April 4, 2019

Toward Peace, Harmony, and Well-Being: Policing in Indigenous Communities

The Expert Panel on Policing in Indigenous Communities

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Policing in Indigenous communities presents challenges that are distinct from those for policing in non-Indigenous communities. These challenges are embedded within a set of cultural, social, historical, legal, political, and geographic considerations.

Recognizing these unique challenges, Public Safety Canada asked the CCA to undertake an assessment examining what could be drawn from the current evidence and knowledge about the present and future role of police services in Indigenous communities in Canada and to identify some promising and leading practices in policing that could be applied in Indigenous communities.

To address the question, the CCA convened a multidisciplinary panel of 11 experts from Canada and abroad with knowledge and experience in Indigenous law and public policy, criminology, psychiatry and mental health, and policing services.

The Sponsor:

Public Safety Canada

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Toward Peace, Harmony, and Well-Being: Policing in Indigenous Communities builds on the CCA’s 2014 policing report, Policing Canada in the 21st Century: New Policing for New Challenges by incorporating the latest research findings and related information available on policing in Indigenous communities. The findings emphasize the diverse considerations that inform Indigenous policing.

The approaches to policing considered in this report have broader implications related to well-being in Indigenous communities, and the ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities can form relationships based on mutual respect. The report aims to provide Indigenous community leaders, policy-makers, and service providers with the foundation to build effective and appropriate models for the future of policing in Indigenous communities.

Key Findings

Reflecting on all the evidence available, the Panel came to six main findings:

  • Current realities with policing in Indigenous communities, as well as crime, victimization and incarceration, are tied to a historical context. The impact of colonialism continues to reverberate in Indigenous communities. Confronting this history is part of the challenge of achieving relevant and decolonized policing.
  • A comprehensive understanding of safety and well-being in Indigenous communities requires multi-dimensional thinking, including attention to social and cultural factors. This understanding provides an opportunity for policing approaches that reflect holistic views of safety and well-being that are already embedded in Indigenous cultures.
  • Policing in Indigenous communities is embedded in a complex legal and policy context marked by a growing emphasis on Indigenous self-determination and the need to recognize Indigenous rights and laws.
  • While efforts have been made to improve policing for Indigenous communities in Canada in recent decades, many continue to receive policing services that do not meet their safety and security needs.
  • In both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, the most promising ways to promote safety and well-being involve relationships among police, other service providers, and community members. Effective relationship-based approaches are community-led and provide opportunities for police to assist in mobilizing communities and to earn their trust.
  • Opportunities for change begin with providing meaningful choices for policing arrangements that support self-determination. These choices require resources that allow for sustainability and that can be facilitated by systemic reforms aligned with the need for safety and well-being in Indigenous communities.

Commissions and Inquiries Related to Indigenous Policing and Justice in Canada

Over the past 30 years, a number of commissions and inquiries have had an impact on policing in Indigenous communities and on the relationships between Indigenous communities and the criminal justice system. They have often been sparked by crisis and they have highlighted inequities, and sometimes gross misconduct, in relations between Indigenous Peoples and policing and justice systems in Canada.

In Progress

Expert Panel

The Expert Panel on Policing in Indigenous Communities