law, at all. There are pieces of the law in them – the (Controlled Substances Act) is certainly in there…But it was more about communication and culture.”

The program comes after a recommendation was made 32 years ago in the public inquiry report on ‘Policing in relation to the Blood Tribe’, requested by Chief Roy Fox and completed by Commissioner C.H. Rolf.

The inquiry was prompted after a tumultuous decade that included the Cardston Blockade in 1980 and allegations that police failed to thoroughly investigate the sudden deaths of many Blood Tribe members.

In response to a letter written by Chief Fox in April of 1988, the results of the inquiry were released in 1991 and included 36 recommendations. The 30th called for Lethbridge College (at the time Lethbridge Community College’) to create educational programs for members of the “predominant population” who work with the Blood Tribe on aspects of Blackfoot culture.

While this recommendation from the ‘Policing in relation to the Blood Tribe’ inquiry report spent three decades all but forgotten about, Mason says it was former Blood Tribe Chief of Police, Brice Iron Shirt, who approached her about developing the program.

As the social conversation regarding police services has shifted in recent years, most specifically following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that ignited widespread public demonstrations in the spring of 2020, so too has the approach to education.

“We have some social issues that we need to deal with,” she explains, “It’s just a small piece that we can give back towards reconciliation.”

The Indigenous Policing Micro-Credentials program was created in direct consultation with the Blood Tribe, including Elders and police services.

“It really was inspired by the passion and dedication of the Blood Tribe Police Service. The impetus came directly from the Blood Tribe Police Service, it’s a really interesting way to build professional learning because of a direct need,” says Mason.

The six micro-credentials, which can be completed as a whole program, or individual micro-credits, include topics such as Drugs and Addiction in Indigenous Communities, History Culture and Reconciliation, Human Trafficking, and Trust, Respect and Communication. Each credential is roughly six hours of study and can be completed at any time as the program is offered online. While the program was created for those in public safety careers, it is open to the public, though Mason warns some content is disturbing.

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