On February 1, 2023, five Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers in British Columbia were charged with manslaughter and obstruction of justice in the 2017 death of Dale Culver, a member of Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan First Nations, and father of three children who was killed in custody.
On February 6, 2023, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) demoted an officer found guilty of neglect of duty and discreditable conduct for overseeing a grossly deficient investigation tainted by racism, in the investigation of the 2015 death of Stacey DeBungee, an Indigenous man who was found in a Thunder Bay river.
The charges in these matters highlight the pressing need for meaningful action toward justice and reconciliation for Indigenous people. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) recognizes the deeply problematic colonial roots of policing in Canada and the entrenched systemic issues that exist today.
Indigenous people, families and communities are disproportionately affected by over- and under-policing, and police violence. They are left to deal with the trauma of violent encounters with police or police inattention, loss of loved ones, and unanswered questions.
The significant delay of action in both cases reminds us of the need for a broader shift towards accountability in policing. Manslaughter, obstruction of justice, neglect of duty, and discreditable conduct are all serious charges and are particularly problematic when those charged with them are the ones who should be protecting the public and administering justice without prejudice or discrimination. Without accountability and meaningful action, the public’s confidence in policing will continue to wane.
The OHRC remains committed to bring transformative change in policing in Ontario. The OHRC also remains committed to reconciliation work and will be steadfast in advancing the human rights of Indigenous people, including implementation of the Calls to Action in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Calls to Justice of the report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).