Elders school RCMP

The "boys" at the RCMP lack training, says Pearl Keenan. "And people are dying because of it. The Teslin elder was speaking at a public meeting in Whitehorse on Tuesday night set up to discuss the relationship between Yukon women and the RCMP.

The “boys” at the RCMP lack training, says Pearl Keenan.

“And people are dying because of it.”

The Teslin elder was speaking at a public meeting in Whitehorse on Tuesday night set up to discuss the relationship between Yukon women and the RCMP.

Even janitors have to go to school for a couple of years to learn how to scrub floors, said Keenan.

“But not our boys.”

“And one just died because he wasn’t trained to put on a life jacket.”

Keenan remembers when the first RCMP showed up in her community, long before the Alaska Highway.

“The Tlingit justice system was so strong, the police came in 1918 and never had to arrest anyone until the 1950s,” she said.

“We were friends with those boys.”

But over the last 80 years, things have changed.

Now, the RCMP is chasing the young people out of the communities, said Keenan, mentioning one young boy who was hassled and pulled over by the police so often, he got fed up and moved away.

“They are using their authority on our young people,” she said.

“And that’s why our young people just hate them.”

Keenan is no stranger to police practices.

She’s been volunteering at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre for years.

And just over a decade ago, the elder was invited to the RCMP training academy in Regina to talk about First Nation culture.

Touring the academy, Keenan ran into a sergeant who was yelling at his young recruits.

“So it’s no wonder they come out of there mean,” she said.

“They train them to be mean.

“Then they take it out on our young people.”

Instead of running after the youth, the RCMP should be focusing on putting an end to violence against women, said Mayo elder Mary Battaja.

“There is a lot of violence against women in our community,” she said.

“Especially against three women who always have black eyes.

“There are babies and children in those homes.

“And I wish the RCMP would do something.”

Battaja is not afraid to dole out just desserts.

She went to visit another village elder and bring her a frozen fish.

But when she got there, the elder was sitting on her bed crying.

Her son had just beaten her up.

Battaja asked the son if it was true, and he admitted it.

So Battaja beat him with the frozen fish.

“We didn’t beat him up too bad, because we didn’t want to get arrested,” she said.

“And now, I hope something happens quick to save these young women and children, because it shouldn’t be allowed.”

Yukon commanding officer Peter Clark attended Tuesday evening’s meeting along with deputy Justice minister Dennis Cooley and Council of Yukon First Nations justice representative Simone Arnold.

The three co-chairs of the police review have attended a lot of meetings over the past months, and for Arnold, the most memorable was a meeting with the women and children who’d taken refuge at Kaushee’s Place, a Whitehorse transition home for women and children fleeing violence.

“The women were brutally honest,” said Arnold.

“And I know I will never be the same.”

Eight women’s groups took part in the Yukon police review, and after hosting a number of meetings in Whitehorse and the communities, two reports were written.

They’re a disturbing read.

A Victim Services worker witnessed four RCMP officers taking off a woman’s shirt, undoing her bra and putting her in the cells topless, it says in My Life Depended on It, a 37-page report written by Lois Moorcroft, representing Yukon women’s groups.

It’s the third time the Victim Services worker witnessed women being stripped and shuffled into cells topless, often by male officers.

“I’ve asked the RCMP how often this happened over the past year,” said Moorcroft during Tuesday’s meeting.

So far, she hasn’t gotten an answer.

“Most of the 37 women who spoke to me, during the police review, indicated that they were afraid to speak publicly or make a complaint to the RCMP,” says Moorcroft in the report.

“Because they believed that if they did, they would face retaliation from RCMP members in their communities.”

One woman, after registering a complaint about the RCMP, found her vehicle was stopped by police every time it was driven.

“She asserted she had to call the most senior ranking officer in the division before police stopped pulling her over on a regular basis following her formal complaint,” says the report.

Another woman, married to a community leader, was beaten up regularly by her husband.

But when the police arrived, they would not take her seriously, or lay charges, says the report.

Only 10 to 25 per cent of women who are abused call the police, said Moorcroft.

“And if they don’t feel safe to call the police, then there are no repercussions for the violence.”

During the meeting at Kaushee’s, women spoke of “anger and outrage when they were unfairly charged for defending themselves against their aggressors,” she said.

One of the recommendations in the report is to create primary aggressor legislation – to help assess who initiated the violence in domestic violence complaints.

It also recommends an independent legal advocate position to help victims of violence and women charged with offences.

Other recommendations include abolishing Taser use and that every RCMP wear a video camera to record public interactions.

The RCMP is already looking at various video-camera options, said Clark.

RCMP should also have a ride-along program so First Nation leaders, community members and social service agencies can get a firsthand feel for policing in the community, says the report.

“Numerous reports are done and they’re gathering dust,” said Vuntut Gwichin elder Agnes Mills.

“And I’m very cynical about how we’re going to accomplish what the women of the Yukon have worked so hard on.”

The common theme is training, said Arnold.

“And as women we never give up on men,” she said.

“The police need more education, skills and training – that’s what I’ve heard a lot.

“And we won’t give up on them.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read