New report slams RCMP treatment of homeless Indigenous women in Northwest Territories

Homeless Indigenous women in the North do not feel well-protected by the RCMP and instead face violence and discrimination by police, a new report from the Yellowknife Women’s Society has found. The organization held two sessions with women last October, and every single participant said she either experienced abuse by an RCMP officer or knew an Indigenous person who had.

“More than once, women in our circles shared stories of being roughed up by the police and being explicitly told some version of, ‘I can do what I want to you — no one will believe you,”‘ the report says. “Women also told us about calling for help and having the RCMP focus on ‘the wrong thing’ — asking women aggressive questions, spending time on administrative checkboxes despite urgency, or even arresting women who had sought their assistance.”

In general, women who participated in the research said they felt their concerns weren’t taken as seriously or credibly as those of non-Indigenous people. “You know, they’re there when you don’t need them. And when you need them, they’re nowhere around,” one participant said.

Renee Sanderson, the executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society, said these experiences along with a broad distrust of the RCMP have real-world consequences. “So many unhoused Indigenous women don’t ask for help from police, because they fear getting ignored, or roughed up, or worse,” she said.

“Who can they call on, if they feel unsafe with the people meant to protect them?” The report makes 24 recommendations to improve those relationships and the safety of those the national force is mandated to protect.

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