Speaking notes for Feminists Deliver, co-chair Angela Marie MacDougall’s remarks delivered to the B.C. Legislature’s Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act on July 22 2021
Good day, my name is Angela Marie MacDougall, and it is a privilege and my honour to speak with you today on behalf of the Feminists Deliver, in my capacity as co-chair. My people do not come from this land, my maternal family comes here by way of northern Scandinavia and my paternal family is here by way of western Africa. I respectfully acknowledge the members of the committee and my fellow presenters representing Justice for Girls and Vancouver Women’s Health Collective.
I am deeply and forever grateful to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations for the opportunity to live in their unceded, unsurrendered and ancestral territories. We are forever grateful to the many First Nations all across these lands where Feminists Deliver has the privilege to work in their unceded, unsurrendered ancestral territories.
About Feminists Deliver
Feminists Deliver is a grassroots collaboration of twenty-five BC-based gender justice and human rights organizations. Feminists Deliver works to shed a light on the urgent issues facing marginalized communities in BC and the grassroots struggles leading the way for transformative change; to build transnational connections between grassroots intersectional feminist movements; and re-envision the global women’s agenda as one that centers a diversity of grassroots intersectional feminist voice.
Feminists Deliver interest in reforming the Police Act
This Committee has been established to contemplate reforms related to the modernization and sustainability of policing under the Police Act; the role of police with respect to complex social issues including mental wellness, problematic substance use and institutional and systemic racism within policing agencies in British Columbia and actions to ensure consistency with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and we add the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent.
Feminists Deliver interests in policing focus on the safety and security of women – trans and cis and other people who are marginalized on the basis of their gender. We highlight that Black, Indigenous, and women of colour are overwhelmingly negatively impacted by the police. Feminists Deliver members point to the many ways in which trans and cis women are vulnerable to violence in many forms, specifically, many cross cutting factors including disability, poverty, occupation, geographical location, health and race. The rates of violence against Black and Indigenous women, girls, trans and two spirit people remain high and are at the centre of the ongoing human rights violations in BC where these communities are over-policed and under protected.
Recommendations for Reforming the Police Act
It has been highlighted by the frontline work of our members and by the people they serve, there is rampant gender and racial profiling where Black and Indigenous women and girls experience a unique version of racism that intersects with misogyny for the profound effect of experiencing the least amount of protection by the state and public safety mechanism and are indeed targeted for police and state violence especially when they are faced with having to call 911. We acknowledge the police killing of Chantel Moore, a Tla-o-qui-aht woman who was killed by police during a “wellness check”.
Police reforms and legislation changes must specifically be revised to explicitly keep women and children safe. We categorically object to the police killing anyone including women and children. As it has been said by many who have appeared here, women should not be killed after calling 911 during a police “wellness check”. Every legislative tool and policy must be used to ensure that that state sanctioned murder or abuse of women and children is not permitted. It has been recommended that mental health practitioners accompany or replace police on health checks and we urge the committee to review jurisdictions that have piloted this kind of intervention.
We affirm that any police reform must centre the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent where both explicitly require designing, implementing and enforcing effective measures to eliminate the phenomenon popularly known as “racial profiling”, including police checks; and including eliminating institutionalized stereotypes concerning people of African descent, Indigenous peoples and people of colour and applying appropriate sanctions against law enforcement officials who act on the basis of racial profiling; and to ensure that Indigenous peoples and people of African descent have full access to effective protection and remedies through the competent tribunal against any acts of racial discrimination, and the right to seek from such tribunals just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of such discrimination. It has been well established that Indigenous and Black women are on the frontline of over-criminalization during these interactions.
We affirm the necessity of implementing existing recommendations in these reports:
- Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada by Human Rights Watch,
- Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission, and from Justice Reform for British Columbia by Community Legal Assistance Society, Pivot Legal Society, West Coast LEAF, and B.C. Civil Liberties Association,
- Getting to the Roots – a Downtown Eastside Safety audit by the Downtown Eastside Women’s Coalition,
Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry report from the Oppal Inquiry,
- Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in the DTES by the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre,
- “Calls for Justice” -The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
We affirm the recommendation that this commission read each of these reports in their entirety and implement the recommendations outlined in each. We demand elimination of searches and monitoring of Indigenous and Black women and girls by male police officers a practice that is rampant in areas under RCMP jurisdiction.
We affirm the recommendation for the elimination of the use of police restraint devices such as the hobble restraint device, and end the use of police dogs as weapons.
We affirm recommendations made by our members to ensure administrative, disciplinary, or criminal measures are available to hold officials accountable when officers are determined to have failed to act on reports of missing women or to carry out biased or inadequate investigations of violence against Indigenous women.
We affirm recommendations that provide Indigenous women, their families, and community advocates with available and effective procedure to file complaints in the case of noncompliance or negligence by officials, and information on how to initiate and pursue that procedure.
We affirm the critique noted by our members of the ongoing violation of spaces that have been established for safety for victims/survivors of sexualized and domestic violence such as women’s centres and transition houses where police services refuse to either abide by entrance/access policies or have stepped away from the table during community/police policy development and we recommend centering respect for safe spaces for women and people who are marginalized by their gender.
We affirm that all police forces in BC, should be mandated to implement Sex Work Enforcement Guidelines similar to those in Vancouver that support the safety of sex workers in police interactions.
In reforming the Police Act, we call on the Province to make it easier to file a police complaint and establish an independent civilian watchdog that conducts investigations of reported incidents of serious police misconduct, including allegations of police violence, domestic violence and sexual assault. You must increase liability for the misconduct of police officers to include criminal charges.
The Police Act must include a legislated review system to audit police funding on a regular basis and must commit to continually reducing funding for police to address issues that would be better addressed by professionals trained in areas such as mental health and harm reduction. This must be built into any reform. Money that currently is spent on police delivering services they are not trained to deliver, would be better spent providing housing and food and other critical community needs that are severely underfunded and which, in their absence, increase the likelihood of engagement with the police.
We call for an independent, gender-based, Black and Indigenous analysis of the Police Act and any proposed changes. Indigenous and Black women from community-based and grassroots organizations must be involved in this analysis.
What’s more, First Nations as the proper Title and Rights holders must have the opportunity to review a consultation draft of the draft Bill prior to introduction, and they must be given the powers to recommend any changes. Full alignment as per the Declaration Act must be done in partnership with First Nations.
Feminist Deliver is uniquely situated to advance intersectional and anti-oppression feminist analysis and the organizations who are members are working on the front-line of where social inequities grind down in the lives of the people our members exist to serve. I will conclude by acknowledging the vision, the agency, the strength, and brilliance of all of all our constituents and thank Feminists Deliver for the opportunity to share these recommendations today.