Aboriginals in Northen BC live in fear according to Human Rights Watch report

Posted: March 5, 2013 by scott0113 in Uncategorized

There has been much controversy and uproar once the Human Rights Watch presented a report called “Those Who Take Us Away” alleging mistreatment of aboriginal women by the police in Northern British Columbia. The Human Rights Watch is a world leading independent organization that is dedicated to protecting and defending human rights for over 30 years. CBC news wrote an article on this report stating allegations of torture, sexual assaults and police threats (CBCnews, 2013) against aboriginal women. The article also states that not only are the police not protecting the women, but they are actually committing offenses against them. The relationship between the police and aboriginal women are considered not only fractured, but the women have levels of fear about the police on the same levels comparable to post war conflict situations. While the RCMP Chief Supt. Janice Armstrong claims they are taking the allegations seriously, he also says they need the complainants to come forward for the investigation as they have no method to find out who the accused or victims are. At this time none of the complainants are named in the report as they fear retribution.

Public opinion on this report various as if each post represents a spot on a roulette wheel. There is condemnation of the RCMP (CBC, 2013) with comments like “sadly… nobody should be surprised”, while at the opposite end of the wheel there are comments that support the RCMP like “…. Lets not paint every Officer with the same brush” and “Unsubstantiated allegations that the CBC is only too happy to report. The implication of course is that the RCMP treats people, all people, the same way they are treated in Syria or Burma. That is huge stretch”. While the guilt or innocence of the police is a major topic, there has been suspicion of the motives of the aboriginals with comments like “I find it interesting that these allegations can be made with out being accountable for them” as if the aboriginal women are making false claims. This is further supported by the comment “if you are going to accuse anyone of rape you better have solid evidence. Smear compaigns don’t help anyone’s cause.,” again hesitant to believe that there was any possible wrong doing unless there is actual evidence provided. One interesting comment that questions the police response to an allegation is “I’m pretty sure this is already policy, is it not?” in reference to the article where it is suggested that the RCMP expand cross-cultural training to eliminate strip searches done by officers of a different gender. This poster actually made a very good point as this controversial topic was also a hot topic after the Prison for Women incident on April 22, 1994 where after the incident; one of the recommendations of the Arbour Report was that men may not strip search women. While “training” is almost always a good thing, this topic to train should already have been known to those in the RCMP as unacceptable.

I do in general agree with some of the posters that evidence should be presented with any accusations made, since any negative allegations can harm the integrity and reputation of those affected. These allegations against the RCMP by aboriginal women; however, need to be approached differently and with more leniency and understanding at the onset. If these women are truly living in fear of the police, then these allegations need to be treated seriously and investigated thoroughly to get to the truth. There also needs to be an outlet made available where all aboriginals can feel safe to either ask for help from the RCMP or to feel safe enough to file complaint even if it is against the RCMP. There needs to be an element of trust created and to find ways to education aboriginals of their rights and where they can get help ensuring those rights are protected. It is long overdue to start healing the fracture between the aboriginals and the police and the first step has to be done by those who have been entrusted to protect them in the first place, the RCMP.

CBCnews (2013, February) RCMP accused of rape in report on B.C. aboriginal women. Retrieved March 3, 2013, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/02/12/bc-human-rights-watch-abuse-report.html

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    You provide an effective overview of the diversity of positions reflected in the comments.

    Scanning the article you have selected for your case study, it seems to me that the comments posted by readers generally reflect pre-existing opinions and perspectives. Would you agree? If this is the case, what does it say about the prospects for mobilizing informed public opinion around a particular problem related to policing?

    Your comment is reasonable. I would note that the demand for specific accusations reflects a desire to treat this report as a collection of discrete events, whereas the authors are interested in systemic problems.

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