Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs Call For Overhaul Of RCMP Amidst Continued Injustices And Racism

Jun 3, 2024 | Uncategorized

Gitanyow Lax’yip, June 3, 2024: The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs stand united with Indigenous communities demanding action and accountability from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS). The recent developments in the cases of Dale Culver’s and Jared Lowndes’ death and the racist social media posts by an officer in Bella Bella, British Columbia, highlight the pervasive systemic racism within the RCMP and institutions that continue to oppress Indigenous peoples.

Initially known as the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP), the RCMP played a critical role in implementing policies aimed at the assimilation, relocation, or elimination of Indigenous peoples to clear the way for settlement and economic development. This included forcibly removing children from their families into residential schools and attempting to eradicate Indigenous identity and culture.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged in 2020 that systemic racism exists in all institutions, including the RCMP. This admission underscores that the problem is not isolated to individual “bad apples” but is ingrained in the very fabric of these institutions that continue to harm Indigenous peoples and communities today.

Recent Incidents In British Columbia Highlighting Systemic Racism

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council recently called for the suspension and removal of an RCMP officer in Bella Bella over racist social media posts made before joining the Mounties. One social media post shows a man dressed in a colonial-style uniform in front of a Union Jack, with a comment, “Now, what’s to be done about these pesky natives stirring up trouble in the colonies.” Despite meetings with RCMP officials, the officer remains on duty, causing significant community safety concerns.

On April 5, 2024, the BCPS announced it would abandon its case against the two RCMP officers charged with manslaughter in Dale Culver’s death. 35-year-old Culver, a member of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitksan Nations, died in police custody after being chased for riding a bike without a helmet.

Two weeks later, on April 23, the Crown declined to prosecute the three RCMP officers involved in Jared Lowndes’ death. Lowndes, aged 38 and a member of the Wet’suwet’en Nation was fatally shot by police in a Tim Horton’s parking lot.

Now, only two of the five RCMP officers recommended for charges in Dale Culver’s death will face legal action after Constable Clarence MacDonald’s obstruction charges were also stayed.

In all cases, charges were stayed or not approved despite the findings of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) that officers had committed offences.

According to Ron MacDonald, the former Chief Civilian Director of the IIO, less than half of the recommended charges against police officers have been approved by the prosecution service in the past five years. MacDonald publicly expressed his concern about the BCPS’s reluctance to prosecute officers and planned on submitting a report about the issue before he retired last month.

Broader Context of Systemic Racism and Injustice

One of Canada’s most prolific serial killers, Robert Pickton, died last Friday, May 31 following a violent attack on May 19 at a maximum security prison in Quebec. Pickton lured women, many Indigenous, from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) to his rural pig farm in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.

After being charged with the murders of 26 women, Pickton was only ever convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2007. Despite finding the partial remains or DNA of 33 women on his farm, and Pickton claiming to have murdered 49 women, authorities said Pickton would not face another trial, citing the lack of provisions under Canadian law for consecutive life sentences.

In 2012, the conclusion from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry into the Pickton case slammed the police for years of inadequate and failed investigations, including systemic bias by the police. After 93 days of hearings, their final 1,448-page report offered 63 recommendations.

Families of Pickton’s victims are now fighting the RCMP’s plan to return or destroy an estimated 14,000 pieces of evidence seized for the case.

The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs stand with the Heiltsuk, the families of Dale Culver and Jared Lowndes, the survivors and victims’ families of Robert Pickton, and all Indigenous peoples and communities affected by systemic racism and police violence. We join in the call for justice and the protection of our communities.

Calls to Action

●  As per the joint letter sent on May 29, 2024, to Assistant Deputy Attorney General Barbara Carmichael, we requested that the Attorney    General direct Carmichael to reconsider criminal proceedings against the officers responsible for the deaths of Dale Culver in 2017 and Jared Lowndes in 2021. Including appointing a Special Prosecutor or Ad Hoc Counsel, that Counsel be an Indigenous lawyer or, in the alternative, that an Indigenous lawyer accompany the Special Prosecutor or Ad Hoc Counsel as second chair during the criminal proceedings.

●  A full public inquiry into the RCMP’s role in the deaths of Indigenous peoples, ensuring Indigenous oversight, including Dale Culver and Jared Lowndes.

●  Immediate removal and decisive action against police officers displaying racist attitudes or behaviour.

●  Comprehensive reforms within the RCMP to address and dismantle systemic racism.

●  Transparent and consistent accountability from the BC Prosecution Service in prosecuting police for criminal offences.

●  Publicize the outgoing report from the former Chief Civilian Director of the Independent Investigations Office to ensure transparency and accountability.


Simogyet Malii/Glen Williams stated:

“The tragic case of Robert Pickton is a stark reminder of how systemic racism allows for the continued victimization and neglect of Indigenous women. We must never forget all of his victims, and we must continue to fight for systemic change.”

Joel Starlund/Sk’a’nism Tsa ‘Win’Giit, Executive Director of the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs emphasized:

“Policing in Canada needs a fundamental overhaul of the entire racist institution. Small incremental changes are not enough. When officers are recommended for charges, they must go to court and face the consequences of their actions. When officers demonstrate racist behaviour, like on social media or otherwise, they shouldn’t be moved to a desk job—they need to be shown the door.”

Debbie Pierre, cousin of Dale Culver and Operations Manager for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs said:

“We are devastated and outraged that those responsible for Dale’s death will not be held accountable. This failure is a slap in the face to all Indigenous families seeking justice. The system continues to protect its own, and this must change immediately.”

* Photo of Lily Speed-Namox (Dale Culver’s daughter) by Bill Phillips, 2020.