Nathan Cullen (file photo)

Nathan Cullen (file photo)

Former B.C. MP calls for more RCMP oversight

Nathan Cullen says when groups of people lose trust in police, policing becomes impossible

Former Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is again calling for more oversight of the RCMP in light of the recent spotlight on police-involved deaths.

Cullen first started his quest for police reform in 2009 with a private member’s bill that would have created a civilian watchdog agency to investigate deaths or serious injuries that happen while in RCMP custody.

The bill was inspired by Ian Bush, who died in police custody in 2005 in Houston. The 22-year-old millworker was shot in the back of his head hours after being taken into the detachment for a minor alcohol offence outside a Houston Luckies hockey game by Const. Paul Koester.

Koester was exonerated by a police investigation and two inquiries by the Commission for Complaints Against the RCMP. A coroner’s inquest ruled the death “homicide,” but coroner’s inquests do not find fault and homicide carries a different meaning in this context versus a criminal investigation.

“I sat through the hearings and the coroner’s inquiry and realized there was a real fundamental challenge if the police were investigating themselves, especially in an incident where someone is killed in their custody,” said Cullen.

“My belief was that in order for the police to do the job that we require them to do, we needed accountability and we needed that oversight. We need to respect the work they do and expect accountability and those two things are connected.”

The bill did not pass and Cullen said it had consequences for him.

“A lot of blowback at the time…. particularly from my Conservative colleagues and the then-people in the B.C. government. There [were] a lot of attacks against me for even suggesting this would be a good idea for the public.”

In 2012, however, B.C. did create an independent investigations office, which is a civilian-led police oversight agency responsible for conducting investigations into incidents of death or serious harm that may have been the result of the actions of a police officer.

READ MORE: Smithers woman awarded $55K in RCMP excessive force suit

“There has been some change on the fundamental things, but not enough,” added Cullen. “Civilian oversight has become a reality in most provinces in this country. It isn’t perfect, needs a bunch of work, but that as a principle has been broadly accepted. The need for more improvements is what people are now debating.”

He said depending on who you ask in the Northwest, there is mistrust of the local RCMP, which is a problem.

“Growing up, for me, I knew it was very important that the public trust police, and I mean all the public, from all different sectors and maybe even particularly those that more often come into the contact with the police. And in Canada that is Indigenous, racialized people, low-income people. That confidence is critical for police to keep us all safe. If you lose the trust of certain groups, policing almost becomes impossible.”

He said some of what is being suggested now is a step in the right direction.

“Yesterday in the House of Commons, the NDP were asking for an investigation into the study of police in Canada and how to make some changes.”

He added there needs to be more meaningful, deeper engagement between the police and people in the northwest region including with the Wet’suwet’en. Cullen also suggested there should be better training for the RCMP noting there is support for this among police officers.

“The police I’ve talked to, talk about this, better training, better understanding [of] what [and] where they are policing and returning back to the police being a deeper part of our community instead of this constant moving in and out.

“You’ll have RCMP members come in for a couple of years and then be gone. I’ve always questioned some of that policy. If community policing is a mandate of the force, then being built in a way that officers don’t stay for more than a couple of years runs against that. It takes a while to get to know a place and I don’t know you can police people if you don’t know who they are.”

RELATED: More than 150 people gather for Indigenous and Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Smithers

He thinks his suggestions are realistic and could be put into practice.

“We were told public oversight wasn’t realistic and the police would never go for it and it would never work. We were told body cameras weren’t realistic, we were told there would also be a camera in the interrogation room. All of these things aren’t realistic or possible until they are. The need is real, it is profound.”

Cullen said if the public loses faith in the police force, then the very job of the RCMP becomes impossible.

“If we are all interested in public safety, which I think we are, then figuring these things out should be important to everyone, regardless of their political orientation or how they feel about police.”

“A lot of folks, particularly white people, are realizing what the reality is for non-white people in this country when it comes to policing. They are not the same realities.”



marisca.bakker@interior-news.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Police

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley RCMP on scene at what appeared to be a fatal bike accident. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Cyclist dies suddenly while riding in Langley

Police were on scene of the fatal incident

Kim Snow was chosen as the H.D. Stafford Good Citizen of the Year winner by the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce. (Langley Advance Times file)
Local angel chosen for top Langley Chamber of Commerce community award

The H.D. Stafford Good Citizen of the Year Award was presented this week

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)
Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy

All Nations Chiefs from the Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets holding online forum Dec. 2

The family owned and operated Twilight Drive-In, located in Aldergrove, has been in operation since 2005. (Aldergrove Star files)
COVID restrictions curtain Twilight Drive-In for two weeks

Owner Jay Daulat is hopeful the Aldergrove business can re-open after Dec. 7

What COVID-19 looks like under the microscope. (CDC)
LETTER: Langley senior pens poem of encouragement during dark times

Less than a year ago, few had ever heard of the coronavirus. Now it dominates our lives

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Despite rumours, Surrey RCMP say they are not issuing tickets to people if they are driving in a vehicle with others from a different household. (File photo)
COVID-19 tickets: No, RCMP aren’t checking vehicle occupancies, restaurant tables

Enforcement about education, not punishment says Surrey RCMP Cpl. Joanie Sidhu

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

Most Read