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RCMP accused of racial profiling on reserve


George Young, Windspeaker Staff Writer, Stoney First Nation







Page 16

Claiming to represent a citizen's group on the Stoney/Nakota reserve in southern Alberta, Greg Twoyoungmen has gone public with accusations of racial profiling by Cochrane RCMP.

Twoyoungmen said he was approached to join a group of Elders and others on the reserve that was discussing the persistent RCMP presence in the community.

After hearing about the group's concerns, Twoyoungmen wrote a letter of complaint to Myron Thompson, the Conservative member of Parliament for the area. Thompson took the letter to Cochrane RCMP and left the matter in their hands.

When Cochrane RCMP attempted to contact Twoyoungmen, he decided to go public.

Fueling the accusations of racial profiling is a statement from Judge John Reilly who presides over provincial court in the Banff/Cochrane area that has jurisdiction for most of the Stoney/Nakota First Nation.

Reilly told Twoyoungmen, and restated to Windspeaker, that he estimates that 75 per cent of the criminal court cases he hears involve members from the reserve. The Stoney/Nakota reserve comprises only three to four per cent of the population of the Banff/Cochrane area.

Twoyoungmen interprets this to mean that RCMP in the area are over-policing and racially profiling the reserve's members.

Twoyoungmen accuses the RCMP of parking on reserve land and running license plates. He said people tell him that it usually occurs on days when band cheques are distributed.

If this is true, that would constitute racial profiling, said Scot Wortley, a professor with the University of Toronto criminology department.

Wortley headed up the study done on the Kingston police department. Released in May, the study found that police there were 3.7 times more likely to pull over a black person, and 1.4 times more likely to pull over an Aboriginal person, than a member of the white race.

The study is the first of its kind in Canada, and confirms that racial profiling in policing organizations does exist.

Wortley said the high number of arrests of members of minority groups as a result of racial profiling does not provide an accurate measure of the crime rate within minority groups. Wortley said a control group from the white population is needed in order for a proper comparison to be made, and police forces do not target white persons in the same way they do minority groups.

He said arrest statistics produced by racial profiling do not reflect the fact that well over 90 per cent of the people in minority groups do not commit crime, however they leave the perception in the community that members of a minority group are more likely to commit a crime.

In response to the study, the chief of the Kingston Police apologized for the actions of his officers. The Kingston Police Association, however, challenged the results of the study.

The association also concluded that studies of racial profiling are not productive and increase tensions in police/minority group relations.

Wortley countered, saying research does not create social problems, it documents them.

It should be noted that no formal complaint of racism or racial profiling has been made against Cochrane RCMP.

Windspeaker attempted to contact many members of the Stoney/Nakota reserve about reports of RCMP cruisers parking and running plates, however only one person would go on the record as saying he had seen RCMP cruisers parked on reserve land on a regular basis. He also said he would only confirm that they were there, not comment on their activities while there.

This may demonstrate how difficult it is to get people to come forward with complaints against the police.

Twoyoungmen said the average reading level on the reserve is Grade 7, and many people do not understand that Cochrane RCMP are contravening their rights. He also said that many of these people do not feel they have the communication skills to adequately express their complaints.

Twoyoungmen said he is in the process of gathering comunity input and looking for people from the reserve to come forward.

Windspeaker contacted Stoney/Nakota council, and spokesperson Trez McCaskill said council could not comment on the accusations. McCaskill further said that any member of the Stoney/Nakota First Nation who feels he is a victim of RCMP racism or racial profiling should come forward and make a formal complaint to council.

Twoyoungmen said colonialization explains why reserve members have not come forward yet. Twoyoungmen reasons that many First Nation people have been socialized not to complain.

Sergeant Mike McTaggert of Cochrane RCMP denies racial profiling takes place on the reserve or that RCMP go to the reserve to run plates.

McTaggert does say that RCMP are on the reserve on a regular basis, but go out only when called.

McTaggert said service call statistics would back his claim. Windspeaker made a written request for those service call statistics, but nothing had been provided by press time.

McTaggert said he could see a case for racial profiling if Cochrane RCMP were setting up in the town and only pulling over Aboriginal people. However he said arrests of members of the Stoney/Nakota occur on the reserve.

Judge Reilly said poverty is rampant on the Stoney/Nakota reserve, with a high incidence of alcoholism and assault.

Reilly said alcoholism had caused many Stoney/Nakota members to lose their driving licenses and poverty had made insurance unaffordable. He said the problem is compounded by the lack of any kind of public transportation to the reserve.

Reilly regrets the fact he has to fine reserve members for driving without insurance, creating more debt for those who are already financially troubled.

Poverty on reserve has the potential to create an atmosphere for crime, however it also could be creating a situation in which Cochrane RCMP officers perceive that if they go to the reserve they are more likely to find someone they can lay charges against.

This woud be consistent with racial profiling.

When Windspeaker asked Sergeant McTaggert why so many court cases in the Banff/Cochrane area involve the Stoney/Nakota reserve, he said: "Have you ever been to the reserve?"

Windspeaker also asked McTaggert if Cochrane RCMP had the impression that charges for offences, such as driving under suspension and driving without insurance, were more likely to occur if RCMP came to the reserve. He said he had no evidence to suggest that was the situation.

In May, Libby Davies, a New Democratic Party member of Parliament, re-addressed a private member's bill that would seek to eliminate racial profiling in federal government departments and jurisdictions.

"I know from my own community in East Vancouver that Aboriginal people are clearly targeted by the police," she said.

"We are trying to get people to document what is actually going on."

Davies said she cannot believe that Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan maintains that racial profiling does not exist in Canada.

Alberta Regional Chief Jason Goodstriker of the Assembly of First Nations has specific concerns about police targeting Aboriginal people. He is concerned that former Saskatoon police chief David Scott was appointed to the National Parole Board.

Scott, who was appointed as a part-time member of the parole board in 2003, was the chief during the recent "Starlight cruise" investigation in Saskatoon. The complaint was that Aboriginal men were being picked up by city police and abandoned on the outskirts of town in freezing cold weather.

Many have rumored that the practice resulted in four deaths from exposure. Neil Stonechild's freezing death was the most publicized of these cases.

Scott was fired from the Saskatoon police while the investigation was ongoing, although no official reason was given for his dismissal.

Goodstriker wants to know why the federal government has seen fit to appoint a person to the parole board who he says is representatie of racism towards Aboriginal people.

"This speak volumes of how the federal government prioritizes us," Goodstriker said.

The regional chief said his office is investigating the appointment and will write McLellan, who is in charge of the parole board, for an explanation.