Police abandon sensitivity training program developed by Montreal indigenous groups
Montreal police have scrapped a program designed by aboriginal groups to teach police officers about their community.
A native community leader says police in Montreal are breaking a historic agreement with local aboriginal groups.
Three years ago the Montreal police force agreed to have all of its officers undergo a sensitivity training program created by the community.
That plan has now been scrapped and its not going over well.
Nakuset, the director the Native Women's Shelter in Montreal and one of the driving forces behind the training program said the abandonment of the program has hurt relations with police.
She was hopeful about the program when the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community strategy network struck a deal with police in 2015 to train officers about indigenous history and culture.
Police did not want to spend money to develop the program, so native groups developed it on their own over two years, spending thousands of dollars in the process.
They created a first version of the four-hour training program and then revised it at the department's request.
As part of two pilot sessions in 2017, the group trained 120 officers but further training was cancelled.
Nakuset said that many of the officers involved did not have any empathy for indigenous people.
"They thought this was funny. We had to tell them to be quiet. I literally had to walk around the room and tell officers to stop laughing. They didn't want to take it seriously," said Nakuset.
Part of the training session involved what is called the KAIROS blanket exercise which was developed in 1997 following the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
It is designed to teach people about the history of European colonization of North America in an easily understandable manner. A blanket representing North America is placed on the ground, and participants taking the role of indigenous people stand on it -- as others taking the role of settlers take parts of the blanket away.
During the exercise people also discuss smallpox and other diseases that destroyed indigenous communities, and other historical events.
While KAIROS has a testimonial from a Montreal police officer who took part and said he learned from the exercise, that was not the case when Montreal's communty ran the program.
"It's KAIROS's blanket exercise. We just adapted it to Quebec culture specifically for the SPVM. We went over and above and at the end of the day they rejected it," said Nakuset.
Montreal police have long been accused of having a poor relationship with indigenous communities, with multiple examples discussed during the Viens Commission.
The SPVM said that as the force hired a consultant from the Huron-Wendat Nations in Quebec City to develop a new training program.
The force's indigenous relations officer said the new program is better at meeting the needs of the force and officers are responding to it better.