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Systemic Anti-Indigenous Racism in the RCMP


In June 2020, mere hours after the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Brenda Lucki, acknowledged that systemic racism against Indigenous peoples exists within Canada’s national police service, an Indigenous man named Rodney Levi was tasered, shot, and killed by RCMP officers. The death of this 48-year-old father of three marked the second killing of a First Nations person by the RCMP in just over a week.

Despite making up less than 5% of the overall national population, Indigenous peoples account for more than one-third of people fatally shot by the RCMP. Furthermore, a report conducted by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on systemic racism in the nation’s police forces revealed that First Nations people are more likely to be detained after an arrest, “most often on the basis of prejudice and racism.” Many First Nations people who have been detained by the RCMP and taken into custody have described being brutally assaulted by officers and, in some cases, being the victims of sexual abuse. Indeed, in British Columbia alone, more than 50 interviews conducted within Indigenous communities allege widespread abuses committed by RCMP officers, including rapes, violence, and death threats.

As the country continues to reckon with its history of violence against Indigenous people, recent instances of racially motivated police brutality serve as a stark reminder that there is still a long way to go on the path to truth and reconciliation. Acknowledging that systemic racism exists in the RCMP is only one of the first steps towards restitution and widespread reform. Individual action is required to ensure that the victims of police violence who were unfairly targeted and brutalized because of their race can find the justice they deserve.

A historical look into the RCMP reveals a legacy of deeply entrenched racism dating back to its earliest days of policing Indigenous communities and removing First Nations peoples from their lands. Unpacking the centuries-old history of racism within the RCMP (formerly the North-Western Mounted Police) is crucial to understanding why contemporary instances of racially motivated violence are considered byproducts of a systemic issue at the organization’s core. The system of policing itself was founded upon racist ideologies. Over the years, practices, habits, and accepted forms of misconduct grew out of those ideologies, evolving into a prejudiced, oppressive, and disproportionately violent system of policing.

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Given the systemic nature of the racist policing practices employed by the country’s national police service, is there any wonder why an Indigenous person is 10 times more likely to be killed by police than a non-racialized Canadian? The institutional structure of this oppressive system of policing has led to a disproportionate number of Indigenous deaths, beatings, sexual abuses, and incarcerations for generations.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is operated and overseen by the federal government of Canada, an entity that has formally acknowledged a historical awareness of the systemically racist policies that have led to countless acts of undue violence against Indigenous peoples. The federal government had clear knowledge of the RCMP’s organizationally racist policing practices but has failed to adequately reform the national police service. As such, the government of Canada may be liable for damages incurred by the victims of racially motivated assaults perpetrated by officers of the RCMP.

Pursuing Accountability by Pursuing a Civil Claim

If you were the victim of a racially motivated police assault, you may be entitled to compensation. By working with our personal injury lawyers serving BC, you may be able to pursue a civil claim against the RCMP officers who assaulted you as well as the government of Canada who failed to address the systemic racism embedded in its national police force.

The physical and psychological effects of surviving a violent assault can be long-lasting, pervasive, and extremely disruptive to a victim’s overall quality of life. Victims of violent police assaults often incur substantial monetary losses as a result of the physical and psychological injuries they have sustained.

By working with our BC personal injury lawyers, Indigenous survivors of racially motivated assaults carried out by the RCMP may be able to pursue a civil claim in order to recover damages they have incurred. That means, if you were the victim of assault, our personal injury lawyers serving BC may be able to help you file a lawsuit to try recovering the maximum amount of compensation owed to you. By doing so, you may be able to recover financial compensation for the damages you incurred because of your assault. These damages could include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Mileage to medical appointments
  • Medical equipment
  • Lifestyle adjustments/ home renovations to accommodate newly acquired disability
  • Prescription medication
  • Lost wages
  • Reduced earning capability
  • Psychological counselling
  • Pain and suffering
  • And possibly more

There is more than one method for pursuing accountability and restitution after being the victim of a violent assault by an officer of the national police service. By pursuing a civil claim, you will have the opportunity to fight for the compensation owed to you based on the specific conditions of your assault and the unique impact your injuries have had on your life. However, certain individuals choose to pursue restitution by joining class action lawsuits. This method can help draw public attention to systemic injustices but may be less advantageous to individual complainants.

The Disadvantages of Joining a Class Action Lawsuit

When more than one person has a similar complaint against a specific organization or entity, such as the RCMP and the government of Canada, they may choose to join a collective of plaintiffs known as a “class.” By joining a class action lawsuit, a complainant can pursue accountability for wrongs committed against them without retaining their own lawyers or engaging fully with the process of litigation.

In a class action lawsuit, the entire class of plaintiffs is usually represented by one party and their lawyers who control the decision-making process throughout the lawsuit. Individual members of the class have no say as to how their case is handled by the representative parties and their lawyers, nor do they have control over the agreed-upon settlement amount. If the class action lawsuit is successful, the defendant may be required to pay a settlement amount to the class to be divided amongst its members. However, oftentimes these settlement payments are limited to specific damages. For example, the defendant may only be required to provide the class with fixed compensation for certain medical expenses even though many individual members of the class also incurred damages related to psychological counselling. If you join a class action lawsuit, your specific financial losses may not be represented in the settlement amount issued to you upon the lawsuit’s successful resolution.

Additionally, since the settlement amount awarded must be divided between the members of the class, individual plaintiffs are less likely to receive a settlement that fully compensates them for their total losses. Depending on the number of people represented by the class, the compensation granted to individual members may be significantly less than the amount they could have recovered had they pursued a civil claim on their own.

Due to the complications involved in seeking restitution as a group, class action lawsuits can take years before a resolution is reached, unlike civil claims which are generally resolved in a much more expedient fashion. Furthermore, the people who participate in a class action lawsuit become ineligible to pursue further legal action against the defendant through a civil claim. If the class action lawsuit you participated in is unsuccessful or if it awards you a lower settlement amount than the one you should be entitled to, you will have lost your chance to recover fair compensation through legal means.

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers BC

If you were physically or sexually abused by an RCMP officer in a racially motivated assault, our BC personal injury lawyers may be able to help you pursue a civil claim against the offending officer and the government of Canada whose negligence allowed a system of institutional racism to exist without consequence for generations.  To discuss your situation and learn about options for legal action that may be available to you, take advantage of a free initial consultation with our personal injury lawyers serving BC by contacting Preszler Injury Lawyers online or by calling 1-800-JUSTICE.

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