Prairie Post (West Edition)
Blood Tribe inspector speaks to Canadian police administrators about inequalities
Blood Tribe Police Service inspector Farica Prince has been in policing since 2001. In that time, she has been a constable for two different indigenous police services and was an instructional facilitator for the RCMP. She has seen a lot and is a strong advocate for racial and gender equality within Canadian policing circles.
In mid-April, Prince, along with Suelyn Knight of Toronto Police Service and Deputy Chief Roger Wilkie of Halton Ontario Police were the guest speakers of Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP)’s national webinar “Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee on Implicit Bias and Forms of Racism; Police Leadership 101 in 2021.”
The webinar was “to support its efforts and its membership to create and enhance practices that promote fairness equity and inclusion through the identification, mitigation, and elimination of the impact of implicit bias and discrimination in practices and policies that may support systemic barriers, and to promote the advancement of diversity within policing institutions.”
Prince says it was an honour to speak at the webinar. She has been an active member of Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police since 2018.
“One of the first things after joining the association, I was looking for a spot on one of the committees so I could contribute to the decision-making process and enhance discussions and thought processes, difference scopes of the CACP and at that time, the Equity, the Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee was just made a standing committee as opposed to a committee. They were looking for representation and since EDI Human Resources stuff is what I am super-motivated to do right now and it was a natural fit,” explains Prince who began working with the EDI committee in late 2019. “This webinar was supposed to be a big conference in Ottawa, but Covid (derailed it) so we decided as a committee to do a series of webinars on different EDI-related topics…I am quick to volunteer my time and my perspective with matters that are so important and impactful. I volunteered to be part of the conference-planning committee which turned into the webinar series. We decided on topics and it was just kind of a natural fit. I have been pretty vocal on systematic discrimination in policing and other Canadian institutes. At a provincial level, I was able to provide Alberta Association Chiefs of Police with some key messages in the height of the racialized tensions of last year. Those key messages surrounded privilege, discrimination, Black Lives Matter, defund the police and it was well received by leadership here in the province.
“The CACP committee has been very welcoming and it has been a pleasure to be a part of it for sure. I think (during her presentation) I blacked out for the first five minutes when I watched the video play back, I don’t recall saying any of those things. I was pretty nervous.”
Prince is an incredible resource of knowledge. International Association of
Women Police, Alberta Association of Chief’s of Police, Canadian Association of Chief’s of Police, First Nation’s Chief’s of Police Association and Alberta Women in Policing and Alberta Women in Public Safety group, she also has a prestigious Bachelor of Policing from Charles Sturt University (2019) in Australia.
Her points during her presentation was that the question about whether or not discrimination is alive and well in our institutions, she says it clearly is, “that is not up for negotiation any more.” What she wants to see is look at what administrators can do moving forward.
“We talk about basic basic changes into system changes, into transformational changes and transformational thought processes. We are trying to leaders in policing the tools to move past this, the tools to walk the walk, the actions to support the words. Measurable outcomes, benchmarking, what it actually looks to change the inequities in our institutions. That was my main goal was to try and provide that as opposed to just expressing it,” she explains. “One of the things I do say publicly when I am critical about leadership who can talk the talk, but aren’t walking the walk, things are changing and we need to make decisions. Things are changing so we can either get on board and contribute instead of letting it happen to us or we are just going to get left behind. I do think leadership in general recognize that they have the opportunity have a say in what that change looks like. I think that leadership right now is open to it in general. I think Canadian media has done a really poor job of highlighting the racial tensions and violence here in Canada, the inequities… we look at what happened in the last two years in the States. But actually let’s what is happening in Canada recently.”
She points to examples in the last two years with the Wet’suwet’en (First Nation in B.C./pipeline dispute); the Maritimes fisheries dispute and subsequent violence, and also what’s happening right now with the Nishnawbe (First Nation in Ontario blocking water project) “it is like Caledonia”(Ontario, protests blocking construction on indigenous land).
“It’s not like we are any better than the States, absolutely not. It is easier for Canadians to turn a blind eye because it doesn’t impact them directly; I am not too sure why (they think this),” she notes.
That’s where the motivation to keep doing the work is coming from for Prince and others like herm is seeing the actual changes which are happening right now.
The organizations throughout the country are making strides, recognizing the gaps, the conditions, the policies the procedure, the power dynamics that are impacting marginalized or underrepresented people.
She points to the example of what they did at Delta Police Service in the lower B.C. mainland. They have just committed to 30X30.
“It is an international initiative, but Delta Police is first one to commit to it,” she says. “What they are committing to is 30 per cent women in their rank and file and police officers in their organization by 2030. This is pretty big commitment and there are police organizations all over the world that are committed to this 30X30. They are going to be held publicly accountable because they are publicly committing to that.”
That is is a big step for Prince.
“You see a lot of (law enforcement) organizations hiring civilians who have specialty whether it is management or human rights, media related issues, they have a specialty and they are bringing them in, in senior levels,” explains Prince. “They are an equivalent to a staff sergeant or inspector depending on the organization. But they are bringing in these new perspectives that are impacting the organizations in a positive way. It is those kinds of things that are chipping away the toxicity of police culture and the historical norms and values we have grown up in right.
It is pretty hard for somebody who has grown up in the system to now be the one to be responsible to impact change. So when you bring in a civilian with a fresh prospective that’s where we are taking the lead from.
Prince says while things are improving in some areas, they aren’t in others.
As an indigenous female who is highly ranked within the policing community, she is see a lot of direct and indirect discrimination in many forms. She says while steps are being taken, there is still a lot which needs to be improved.
A House of Commons committee heard from former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache in December 2020 and his report “Broken Dreams, Broken Lives” which discovered a hateful and misogynistic culture within the RCMP.
At the time, relatively new RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki had expressed anger at the findings but said policy statements and complete overhaul were not the answer, but different initiatives to repair the damage.
“This is something I spoke about on the webinar, let’s look at discrimination. The RCMP had the class action lawsuit for sexual harassment for female members. The review came out there were recommendations, the organization, along with the union basically accepted the recommendations, committed do better and acknowledged the harm done to women and action of the co-workers and then they issued the proper response and I felt it was genuine,” states Prince. “But then there was a review of the Colten Boushie file (Cree Red Pheasant First Nation man shot by rural property owner near Biggar Sask in 2016), like an external review. There were again recommendations and findings that the police officers treated the (Boushie) family in a discriminatory way, that there was evidence of discrimination within the file. Instead of the same response they gave the Bastarache Report about the sexual harassment, it was the union who made a comment about the report, the comments said the review ‘unconditionally accepted the assertion of discrimination by the family.’ Let’s swap that out. ‘The review unconditionally accepted the assertion of sexual harassment by the female police officers.’ If it is okay to unconditionally accept the assertion of sexual harassment, what is the difference between unconditionally accepting the assertion of racism? It just blows my mind the difference in response to very similar recommendations and findings: one is based on race and specifically to indigenous people.. nobody bats an eye… nobody is saying anything. No one is holding them accountable.”
(This is Part one of a two part series talking with Prince. Next week, we will look at the work being done and if the status quo will change).