As B.C.’s liaison to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said there’s no question that policing done by the RCMP now is very different than it was 20 years ago.
“Certainly some of those early missing cases were featured in our missing women’s inquiry,” Anton said while in Williams Lake Tuesday. “RCMP up country would take a report, write it up, probably quite sincere about it, then they’d put it on the shelf and that woman would be forgotten by the system, but not by her family, friends and community.”
During a meeting with Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Ann Louie and councillors Rick Gilbert and Willie Sellars, Anton heard the attitudes of the police towards the community have changed for the better.
“It’s not to say that everything is perfect, because it’s not, but there has been a fundamental shift in that relationship, which is a very positive thing,” Anton said. “RCMP members participate in the community, go to community events and are part of the community. They are not outsiders monitoring the community.”
Anton is also working on the issue of Aboriginal children in care and spoke with Louie and her councillors about that as well.
While the overall number of B.C. children in care has decreased, the number of Aboriginal children in care has stayed the same, Anton said.
“Proportionally there are more Aboriginal children in care and that is not a good dynamic for First Nations that any of us like to see.”
Listing some new projects around Aboriginal children in care in B.C., Anton said she is hopeful things will get better.
Aside from a legal aid project called the Parents Legal Centre that will work with families, Grand Chief Ed John has been contracted by the Ministry of Children and Family Development as senior advisor, she said.
“He will travel around the province to observe successes and instances that are not working and to make some recommendations.”
Additionally, Chief Judge Tom Crabtree is sharing his expertise on changes that could be made in the court system, she added.
“He is very interested in results and justice, but says process is less important. While important, process can be dynamic in terms of what it looks like, who is in the room, with a goal to get to the right solution for that child and the family.”
In addition to her role as liaison to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women, Anton’s portfolio includes criminal and civil justice, access to justice, justice reform and Civil Resolution Tribunal.
During her one-day visit to Williams Lake Anton also met with Mayor Walt Cobb, the RCMP and toured the courthouse.