‘It is urgent:’ Commissioner calls for Indigenous bodies to oversee police


Aboriginal civilian groups that would oversee police actions are long past due in Canada, says a commissioner who served on the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Michele Audette says it’s been obvious for decades that the way police are held accountable is failing Indigenous people and other communities of colour.

“It is urgent, very urgent, that we have a civilian body,” Audette said in an interview with The Canadian Press from Montreal.


For three years, Audette listened to testimony from Indigenous families and experts. She recalls stories about crime victims not being supported or families not taken seriously when a loved one disappeared. Some spoke about not knowing where to turn if they alleged police were the perpetrators of harm.

The inquiry’s final report was delivered to the federal government in June 2019. It included 231 “calls for justice” – many of which included police reform and increased oversight.

It urged federal and provincial governments to establish Indigenous civilian bodies in all jurisdictions to oversee investigations into cases involving Indigenous people.

Nothing happened, Audette said.

A spokesman for Public Safety Canada, which is responsible for policing and police oversight, said the government is working to address the inquiry’s report and there have been meetings with Indigenous leaders about Indigenous policing.

“While still early days, it can be expected that questions around effective civilian police oversight and the relationship between Canada’s Indigenous population and police services will surface and will need to be carefully assessed as work progresses on this mandate commitment,” Tim Warmington said in an email.

Ian McLeod, a federal Justice Department spokesman who could not speak to police oversight specifically, said there is a lot more work to do when it comes to supporting Indigenous people.

“We will continue working with First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, and with provincial, territorial and municipal partners to respond to the (inquiry’s) calls for justice,” he said in an email.

There are specialized services for Indigenous victims and the government also provides support to community-based programs and family liaison units, McLeod said.

Audette said the tide has started to turn with rallies demanding police reform after the death of George Floyd, a Black man in the United States. A police officer trying to arrest Floyd knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, even as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

There are many recent stories about Indigenous people dying during encounters with police.

Three Indigenous people – Eishia Hudson, 16, Jason Collins, 36, and Stewart Andrews, 22 – were killed by Winnipeg officers over a 10-day span in April. The province’s independent police watchdog is investigating.

In Toronto, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black-Indigenous woman, fell to her death from her balcony in May after police went to her apartment. Her family criticized Ontario’s Special Investigation Unit for clearing the officers of wrongdoing and its finding of no “overt racism” in their actions. Of that unit’s 52 investigators, two are Indigenous and three are Black.

In June, two Indigenous people died in encounters with police in New Brunswick, including 26-year-old Chantel Moore, who was shot after officers were called to do a wellness check. Quebec’s independent investigation unit was brought in to look at the circumstances of Moore’s death.

Not a single investigator in that unit is Indigenous.

Audette said it shows the need for Indigenous oversight of such investigations.

“Even if you are a good person, it’s just the structure, the culture and … systemic discrimination or racism,” she said. “Let’s break this by having a civilian body.”

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said First Nations people in his province have been calling for reform for decades. He pointed to the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, which investigated the brutal murder of Helen Betty Osborne near The Pas in 1971 and the fatal Winnipeg police shooting of John Joseph Harper in 1988.

The shooting of Harper was originally ruled an accident, but the inquiry said the officer used excessive force.

No one was convicted in Osborne’s death for 16 years. It was concluded that the most significant factors prolonging the young Cree woman’s case were racism, sexism and indifference of white people.

“Fundamentally, the missing piece is there is not enough of a political will and there’s not enough of a desire for the institutions to truly address these issues,” Dumas said.

He said he must remain hopeful the current push for police reform will finally lead to action.

“The only recourse, really, is to have an independent objective First Nations perspective on oversight of these issues.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 7, 2020.



Leviticus 19, 20 and 21

19:1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

19:2 Speak to the congregation of the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them, Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God [am] holy.

19:3 Let every one of you reverence his father and his mother; and ye shall keep my sabbaths: I [am] the Lord your God.

19:4 Ye shall not follow idols, and ye shall not make to yourselves molten gods: I [am] the Lord your God.

19:5 And if ye will sacrifice a peace-offering to the Lord, ye shall offer it acceptable from yourselves.

19:6 In what day soever ye shall sacrifice it, it shall be eaten; and on the following day, and if any of it should be left till the third day, it shall be thoroughly burnt with fire.

19:7 And if it should be at all eaten on the third day, it is unfit for sacrifice: it shall not be accepted.

19:8 And he that eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned the holy things of the Lord; and the souls that eat it shall be destroyed from among their people.

19:9 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, ye shall not complete the reaping of your field with exactness, and thou shalt not gather that which falls from thy reaping.

19:10 And thou shalt not go over the gathering of thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather the remaining grapes of thy vineyard: thou shalt leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.

19:11 Ye shall not steal, ye shall not lie, neither shall one bear false witness as an informer against his neighbour.

19:12 And ye shall not swear unjustly by my name, and ye shall not profane the holy name of your God: I am the Lord your God.

19:13 Thou shalt not injure thy neighbour, neither do thou rob [him], neither shall the wages of thy hireling remain with thee until the morning.

19:14 Thou shalt not revile the deaf, neither shalt thou put a stumbling-block in the way of the blind; and thou shalt fear the Lord thy God: I am the Lord your God.

19:15 Thou shalt not act unjustly in judgment: thou shalt not accept the person of the poor, nor admire the person of the mighty; with justice shalt thou judge thy neighbour.

19:16 Thou shalt not walk deceitfully among thy people; thou shalt not rise up against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord your God.

19:17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, so thou shalt not bear sin on his account.

19:18 And thy hand shall not avenge thee; and thou shalt not be angry with the children of thy people; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; I am the Lord

19:19 Ye shall observe my law: thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with one of a different kind, and thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with diverse seed; and thou shalt not put upon thyself a mingled garment woven of two [materials].

19:20 And if any one lie carnally with a woman, and she should be a home-servant kept for a man, and she has not been ransomed, [and] her freedom has not been given to her, they shall be visited [with punishment]; but they shall not die, because she was not set at liberty.

19:21 And he shall bring for his trespass to the Lord to the door of the tabernacle of witness, a ram for a trespass-offering.

19:22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass-offering, before the Lord, for the sin which he sinned; and the sin which he sinned shall be forgiven him.

19:23 And whenever ye shall enter into the land which the Lord your God gives you, and shall plant any fruit-tree, then shall ye purge away its uncleanness; its fruit shall be three years uncleansed to you, it shall not be eaten.

19:24 And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a subject of praise to the Lord.

19:25 And in the fifth year ye shall eat the fruit, its produce is an increase to you. I am the Lord your God.

19:26 Eat not on the mountains, nor shall ye employ auguries, nor divine by inspection of birds.

19:27 Ye shall not make a round cutting of the hair of your head, nor disfigure your beard.

19:28 And ye shall not make cuttings in your body for a [dead] body, and ye shall not inscribe on yourselves any marks. I am the Lord your God.

19:29 Thou shalt not profane thy daughter to prostitute her; so the land shall not go a whoring, and the land be filled with iniquity.

19:30 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuaries: I am the Lord.

19:31 Ye shall not attend to those who have in them divining spirits, nor attach yourselves to enchanters, to pollute yourselves with them: I am the Lord your God.

19:32 Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old an, and shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord your God.

19:33 And if there should come to you a stranger in your land, ye shall not afflict him.

19:34 The stranger that comes to you shall be among you as the native, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

19:35 Ye shall not act unrighteously in judgment, in measures and weights and scales.

19:36 There shall be among you just balances and just weights and just liquid measure. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

19:37 And ye shall keep all my law and all my ordinances, and ye shall do them: I am the Lord your God.



20:1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

20:2 Thou shalt also say to the children of Israel, If [there shall be] any of the children of Israel, or of those who have become proselytes in Israel, who shall give of his seed to Moloch, let him be surely put to death; the nation upon the land shall stone him with stones.

20:3 And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given of his seed to Moloch, to defile my sanctuary, and profane the name of them that are consecrated to me.

20:4 And if the natives of the land should in anywise overlook that man in giving of his seed to Moloch, so as not to put him to death;

20:5 then will I set my face against that man and his family, and I will destroy him, and all who have been of one mind with him, so that he should go a whoring to the princes, from their people.

20:6 And the soul that shall follow those who have in them divining spirits, or enchanters, so as to go a whoring after them; I will set my face against that soul, and will destroy it from among its people.

20:7 And ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God [am] holy.

20:8 And ye shall observe my ordinances, and do them: I [am] the Lord that sanctifies you.

20:9 Every man who shall speak evil of his father or of his mother, let him die the death; has he spoken evil of his father or his mother? he shall be guilty.

20:10 Whatever man shall commit adultery with the wife of a man, or whoever shall commit adultery with the wife of his neighbour, let them die the death, the adulterer and the adulteress.

20:11 And if any one should lie with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness: let them both die the death, they are guilty.

20:12 And if any one should lie with his daughter-in-law, let them both be put to death; for they have wrought impiety, they are guilty.

20:13 And whoever shall lie with a male as with a woman, they have both wrought abomination; let them die the death, they are guilty.

20:14 Whosoever shall take a woman and her mother, it is iniquity: they shall burn him and them with fire; so there shall not be iniquity among you.

20:15 And whosoever shall lie with a beast, let him die the death; and ye shall kill the beast.

20:16 And whatever woman shall approach any beast, so as to have connexion with it, ye shall kill the woman and the beast: let them die the death, they are guilty.

20:17 Whosoever shall take his sister by his father or by his mother, and shall see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness, it is a reproach: they shall be destroyed before the children of their family; he has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, they shall bear their sin.

20:18 And whatever man shall lie with a woman that is set apart [for a flux], and shall uncover her nakedness, he has uncovered her fountain, and she has uncovered the flux of her blood: they shall both be destroyed from among their generation.

20:19 And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s sister, or of the sister of thy mother; for that man has uncovered the nakedness of one near akin: they shall bear their iniquity.

20:20 Whosoever shall lie with his near kinswoman, has uncovered the nakedness of one near akin to him: they shall die childless.

20:21 Whoever shall take his brother’s wife, it is uncleanness; he has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall die childless.

20:22 And keep ye all my ordinances, and my judgments; and ye shall do them, and the land shall not be aggrieved with you, into which I bring you to dwell upon it.

20:23 And walk ye not in the customs of the nations which I drive out from before you; for they have done all these things, and I have abhorred them:

20:24 and I said to you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you for a possession, [even] a land flowing with milk and honey: I [am] the Lord your God, who have separated you from all people.

20:25 And ye shall make a distinction between the clean and the unclean cattle, and between clean and unclean birds; and ye shall not defile your souls with cattle, or with birds, or with any creeping things of the earth, which I have separated for you by reason of uncleanness.

20:26 And ye shall be holy to me; because I the Lord your God [am] holy, who separated you from all nations, to be mine.

20:27 And [as for] a man or woman whosoever of them shall have in them a divining spirit, or be an enchanter, let them both die the death: ye shall stone them with stones, they are guilty.


21:1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the priests the sons of Aaron, and thou shalt tell them [that] they shall not defile themselves in their nation for the dead,

21:2 but [they may mourn] for a relative who is very near to them, for a father and mother, and sons and daughters, for a brother,

21:3 and for a virgin sister that is near to one, that is not espoused to a man; for these one shall defile himself.

21:4 He shall not defile himself suddenly among his people to profane himself.

21:5 And ye shall not shave your head for the dead with a baldness on the top; and they shall not shave their beard, neither shall they make gashes on their flesh.

21:6 They shall be holy to their God, and they shall not profane the name of their God; for they offer the sacrifices of the Lord as the gifts of their God, and they shall be holy.

21:7 They shall not take a woman who is a harlot and profaned, or a woman put away from her husband; for he is holy to the Lord his God.

21:8 And thou shalt hallow him; he offers the gifts of the Lord your God: he shall be holy, for I the Lord that sanctify them [am] holy.

21:9 And if the daughter of a priest should be profaned to go a whoring, she profanes the name of her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

21:10 And the priest that is chief among his brethren, the oil having been poured upon the head of the anointed one, and he having been consecrated to put on the garments, shall not take the mitre off his head, and shall not rend his garments:

21:11 neither shall he go in to any dead body, neither shall he defile himself for his father or his mother.

21:12 And he shall not go forth out of the sanctuary, and he shall not profane the sanctuary of his God, because the holy anointing oil of God [is] upon him: I [am] the Lord.

21:13 He shall take for a wife a virgin of his own tribe.

21:14 But a widow, or one that is put away, or profaned, or a harlot, these he shall not take; but he shall take for a wife a virgin of his own people.

21:15 And he shall not profane his seed among his people: I [am] the Lord that sanctifies him.

21:16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

21:17 Say to Aaron, A man of thy tribe throughout your generations, who shall have a blemish on him, shall not draw nigh to offer the gifts of his God.

21:18 No man who has a blemish on him shall draw nigh; a man blind, lame, with his nose disfigured, or his ears cut,

21:19 a man who has a broken hand or a broken foot,

21:20 or hump-backed, or blear-eyed, or that has lost his eye-lashes, or a man who has a malignant ulcer, or tetter, or one that has lost a testicle.

21:21 Whoever of the seed of Aaron the priest has a blemish on him, shall not draw nigh to offer sacrifices to thy God, because he has a blemish on him; he shall not draw nigh to offer the gifts of God.

21:22 The gifts of God [are] most holy, and he shall eat of the holy things.

21:23 Only he shall not approach the veil, and he shall not draw nigh to the altar, because he has a blemish; and he shall not profane the sanctuary of his God, or I am the Lord that sanctifies them.

21:24 And Moses spoke to Aaron and his sons, and to all the children of Israel.

Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir a step closer to facing war crimes charges

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has announced that the country is ready to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) so those accused of war crimes in Darfur appear before the tribunal, a list that includes deposed President Omar al-Bashir.

Al-Bashir, who has been in jail in Khartoum since he was toppled after mass protests last year, is wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur in a conflict that killed an estimated 300,000 people beginning in 2003.

The government reached a deal with rebel groups in February that all five Sudanese ICC suspects should appear before the court, but Hamdok had not previously publicly affirmed Sudan’s position.

“I reiterate that the government is fully prepared to cooperate with the ICC to facilitate access to those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Hamdok said in a televised address on the anniversary of his ascent to office on Saturday.

Al-Bashir has denied the allegations against him, and had escaped previous attempts to send him to The Hague tribunal.


Sudan Agrees with Rebels to Remove Islam as State Religion

In signing successive peace deals with entrenched rebel movements last week, Sudan drew upon the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.


“The constitution should be based on the principle of ‘separation of religion and state,’” read the text of an agreement between the North African nation’s joint military-civilian transitional council and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM–N).

“The state shall not establish an official religion.”

The declaration of principles further cements Sudan’s efforts to undo the 30-year system of strict sharia law under President Omar al-Bashir, during which Islam was the religion of the state.

The agreement was signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, four days after a more inclusive peace deal was signed with a coalition of rebel groups in the Sudan Revolutionary Front in Juba, South Sudan.

The Juba agreement established a national commission for religious freedom, which guarantees the rights of Christian communities in Sudan’s southern regions.

Sudan’s population of 45 million is roughly 91 percent Muslim and 6 percent Christian. Open Doors ranks Sudan at No. 7 among the 50 nations where it is hardest to be a Christian.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) interpreted the agreement even more widely: to protect the rights of all Sudanese people to practice their religion of choice.

With a stronghold in the southern Nuba Mountains within the South Kordofan region, an area with a significant Christian population, the SPLM–N held out of the initial peace deal specifically because it did not guarantee the separation of religion and state.

“There’s no equal citizenship rights, there’s no distribution of wealth, there’s no equal development in the country,” one rebel leader told South Sudan in Focus.

“There’s no equality between black and Arab, and Muslim and Christian.”

But now including most of the major rebel movements in the western Darfur region and the Sudanese south, democratic transition can continue with national unity.

Following months of popular protests, Sudan’s military overthrew Bashir in April 2019. An interim constitution—which notably omitted reference to sharia law as the primary source of legislation—was signed in August 2019, establishing a ceasefire and a six-month window to achieve peace.

Negotiations began in late 2019, and the February 2020 deadline was extended.

Autonomy is granted to the southern regions of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Darfur, which had been split into five regions, will be reunified under its own governor with a special revenue-sharing agreement.

Rebel parties will receive 35 percent of government ministries, and 75 seats in the upcoming 300-member transitional parliament. Individual militants will be incorporated into the national army.

Sudan is currently led by an 11-member Sovereign Council, with one member a Coptic Christian. Currently headed by a military figure, a civilian will take the helm halfway through the three-year transition ending in 2022, with new elections.

Since conflict erupted in Darfur in 2003, about 300,000 were killed with 2.7 million displaced from their homes. Thousands more were killed in the south since fighting began in 2011.

The civilian prime minister has already implemented significant changes.

In September 2019, Sudan and the United Nations agreed to open human rights offices in marginalized areas with significant religious minorities.

In December 2019, the public order law—used to punish individuals, especially women, in non-conformity with sharia law—was repealed.

And in July 2020, the Miscellaneous Amendments Act repealed the apostasy law, ended flogging for blasphemy, banned female genital mutilation (FGM), and permitted non-Muslims to drink alcohol.

The government additionally disbanded church councils used to control Christian congregations, declared Christmas a national holiday, and stated it is working on a uniform law for all religious worship.

But there is still much to do.

USCIRF noted that promised compensation claims for churches destroyed or confiscated during Bashir’s reign have been held up by bureaucracy. It called for full repeal of the blasphemy law, which still stipulates a six-month imprisonment. And much work is necessary to reform remaining Islamist imprints in the judiciary and Ministry of Education.

Despite earlier hopes, Christianity will not be introduced for the first time in the national school curriculum. One pastor has complained that compulsory Islamic education sometimes results in the forced conversion of Christians to Islam.

And following the July repeal of sharia-based measures, thousands of Sudanese rallied against the “apostasy government.”

Sudan has witnessed several failed peace deals in the past, and significant hurdles toward full religious freedom remain.

But Christian leaders are hopeful.

“People here prefer to be cautious,” said Tombe Trille, Catholic bishop of El Obeid, capital of northern Kordofan, to the Vatican’s news agency. “But it is very important that a signature has finally been reached.

“We are all very happy.”