Did you know that John A. MacDonald got the idea to found a Royal Mounted Police Force from the Royal Irish Constabulary, a paramilitary British police force created to police and subdue the Irish? Except, this body would not only police and subdue the First Nations, but it would also kidnap, torture and murder their children in the name of Christian assimilation.
The RCMP used to be known as the North-West Mounted Police and was founded in 1873 with the colonial purpose of uniting the Northwest to the rest of Canada, as no coast-to-coast railway system existed yet.
This region was still largely occupied by Indigenous peoples to the likes of the Métis, Cree, Anishinaabe, Dene, and Nakota nations. This was due to the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) never actually buying the land from them. The company was there thanks to fraudulent claims to the territory, and it was the North-West Mounted Police’s duty to place every Indigenous person into reserves, regardless of the different nations or whether or not they gave consent.
The first residential school opened in 1831 (you can read about the atrocities that they were here and here), and of course, it was the Mounties that kidnapped Indigenous children and forcefully placed them in these assimilation centres.
Although residential schools have not existed since 1996, Indigenous communities continue to be oppressed by the RCMP and alienated from the Canadian government.
In 2008, Prime Minister Harper gave a very overdue apology “on behalf of Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools system” (his words). You can find the full apology here, but he started by saying:
“The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation,” and continued by claiming that the government will be working with Aboriginal communities “towards healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad legacy of Indian Residential Schools.”
This would have been wonderful, had the RCMP, the very same institution that was actually created to police, oppress and assimilate the First Nations, not continued to do the same thing today.
Take, for example, the raid the RCMP carried out on Wet’suwet’en territory last Feburary (Read more about it here). It was recently revealed that the RCMP spent over $13M on policing the Coastal GasLink conflict on Wet’suwet’en territory.
Or the fact that over 30% of Canadian prison inmates are Indigenous, despite the fact that Indigenous people making up only 5% of the Canadian population. To put it in the words of Jocelyn Thorpe, a professor at the University of Manitoba: “It is no coincidence that when Indigenous people resist, it is the Mounties called into action”
Another prime example of the RCMP abuse is how a group of heavily armed RCMP officers used violence against peaceful Indigenous matriarchs in Secwepemc who were simply protecting their land and water from the pipeline project in B.C.
Three were arrested for allegedly “violating a court-ordered injunction by blocking the workers’ path,” a fourth was arrested for “blocking an active work site on the south mountain slope” by attaching herself to a bulldozer and a fifth was also arrested, but the charges were dropped. The first four individuals are set to stand trial on January 20th.
The government claims that the RCMP was founded to protect government institutions and ensure the safety of the country’s inhabitants, but where were they when a mob made up of violent white people threw rocks at two Mi’kamaq lobster storage facilities and set a van on fire? They stood there, watching, and did not intervene.
In one of the most violent altercation in fishery history, the RCMP had the opportunity to fulfill its supposed duty of protection, but decided to stand idly by and watch as whites committed hate crimes against an Indeginous community, mirroring a history of almost 200 years of hate crimes against Indeginous communities.
The RCMP was created to assimilate the Indigenous population, and they continue to do the same thing every day. Of course, they deny any allegations of systematic racism.
If you still have doubts about the RCMP after reading this article, you have an ENTIRE Wikipedia page dedicated to their controversies. The list dates back to 1873, and is easily accessible. Among the 24 or so controversies listed, here are a few that stand out:
Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the RCMP killed sled dogs in an attempt to relocate the Inuits into modern settlements, according to numerous Inuit accounts.
More recently, or in 2011 to be precise, an RCMP officer took an inebriated Indigenous woman out of her holding cell and to his house to “pursue a personal relationship”. Despite his abuse of power and the pressings of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, he merely received seven days without pay, an insult to injury to say the least.
On the Missing and murdered Indigenous women Wikipedia page, the organization is brought up 36 times throughout the page. Considering the RCMP’s long and less than stellar reputation among the Indigenous community, this is not the best look for them nor is it a coincidence.
As of June of this year, numerous Indigenous women’s groups called upon the RCMP to end the unnecessary deaths and assaults at their hands in an open letter. Despite their urges, little to no reforms have been seen as of three months later.
Canadian Indigenous communities deserve better than to have their voices unheard after years of injustice. To turn a blind eye is to perpetuate the violence directed towards them.
By Angelique Chu and Sophie Dufresne