APTN has discovered another series of racist comments about Indigenous people in a different secret Facebook group for RCMP members only.
News stories on Indigenous issues shared in the group from the summer and fall of 2017, drew a range of comments calling Indigenous people “racists,” “lazy,” with a “sense of entitlement.”
When a Squamish Chief in B.C. suggested tearing down a historic RCMP building to make way for reconciliation, a Mountie wrote, “There comes a time when someone needs to stand up to these spoiled children and tell them to just f— off.”
In response to a story posted about a First Nation in British Columbia that refused to evacuate during the wildfires, a member posted, “what an ignorant bunch of clowns.”
Another commented, “You can’t fix stupid,” followed by, “You can . . . just let the fire do its thing.”
“Any of these social media posts that are being brought to our attention, there is an immediate response to it,” said Brenda Butterworth-Carr, Commanding Officer for RCMP ‘E’ Division in British Columbia.
“There’s a review of it and a process initiated. That’s just the standard of the approach to it,” she said in an interview with APTN. “There’s no tolerance to it. There’s zero tolerance.”
There was tension between the RCMP at the Alexis Creek detachment in BC and the Tl’etinqox Government when Chief Joe Alphonse and some of his community members decided not to evacuate.
On April, 23, the RCMP and the Tl’etinqox have since made an effort to reconcile in a healing circle.
“We did have RCMP personally that didn’t have the level of education or knowledge that our communities, our chiefs have that authority in our own communities for evacuation orders but we’ve rectified that,” said Butterworth-Carr.
“Certainly those are those situations where we would likely look to the leadership of the community and say is this something you believe we can reconcile.”
The secret Facebook group is not administrated by the RCMP, but it has close to 10,000 members.
And some of those members identify as Indigenous officers in their responses to some of the racist posts.
In the thread about the Squamish chief wanting reconciliation, the officer who called Indigenous people “spoiled children” later comments:
“There comes a time when we have apologized more than enough and compensated enough.”
A woman who identifies herself as a First Nation member responds, saying, “I’m proud of my career as an RCMP officer and the incredible non-FN members I have met that have done great work in our communities.”
But she adds, “For anyone who says ‘get over it, it was 100 years ago’ . . . I went to residential school!!!”
And the response to that from another officer;
“Does an end date exist? Or are my great-grandchildren expected to continue to reconcile?”
Sources who spoke to APTN, Indigenous Mounties who didn’t want to be identified, said the exchange was disheartening.
A sentiment reflected in a comment in the Facebook thread that reads, “As a First Nation member…every time I hear comments such as above, the sting never gets easier. It hurts twice as bad coming from co-workers that I would protect with my own life. Ignorance is a shameful thing. Awful.”
Last February, APTN reported on a racist post by a Mountie in a different, closed Facebook group.
In the wake of the Gerald Stanley acquittal in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, the female officer wrote, “Too bad the kid died but he got what he deserved.”
The family of Colten Boushie took their complaints about the RCMP handling of the investigation and their treatment of family members to the RCMP watchdog, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.
That story was shared in the closed Facebook group called ‘News Stories that May Matter to or Impact RCMP,” showing a photo of Boushie’s family in Ottawa.
The reaction from a member of the group; “So much concern now, where was that concern when Colten was growing up.”
In the next comment, an RCMP member writes; “Anyone from the SUV they were in there? Can’t tell in the photo . . . they must be obscured by grieving family.”
RCMP Assistant Commissioner, Shirley Cuillierrier, who is a Mohawk woman from Kanesatake, a mother of two kids and a 36-year veteran on the force, said these comments on social media are hurtful to everyone.
“There are many Indigenous employees and police officers in the RCMP. And I’m not sure when comments are made like that that people recognize that, in fact, it could be hurting their own colleagues,” said Cuillierrier. “Let alone Indigenous peoples.”
Close to 1,900 people who work for the RCMP self-identify as Indigenous. And of that number, 1,500 are police officers.
“It’s incumbent upon individuals to call that out,” said Cuillierrier. “And it’s not to be tolerated in the RCMP. Part of our core values is respect. And that’s respect for all peoples in Canada.”
Sources have told APTN that an internal complaint was filed about the posts in the secret Facebook group back in October, but that there’s been no word on any investigation.
“I think there’s a disparity in terms of the seriousness that it’s accorded and I think that’s a mistake,” said Larry Hay, the director of Intelliquest Investigations.
Before Hay became a public/private investigator, he served for nine years as the police chief on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario, which is where he’s from. And before that, he was a Mountie for 19 years.
He says the typical penalty for these kinds of racist comments is a day without pay.
“It’s the failure on behalf of executives within the policing organization to deal with this effectively and to deal with this seriously,” said Hay.
Under the RCMP code of conduct, these kinds of racist comments would fall under the section 2.1, which is about respect and courtesy.
Helen Meinzinger is a conduct advisor with the RCMP.
“My role as a conduct advisor is to work with our managers who wind up ebbing the conduct authority,” explained Meinzinger. “So for example, if you were an employee and a complaint was made against you, it would go to your manager first. Your manager would then reach out to me. And I would work them through the process.”
The process involves an investigation to see if there was a breach of the code, a look at precedence on how similar misconduct was handled and then it goes back to the officer in charge to decide how it gets dealt with.
There are 10 sections of the RCMP Code of Conduct. Within each section, there are varying degrees of seriousness. From remedial to corrective to serious. And the response, what the RCMP calls “measures,” can range from admonishment, a reprimand, a written reprimand, to a day without pay to dismissal.
“I’m not sure if there’s ever been a dismissal based on a 2.1,” said Meinzinger. “You could technically get to a very serious level with it. But the 2.1 covers disrespect. Discourtesy. It also covers harassment, sexual harassment.”
‘E’ Division commander Brenda Butterworth says the RCMP takes these comments seriously.
“Incredibly seriously. Immediate response,” said Butterworth-Carr. “There’s no tolerance for it.”
But there’s also no public accountability. Canada’s Privacy Act prevents the RCMP from releasing personal information on its employees. And violations of the code of conduct are considered personal information.
The only time the breaches become public is when it warrants dismissal.
“To me, it’s a misuse of the act,” said Hay. “And I think often times, it’s abused, and it’s used to restrict the flow of information to the public.”
Hay says the Facebook posts by an officer about Indigenous people that refer to “substance abuse,” a “culture of victimhood,” reflect more than a lack of respect.
“It’s a reflection of total ignorance,” said Hay. “A lack of understanding of history, not just of Indigenous people, but of Canada.”
Hay says it’s also a concern that these are police officers who are or may be policing Indigenous people, in their community or on the front lines when Indigenous people assert rights and defend their land.
“That negative stereotyping makes it easier to perpetrate harm on those individuals,” said Hay. “Once you dehumanize someone or something it becomes easier to be abusive and to not expect consequences.”
The RCMP emphasized to APTN that it incorporates mandatory cultural awareness and bias-free policing programs into its training for cadets and new officers. Similar programs are offered for senior officers. There are Indigenous Policing Branches in each division across the country.
“The vast majority of those who work for the RCMP, they come to work, they do their jobs and they do them really well,” said Butterworth-Carr.
“There’s constant communication, education. And ensuring that it’s very much in alignment with all of our priority and planning purposes,” she continued. “And if people are going to act inappropriately, they get called out for it.”