Systemic Racism in the Justice System

Systemic Racism in the Justice System

(YELLOWKNIFE) Monday, June 29, 2020 – The Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight recognizes systemic racism in our society, and specifically in the justice system. This racism presents itself in a number of ways, from the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the correctional system to how the police interact with Indigenous people and all communities who have experienced discrimination due to the colour of their skin. These issues represent the long-lasting effects of colonialism and slavery on Canadian society.

Members recognize the community leadership and advocacy currently taking place across the NWT, Canada, and globally.  This is a once in a generation opportunity to discuss and change how our communities are policed and laws are enforced.  The Members call on the Minister of Justice, the Chief Superintendent of RCMP “G” division, and legal professionals to meet with Indigenous leaders and the organizers of the recent Black Lives Matter rallies to identify changes that can be made immediately, and long-term.

Political leaders must take action, heeding the call of hundreds of people who have marched in northern communities demanding that no one should feel frightened by the police or justice system due to the colour of their skin.  It is time to change or create policies to bring about equity for people disadvantaged for so long. All residents must see the justice system as fair; this can only happen through honest, open dialogue about how to improve it.

Members will advocate for these discussions to happen through a variety of forums, and will engage directly with residents.  Members welcome comments from residents, including those who have experienced systemic racism with law enforcement or the justice system.

“It’s important that we have open lines of communications between Indigenous, Territorial and Municipal governments, the policing community, and legal experts in the north to find a way through this issue of systemic racism. It’s important we understand where our hearts and minds are when we deal with issues such as crime, drugs, and mental health in the North. The only way through this is through open dialogue, hard work, and cooperation,” says Steve Norn, Chair of the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight.

“It’s 2020 and enough is enough. It has taken hundreds of years of systemic racism to get to this moment and now is the time to stand firm in our need for change, continue the momentum of conversation, and demand fairness within our systems to serve the people. The onus to change our world cannot fall solely on those being oppressed or discriminated against. The responsibility of being anti-racist belongs to every single one of us, especially those in a position of power and privilege,” says Caitlin Cleveland, Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Development.

"As a Dene woman and a former Chief, I can attest to systemic racism in corrections and RCMP. I have seen firsthand the mistreatment of Indigenous people and all people of colour by the RCMP, the courts, and the corrections system. Indigenous staff members within corrections not having a neutral mechanism to air grievances is unacceptable. The Department of Justice and the RCMP have got to change the way they deal with systemic racism within their ranks by doing things differently. They must change the way they police in Indigenous communities and the Indigenous organizations must be part of decision making within the Department of Justice,” says Frieda Martselos, Chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations.

For more information, please contact:
Steve Norn, Chair
Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight
Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly