In the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls there are 11 “Calls for Police Services” (recommendations) and 21 related sub categories for Police Services and government bodies to implement. These can be found in the final report under Calls for Police Services Pages 190 - 218, paragraphs 9.1- 9.11.
Building Trust & Credibility with Alberta’s Indigenous People through Cultural Competency
Developing future strategies to build and improve trust between MHPS and the indigenous community of Medicine Hat is an important first step in the journey of reconciliation. Building cultural competency is an integral part of improving trust between MHPS and Medicine Hat’s indigenous community. A consequence of obtaining cultural competency will translate into effective policies that will improve MHPS service delivery when meeting needs of the local indigenous population.
Joint Statement - Police Chief & Police Commission Chairperson
We recognize that all First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families can raise their children in Medicine Hat with the same safety, security, and human rights that non-Indigenous families living in Medicine Hat do. When providing Police Services to all indigenous persons, we will recognize their distinctions and these distinctions will include self identification, regional specific information and the gendered lens of 2SLGBTQQIA.
The Medicine Hat area, including South Eastern Alberta, the Cypress Hills, and the South West Saskatchewan area, is rich in indigenous history such as First Nations cultures of the Blackfoot Confederacy, Nakoda/Assiniboine, Cree and Metis.
Medicine Hat’s Indigenous Population
According to the Stats Canada 2016 census the following makes up the indigenous population residing in Medicine Hat. According to the latest census the overall population is 62,935. Of this general population, the ‘Aboriginal Identity’ population according to the 2021 census is 3,225 citizens.
According to Stats Canada, ‘Aboriginal identity' includes persons who are First Nations (North American Indian), Métis or Inuk (Inuit) and/or those who are registered or Treaty Indians (that is, registered under the Indian Act of Canada) and/or those who have membership in a First Nation or Indian band. Aboriginal peoples of Canada are defined in the Constitution Act, 1982, section 35 (2) as including the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.
According to the 2021 census the breakdown of the indigenous population in Medicine Hat is as follows:
First Nations (North American Indian) 1,020
Inuk (Inuit) 40
Multiple Indigenous responses 45
Indigenous response not included elsewhere 55
This action plan recognizes the influences of other indigenous persons who regularly visit, shop or live in Medicine Hat and travel here from other areas around South Eastern Alberta and South West Saskatchewan and who are not included in the enumerated census for the indigenous population of Medicine Hat.
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls Report (MMIWG)
The MMIWG report provides this action plan with several “Calls to Police Services” that provide a framework for MHPS to follow in the reconciliation journey. Several of the Calls for Police Services in the MMIWG report are either not applicable to MHPS as they fall to the jurisdiction of the Provincial and/or the Federal Government to action or because MHPS already follows the recommendation as a policing best practice.
Our Commitment to the Calls for Police Services
We will continue to build respectful working relationships with all Indigenous Peoples by creating an enhanced cultural understanding and by recognizing them as community members we serve.
Our Action Plan
Create a Chief’s Indigenous Advisory Committee and invite indigenous community leaders to meet and consider matters relating to policing services for Indigenous peoples in this community. The Committee will be made up of the Chief of Police, Chair of the Medicine Hat Police Commission, local Indigenous leaders, Métis Elders, as well as other MHPS staff.
Action Item: The committee will meet four times throughout the year, coinciding with the beginning of every new season, to connect and advise the police service on current issues relating to Indigenous and police relations within the community.
Status: First meeting was held on June 23, 2021. This group helps to guide the MHPS by advising us on our path towards reconciliation efforts and ensuring we are meeting the needs of our local community.
Action Item: Professional Standards to complete policy review through the lens of inclusiveness and understanding of Indigenous culture, values and norms and to ensure no barriers or implicit biases exist within policies or practices.
Status: Planned for 2022
Action Item: Ensure that a trauma informed approach is recognized and incorporated appropriately into all policies, procedures, and practices when dealing with indigenous persons. Ensure that policy and practices recognize that the impacts of trauma and ensure all necessary steps are taken to create a trauma-informed approach to delivery of services to indigenous persons.
Status: Planned for 2022
The MHPS Police Indigenous Liason Officer (PILO) will lead the services’ efforts in community liaison work, community relationship building, and community crime-prevention programs within and for Indigenous people in Medicine Hat in a respectful way.
Action Item: Establish a PILO who will be responsible to identifying and liaising with any local elders and Indigenous organizations.
Status: Completed Cst. Lori Parasynchuk is the current MHPS PILO.
At a ceremony held on September 23, 2022 Cst. Parasynchuk was honoured with the name Naato Awo’taan Aakii, ‘Holy Shield Woman’ in recognition of her commitment to building relationships with the local Indigenous population. During the ceremony Elder Fox shared stories of survival in his lifetime, blessings he passed on to Cst. Parasynchuk before she received her new Blackfoot spirit name, then gently pushed her forward as a symbol of stepping into her new identity.
Action Item: The MHPS Training Unit will research and develop a training session(s) to enhance member’s cultural understandings when providing services to indigenous people.
Status: In Progress
Action Item: Conduct policing environmental scan to see what related Indigenous awareness training is available.
Status: In Progress
MHPS Cadet training will continue to include anti-bias training and indigenous culture training. All training will be distinctions-based and relevant to the land and local Indigenous people being served.
Action Item: Training Unit to develop Indigenous People and Cultural Awareness training. Review and update to ensure all staff understand and recognize local Indigenous history, culture, and the challenges facing Indigenous persons in contemporary society.
Action Item: Administrative Services to develop policy to allow indigenous persons to use a sacred Eagle feather. The Eagle Feather is to be offered as an option for providing an oath swearing by a traditional Indigenous form of conscience binding. This will be offered in addition to the swearing on a religious text or making a non-religious affirmation.
Status: On June 25th,2021 the MHPS Executive Team along with RSM Fishley and the Indigenous Liaison Cst. Parasynchuk traveled to Standoff, AB to take part in a ceremony where the MHPS was gifted a sacred Eagle Feather. A gift from the Blackfoot community - the feather was transferred to the MHPS after being blessed in a smudging ceremony on Friday. The feather will be used as an option for newly hired police officers to use to promise their oath, or to provide culturally significant support to victims or witnesses. The feather was beaded specifically for the MHPS and it is a great honour for the organization to receive this gift.
Action Item: MHPS Administrative Services to develop a policy or practice to include local Indigenous land acknowledgment for all community boardroom meetings held by outside agencies and with outside agencies.
Action Item: Renaming of the MHPS Community Boardroom
On September 23, 2022 the MHPS, in collaboration with the Miywasin Friendship Centre, held a traditional Blackfoot naming ceremony. During the ceremony a Blackfoot name was bestowed upon the community space, to honor and acknowledge the Indigenous history of the land.
Medicine Hat is situated on Treaty 7 and Treaty 4 territory, traditional lands of the Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (blood), Pikani (Peigan), Stoney- Nakoda, and Tsuut`ina (Sarcee) as well as the Cree, Sioux and the Saulteaux bands of the Ojibwa peoples and is also on the Métis Nation within District Two, Battle River Territory. According to the most recently available census data (2021), Medicine Hat is currently home to approximately 3,225 residents who identify as Indigenous.
One of the goals of the MHPS Indigenous Reconciliation Action Plan developed in 2021, was to create a respectful working relationship with all Indigenous people and enhance cultural understanding. Working with members of the Chief’s Indigenous Advisory Committee, it was felt that renaming the boardroom would pay tribute to the history of this area being a traditional gathering spot for Indigenous communities.
During the ceremony the name, Aahkoinnimaan ni, was selected by Elder Charlie Fox of the Kainai Nation, a word that translates as the sacred pipe, a symbol of justice and peace that has a traditional role in the resolution of issues.
After the ceremony a come-and-go celebration was held to allow all community members an opportunity to attend and view a mural painted by local Métis artist, Ray-Al Hochman. The room also has four canvas art pieces installed that were created by JoLynn Parenteau, an Indigenous housing and homeless navigator with the Miywasin Friendship Centre and a member of the Chief’s Indigenous Advisory Committee. Each of the four paintings highlights the traditional language of the Blackfoot, Michif, Ojibwe and Plains Cree peoples.
This action plan is a way forward that provides some initial concrete steps in recognizing the complexity of intergenerational trauma suffered by Indigenous Peoples and represents a commitment by MHPS and MHPC to work towards maintaining a mutual understanding and respect in the context of providing quality Police Services to all citizens of Medicine Hat.
- Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Census Profile, 2016 Census Medicine Hat Population. https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/