BCCLA disappointed, but not surprised, by new report about RCMP in Northern BC

VANCOUVER – The BC Civil Liberties Association reacted with disappointment following the release of Human Rights Watch’s damning report about police abuse against First Nations women and girls in Northern BC.

“These allegations of abuse of Indigenous women and girls by the police whose job it is to protect them are appalling, and amplify the concerns of the larger Indigenous community in Northern BC documented by our organization and delivered to the RCMP two years ago,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BCCLA. “The loss of community confidence in the RCMP among many Indigenous communities in the North, especially among Indigenous women and girls, has not only not been solved, but we’re not sure it has been recognized by the force as a problem in the first place.”

In March of 2011, the BCCLA recommended the RCMP look into a concerning series of allegations originating in First Nations communities in Northern BC documented in the report Small Town Justice. Problematic policies, such as male RCMP officers being permitted to strip search female prisoners of all ages, were identified as major issues to be addressed. The RCMP did not change any policies following the release of the report.

“The RCMP continues to ignore credible reports from recognized human rights organizations about these communities at their peril,” said Paterson. “From the force’s failure to stop the tragedy of missing girls and women along the highway of tears, to allegations of sexual assault by police, and Indigenous teenage girls being Tasered, punched and having arms broken in interactions with officers – the RCMP must take action to restore public confidence among these communities.”

Human Rights Watch’s report is called Those Who Take Us Away and was prepared in partnership with the BC human rights organization Justice for Girls. The report documents allegations of RCMP failures to protect indigenous women and girls in Northern BC, and also includes allegations of sexual assaults by police officers against indigenous women in the area. The BCCLA joins with Human Rights Watch, Justice for Girls, and the Native Women’s Association of Canada, along with many other local, regional and national human rights and Indigenous rights groups, in calling for a national inquiry into the failure of police to protect Indigenous women.