People living on the fringe distrust the RCMP, say Yukon frontline workers.
“We do hear about unfair treatment by the police,” said Blood Ties executive director Patricia Bacon.
“There’s a feeling of harassment and a feeling that the police aren’t there to support or protect them.”
The nonprofit group, which offers resources like safe needle exchanges and counselling for people with HIV and AIDS, works with clients who regularly interact with the RCMP.
Bacon believes that if the government is creating an RCMP advisory committee then groups who work with fringe populations should be involved.
Monday the government said it wants to review how the RCMP deals with the public and how complaints are managed.
The announcement comes on the heels of a rape trial and a police custody inquest that have recently eroded public trust in the RCMP.
“RCMP in the territory may be falling short of public expectations in recent incidents,” acting RCMP commanding officer Peter Clark told a news conference Thursday.
Bacon has a problem with the committee being staffed mostly by bureaucrats and the police themselves. Of the 10 people on the committee, two will represent the RCMP while six others will sit on behalf of the territorial and municipal government.
“The committee is very government heavy and isn’t creating a space for important community groups,” said Bacon.
“They’re not acknowledging us as leaders in this process.”
When a motion to strike the committee was introduced in the legislature Wednesday, NDP MLA Steve Cardiff tried to amend it. He wanted to include aboriginal women’s groups, youth groups and nongovernment organizations like Blood Ties and the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Society of the Yukon.
The amendment was shot down.
It’s not right, said Cindy Chaisson, outreach worker for the Elizabeth Fry Society of the Yukon.
“There’s a total imbalance of authority on that committee,” she said.
However, she still sees a need for an advisory committee.
“It’s absolutely essential to hold the RCMP accountable for their actions,” said Chaisson who represents women who have been incarcerated.
“Certainly with the women we work with there’s a lack of trust of the RCMP and women not wanting to report certain incidences.”
There’s a lot of intimidation methods used by the RCMP when women are arrested or call in about a crime, she said.
“The police tell them, ‘Nobody’s going to believe you, the courts aren’t going to believe you so it’s a waste of time to go ahead with charges.’”
She cites the territory’s dual-aggressor policy as an example of how power-imbalances between RCMP and women are created.
Under that policy women who are defending themselves from an abusive partner can also be charged with assault and aggression.
“If the RCMP took a little bit of time at the scene and investigated (the situation) these things wouldn’t be happening” said Chaisson.
The government isn’t including non-government groups on the committee because of confidentiality, said Justice Minister Marian Horne on Wednesday.
Individuals who come forward with personal stories need to be heard in an “environment based on confidentiality,” she said.
“This is one of the reasons we want to ensure that confidentiality is kept by having control of the advisory committee.”
Bacon thinks it’s a flimsy argument.
“Why is it that confidentiality can be kept by government officials in a way that couldn’t be kept by community stakeholder groups?” she said.
Frontline workers and community groups are trained to maintain the highest level of confidentiality of their clients, she explained
“The implication that government officials can maintain confidentiality but community stakeholder groups can’t – it’s a bit offensive.”
Once the committee has been struck, they will do consultations with Yukoners throughout the summer.
A report with recommendations will be forwarded to the Department of Justice by September 15.
Contact Vivian Belik at