Prairie Post (West Edition)

Blood Tribe inspector speaks to Canadian police administra­tors about inequaliti­es

- By Ryan Dahlman

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).

 ?? Photo contribute­d ?? Insp. Farica Prince is working towards racial and gender equality for all in Canadian policing. Here Prince (right) and A/Sgt. Hadiga Little Wolf for a photo.
Photo contribute­d Insp. Farica Prince is working towards racial and gender equality for all in Canadian policing. Here Prince (right) and A/Sgt. Hadiga Little Wolf for a photo.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada