Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Yukon RCMP have signed a letter of expectation aimed at increasing accountability and working towards creating a better relationship between police and the community.
Chief Doris Bill and Sgt. Greg Holmberg, the acting officer in charge of the Whitehorse RCMP detachment, signed the letter at a ceremony outside Nàkwät’à Kù, KDFN’s potlatch house, on July 21.
The letter will guide how three dedicated, “culturally-responsive” RCMP officers to be stationed in the community will conduct their duties, with the four key priorities being communication, relationship building, KDFN youth partnerships and community safety.
The letter calls for police to have quarterly meetings with KDFN’s council while also providing monthly policing reports, for KDFN to give the officers cultural awareness training and for officers to participate in community events and volunteer on boards and committees.
Bill, in a press conference before the signing, described the letter as “a document that speaks directly to the strengthening relationship between Kwanlin Dün and the RCMP,” one that provides “the nuts and bolts to a new policing philosophy.”
“This new policing philosophy is all about community relationships, accountability to us, the First Nation, and increased communication,” she said.
“I have hope and trust in our commitment to work together to bring this new vision to reality. We welcome the three dedicated RCMP to our community and will extend a helping hand to them… It is through the building of these relationships that we are truly able to keep our community safe.”
The three positions, being jointly funded by the federal and territorial governments via the First Nations Policing Program, were created under a tripartite agreement reached between KDFN, Yukon and Canada this summer.
There are currently two officers already working in the community under a previous policing program; they’ll remain in their positions, with a new officer to join them “very soon,” Yukon RCMP Chief Supt. Scott Sheppard said at the same press conference.
He described the letter as a “living document,” one that KDFN and the RCMP could update and revise as the community’s policing needs evolve.
“(While) every process is imperfect in its own way, I strongly believe that this letter of expectation is going to create the conditions for success and I would be remiss if I did not mention that it will be successful based on the efforts of KDFN citizens and our members,” Sheppard said.
“And I know that although we’re signing this letter today, I would like to think it’s somewhat emblematic of the efforts that we’ve been making in Yukon … to build these relationships and actually increase the understanding and awareness of police actually being seen as part of the community, and more importantly the community seeing the police reflect their values and their needs.”
Bill said that she envisioned the officers “essentially become part of the community.”
Const. Adam Lightfoot, one of the two RCMP officers already stationed in McIntyre, said in an interview afterwards that he saw the signing of the letter as a positive step.
“(The letter) gives them the chance to lay out, ‘Well, we like to see (officers) out having coffee with an elder, we like to see them going with the youth group on a canoe trip…’ (It) allows Kwanlin Dün to basically state their needs and allows the RCMP to provide the bodies to help accommodate that so everybody wins,” he said.
Having a third officer on the team will also allow more time to participate in the community, Lightfoot added.
“More hands means less work for everybody,” he said.
“(It means) more chances to get out there, spend time on the land with people, have some groups, go to youth group, play with the kids, whatever it is … Kwanlin Dün can say, ‘Well, this is what we want,’ and we kind of have the time to do it.”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org