Commiting to Serve Indigenous People

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair


51 Division

On June 5, the Toronto Police Service’s Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit Aboriginal Peacekeeping along with the Aboriginal Community Consultative Committee hosted a celebration at the Wellesley Community Centre to mark National Indigenous History Month.

“As we reflect on the theme, we acknowledge that policing has, and continues to have a role in the systemic racism that negatively impacts the Indigenous communities,” said Chief Myron Demkiw. “Addressing this starts with us. It requires us to acknowledge the true history of Canada, identifying that we do need to change and then facilitating these necessary and overdue changes. We have made some progress in this regard as demonstrated through our Race and Identify Based Data Collection Strategy that represents a key part of our Service’s commitment to equity, transparency and accountability.”

The Chief said that analyzing and reporting on race and identity-based data is a critical component of eliminating systemic bias and discrimination that results from the Service’s procedures and practices.

“We believe that this work will help us in our quest to deliver fair and impartial policing services to all Torontonians, including Indigenous peoples,” said Demkiw. “I want to be clear that our Service can and will do better. We will do a better job of engaging with members of Indigenous communities in meaningful and culturally sensitive ways. We will find ways to reduce the inequities that currently exist and we will implement reforms that help us build stronger and more meaningful relationships with all the Indigenous communities we serve.”

Over the past few years, the Service has been called upon to make meaningful change through the implementation of recommendations for several reports, including The Truth & Reconciliation Report, The National Inquiry Into Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls, The Missing & Missed Report and The 81 Recommendations for Police Reform.

“We are committed to this work,” added Demkiw. “As we chart a path forward, the Toronto Police Service will do a much better job of listening, learning and taking action.”

The Chief said that the Neighbourhood Community Officer program is also a useful tool for building relationships at the grassroots level.

“By engaging regularly with the many Indigenous community members across our city, we know that these interactions are essential in our efforts to rebuild trust,” he said. “Through additional training and outreach, our members will continue to become better informed on Indigenous customs, traditions, values and history.”

Canadians celebrate National Indigenous People Day on June 21 to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Aboriginal Consultative Committee co-chair Frances Sanderson delivered an opening blessing while the Red Bear Singers performed several songs.

Metis dancer Auriele Diotte performed and took a light-hearted moment to lead the police officers and community members through the 7-Step Dance.

Thunder Jack of the Urban Indigenous Education Centre was the Master of Ceremony.


Woman and police officers dancing
Metis Dancer Auriele Diotte leads police officers through the 7-step dance Photo: Kevin Masterman


The event was also an opportunity to recognize the strength of present-day Indigenous communities.

“While we must certainly celebrate, it is also critical that we examine the greater context of examining our treatment of Indigenous people in our country, both historically and in current times, as we forge a collective path forward that honours the past and accounts for its failures,” said Toronto Police Services Board member Lisa Kostakis. “It is a path founded in dialogue and true mutual respect.

“This includes recent and continued discoveries of mass graves of Indigenous children who were Residential School students across Canada. Our hearts are with the communities who have felt the greatest impact of these horrific discoveries, with the survivors of the Residential School system, with the children who are still missing along with those we have lost and with families and communities.”

In acknowledging the painful past, Kostakis said it is imperative to recognize that true reconciliation requires acknowledgment that the trauma is ongoing, that this was a reality for far too many and that discrimination persists today with a significant impact.

“We must acknowledge and come to terms with the reality that sometimes, and sometimes in horrific ways, the powers of the state have been used to harm,” she pointed out. “At the same time, there is hope. We recognize that we learn best from those upon whose traditional territory we now humbly live. We know that there is still much healing that needs to take place. We can and must do more and it is critical that we commit ourselves wholly sincerely and humbly to this work.”

Toronto City Council recently approved funding for the Board to hire an Indigenous Engagement Advisor.

The individual will be responsible for establishing and fostering key partnerships with Indigenous Nations and their communities, organizations, city partners and key stakeholders. In addition, the appointee will help to develop and implement a governance and oversight approach to the Service’s implementation of the City’s Reconciliation Plan.

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