The Mountie response to the MMIWG report has been to acknowledge reconciliation “is not a single event or action,” to highlight training initiatives — including a “Cultural Awareness and Humility course” currently in the works — and to say it continues to study the report and will give “careful consideration to change.” And yet, it already feels like more of the same.
Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, got the idea for the Mounties from the Royal Irish Constabulary, a paramilitary police force the British created to keep the Irish under control.
There was no coast-to-coast railway yet, and the ink was barely dry on Canada’s purchase of Western Canada from the Hudson’s Bay Company, an acquisition that paved the way for western settlement. Macdonald envisioned his own Royal Irish Constabulary, says Steve Hewitt, a senior history lecturer at the University of Birmingham and author of three books about the RCMP’s history — except instead of the Irish, they would control the Indigenous people already living on the land.
Although the North-West Mounted Police didn’t become the RCMP proper until it absorbed the Dominion Police in 1920, its paramilitary origins are still highly visible in everything from its training depot to how it organizes its officers into troops, right down to the horse and the uniform, Hewitt says.
And while Canadians may like to position ourselves in opposition to the United States, citing their “even worse record in terms of treatment of Indigenous people,” Hewitt says that’s just a myth we tell ourselves to feel better.
The job of the Mounties “effectively, was to clear the plains, the Prairies, of Indigenous people,” he says. “Ultimately, they were there to displace Indigenous people, to move them onto reserves whether they were willing to go or not.”
History books, commissions, inquiries and public apologies reveal what happened next: Indigenous people who resisted were starved onto reserves. The federal government brought in the Indian Act and used Mounties to forcibly remove Indigenous children from their homes, placing them in residential schools rife with abuse.
Read more at: