Stonechild questions how to tackle alarming rate of Indigenous people in justice system
The Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) Women’s Commission honoured deputy police Chief Jason Stonechild on Monday for his ongoing commitment to protect Indigenous women.
Stonechild, who comes from a Cree background, has been vocal about the important role police play in reconciliation.
This includes instilling the calls to justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
Going into the honouring ceremony, Stonechild didn’t know what to expect.
The Women’s Commission gifted him an eagle feather, a sacred cultural gift.
“They’re the most powerful bird, so they are considered a direct connection to the creator and whenever somebody is gifted with a feather, that is supposed to be a gift from the creator for a good purpose,” explained Stonechild.
“I was very, very honoured by it and humbled.”
The final report of the national inquiry came out in June, containing 231 calls to action.
Stonechild noted 9.1, which says police services must acknowledge that the “historical and current relationship between Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people and the justice system has been largely defined by colonialism, racism, bias, discrimination and fundamental cultural and societal differences.”
Going forward, the call to action reads, police services must base these relationships on respect and understanding.
“That 9.1 is one example of exactly what the calls for justice embody. It’s that justice and policing, we reflect the community,” said Stonechild.
“We have to reflect the people we police—we have to reflect what their interests are; we have to reflect the diversity of the community in order to be effective. Because when you do that, you instill public faith.”
About 30 per cent of members of the Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS) identity as First Nations, Inuit or Métis. On the other hand, nearly half of Prince Albert residents are Indigenous.
According to a Statistics Canada report released last year, Indigenous adults are overrepresented in the correctional system. Stonechild said a large amount of Indigenous people are both victims and suspects of crime.
“It seems like our justice system is tailored to Indigenous people in a negative way, and what do we do to change that? That’s a really complex question,” he emphasized.
“I think that’s one of the expectations that was bestowed in me in the presentation of the gift last night is that how are you going to tackle that? If you’re a leader of the community, what are you going to do to try to improve relations, improve the future for Indigenous people and women in girls?”
Stonechild said he doesn’t have an answer, but he recognizes the issue and will continue to be a voice for both Indigenous people and police officers.
He said the Women’s Commission is part of the police service’s feast and round dance coming up on Oct. 26. The event honours missing and murdered Indigenous people and their families.
A pipe ceremony and feast will begin at 4 p.m. at the Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre, followed by the round dance from 7 p.m. until midnight.