Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino is directing the head of the RCMP to work closely with Indigenous communities to address the traumatic legacy of residential schools.
In a new mandate letter issued to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Mendicino instructs the national police force to proactively disclose documents, help uncover truths and allow for alternative forms of investigation as communities “seek justice at their own pace.”
The Liberal government says the discovery of unmarked graves and burial sites near former residential schools have underscored a need to move faster on the path of reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.
In that vein, several of the minister’s directions to the RCMP are aimed at fostering improved relations with Indigenous Peoples.
Mendicino says he looks forward to working with Lucki to accelerate RCMP reform over the next two years through improvement of force recruitment at all levels to better reflect the communities it serves, in particular Indigenous and Black ones.
He directs the RCMP boss to conduct an assessment of contract policing in consultation with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners and others, and to collaborate with partners on the “stabilization and expansion” of the First Nations and Inuit Policing Program.
The letter updates one issued to Lucki upon her appointment as commissioner in 2018.
“As you know, the prime minister has given me a mandate to act in several important areas, and many of these touch upon the work of the RCMP,” Mendicino writes. “Most notably, he has asked me to prioritize policing reform.”
The minister says his central objectives are ensuring the RCMP meets the needs of Canadians, addressing systemic racism, eliminating harassment and discrimination, and creating a culture of accountability, diversity and inclusion.
In newly issued mandate letters to other agency heads in his portfolio, Mendicino instructs:
— Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault to support broader efforts to safeguard economic security, including research and intellectual property, as well as address threats to democratic institutions by investigating all forms of ideologically motivated violent extremism such as those driven by worldviews based on xenophobia and opposition to authority;
— Canada Border Services Agency president John Ossowski to combat the trafficking of firearms and illicit drugs, and address irregular migration by increasing the efficiency of asylum claim processing;
— Correctional Service of Canada commissioner Anne Kelly to support the government’s work to address systemic racism and the overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous people in the justice system, as well as create a new position of deputy commissioner for Indigenous corrections.
Among the tasks outlined in his letter to the RCMP’s Lucki, Mendicino solicits support for measures to counter the smuggling of handguns and the implementation of a buyback program for prohibited firearms.
He also requests help in ensuring the RCMP’s management advisory board is fully supported as it takes on a greater oversight role.
“Victims of intimate partner violence deserve our protection,” Mendicino writes.
To that end, he asks Lucki to work with chief firearms officers across Canada so that they respond without delay to calls from Canadians who have safety concerns about anyone who has access to firearms, and to work with police of jurisdiction to remove firearms quickly as needed.
In addition, Lucki is asked to provide awareness and training on the importance of recording incidents involving dangerous behaviour and firearms. “This work will also involve implementing new procedures and educational tools in close partnership with community groups, women’s shelters and organizations, academia and more.”
—Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press