RCMP Reconciliation efforts? Addressing a legacy of furthering colonization
With the release of the final report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in December 2015 and the marking of 150 years of Confederation in 2017, conversations about colonization and reconciliation have come more to the fore of public awareness and dialogue. Land disputes and protests against industrial development projects have been met with frontline opposition and intervention by police forces, both locally and federally. This essay argues that agents of the Canadian justice system continue to further the legacy of colonization, simultaneously over-policing Indigenous Peoples and ignoring their dignity and safety. A special focus on the relationship between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Indigenous communities will be explored.
With the passing of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, it is important to acknowledge Canada’s long and continuing history of harms against Indigenous people. For there to be any hope of repairing relationships and achieving true reconciliation, it is important that settler Canadians and newcomers grapple with the truth of the nation’s colonizing past. Important in this examination should not only be the history of this colonizing project but how settlers and newcomers benefit from systems and policies that continue to suppress and marginalize Indigenous people today.
Some RCMP history
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is a well-recognized Canadian institution and international symbol. Founded in 1863 as the North West Mounted Police, this police force was charged with implementing Canadian law in the west of the country (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2017). The force established posts in Saskatchewan and Alberta to monitor trade of alcohol between Indigenous people and Americans, and later the Klondike Gold Rush. The RCMP adopted its current name in 1920 following a merge with the Dominion Police of eastern Canada (RCMP, 2017). Today, it has jurisdiction in all Canadian provinces and territories, save for Ontario and Quebec.
The RCMP has a history of supporting the advance of colonization in Canada, by protecting the construction of infrastructure for transportation and trade and facilitating the industrial extraction of resources from the land (Howe &…