REGINA — The federal Indigenous Services minister says Canadians are impatient to see action from the RCMP after a report that said officers in Saskatchewan racially discriminated against the mother of a young Cree man who was shot and killed.
Marc Miller says he’s been briefed on the findings from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP that investigated the handling of Colten Boushie’s death.
The 22-year-old was shot and killed in August 2016 on a farm owned by Gerald Stanley after the SUV he was riding in drove on to the property near Biggar, Sask.
A jury acquitted Stanley of second-degree murder, but before the trial, Boushie’s family and First Nations leaders voiced concerns about the way his mother was treated by Mounties the day he died.
The complaints commission said officers questioned Debbie Baptiste on her sobriety after telling her that her son had died and told her to “get it together” after she collapsed in grief.
Miller said the report confirms what he had already heard from the family.
“What I’ve heard is disturbing,” he told a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.
“She should never have been put in that position. We need to let her words speak for themselves,” Miller said of Baptiste’s remarks after the report’s release.
Baptiste and her lawyers said the way she was treated was unacceptable and an example of systemic racism. They called for changes within the RCMP.
The commission found officers generally did a professional and reasonable investigation into Boushie’s death. However, it concluded police failed to protect the SUV he was riding in, leading to evidence like blood spatter being washed away in the rain. The commission also said RCMP destroyed recordings and transcripts from the night Boushie died, and didn’t properly handle witnesses.
Miller said the independent agency’s findings demonstrate the importance of civilian oversight and noted that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki accepted most of the conclusions.
“At this juncture, everyone and Canadians are impatient to see action.”
The report made 17 recommendations to address the missteps by RCMP, including mandatory cultural awareness training for all employees.
The force in Saskatchewan says it has fulfilled 16 of those recommended changes, and plans for all members to have completed their cultural awareness training by April 1.
Miller echoed earlier comments made by Public Safety Minister Bill Blair who said work to reform the national force is ongoing, as are efforts around legislation to make policing on reserves an essential service.
“Everyone knows one course in sensitivity training won’t correct — you need to fix the institutional aspects of it,” Miller said of the RCMP.
“While firing one or two people may be satisfying, it doesn’t address the underlying root problem … it is not an overnight solution.”
A spokeswoman said the officers involved in notifying Baptiste of her son’s death remain with the RCMP.