Published: 2023-06-13 (last update: 2023-09-23)
This essay was written for an Introduction to Canadian Law class with a very liberal teacher, so it will be lacking a proper analysis and conclusion in some areas, I may update it later.
Police Brutality: Its effects on the Indigenous Peoples in Canada and its relation to capitalist settler-colonialism
If we are to understand the role that capitalism plays in the settler-colonialism that Canada is founded on, and how that relation perpetrates the racism which allows this extreme form of police brutality to exist relatively unhindered in our society, we must first understand why a state forms and who it serves. As Lenin wrote in The State and Revolution, “The state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonism objectively cannot be reconciled”, from this we can understand that as long as we have capitalism as our dominate mode of production, the interests of those who the state protects will always be at odds with the interests of the vast majority of the population in that state. Since these class antagonisms cannot be rectified as the interests of the class are opposed to one another, the state creates “bodies of armed men” in order to enforce the will of the ruling class through force onto the oppressed class; it is from this reality where police brutality takes root. With this definition in mind, we can begin to explore police brutality against Indigenous peoples in both a modern and historical context.
The RCMP has its roots in the genocidal colonial police force called the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP). This force was created in order to enforce the Indian Act during the colonization of western Canada in the 1880s, though today the RCMP will claim they were created to enforce the law and protect parliament. In reality, the NWMP was created in the wake of the Red River Resistance as the Canadian state realized that the Indigenous peoples of Canada would not let their rights be simply taken away from them. The NWMP was tasked with marching west to prevent any more Indigenous rebellions from forming in the far west territories of Canada and secure the region against a possible American annexation. The use of force by the Canadian state through the NWMP also helped coerce Indigenous nations into signing unfair treaties with the state and afterwards, forcing those Peoples onto reserves against their will. In the contemporary psyche, the RCMP is viewed as a force which brought “law and order” to the west, but as always, we must ask ourselves, “Law and order for whom?”.
Police brutality against Indigenous people is not some historical event that we can explain away as “just how it was”, indeed, it is still something which affects many Indigenous people today, and the RCMP is not the sole perpetrator of it. In fact, last year in Canada, almost 70 people died at the hands of police, and almost 20 have died so far this year; and within these statistics both Black and Indigenous people are severely overrepresented, both in the context of Canada and in the cities where the deaths occurred. There is also a general perception amongst the public that racism is not a problem in Canada, but is instead just a spectacle to gawk at in the USA, this feeling only serves to embolden the police to continue its repression of Indigenous identity and culture. “Those still claiming innocence in the face of popular action against police brutality and racism in the U.S. and Canada need to understand these parallels between our settler-colonial histories and realities that have led to this current political crisis. Racism, and police brutality to enforce it, exists in our states because the ruling class needs it to remain in power.” this quote shows us the reality of racism in the modern Canadian state; Racism is a powerful tool of the ruling class, used to divide the oppressed class amongst themselves instead of establishing a class solidarity and overthrowing their oppressors. Instead of needing to blatantly oppress the working class, through racism, the working class will oppress itself, with the police standing by in case anyone gets any ideas about targeting the state instead of eachother.
Police brutality is an unescapable reality of capitalism, as long as the state continues to exist as a tool of the capitalist to oppress the worker; so too will the police continue to exist as a tool to enforce the will of the state – and by extension, the capitalist.
- Cam Canon (2020-06-15). "Canada, like the U.S., Is Built on Anti-Black and Indigenous Racism" The Maple. Retrieved 2023-06-03.
- “Shocking headlines portraying First Nations as savage threats regularly appeared in journals and missionary newspapers at the time. These also proved useful for creating, in 1868, the Dominion Police, who joined with the North West Mounted Police before they became the RCMP. Today, the RCMP claim they were formed to guard Parliament and protect First Nations peoples.
But scholars say the force was created mainly to enforce the Indian Act. The purpose of the Mounties “effectively, was to clear the plains, the Prairies, of Indigenous people,” says Steve Hewitt, who teaches at the University of Birmingham and has written three books about the RCMP’s history. “Ultimately, they were there to displace Indigenous people, to move them onto reserves whether they were willing to go or not.””
Katłįà (Catherine) Lafferty (2021-06-21). "Story by Story, Canada’s News Media Built Indigenous Oppression" The Tyee. Retrieved 2023-06-03.
- Sean Carleton (2023). "Serving and Protecting Canada’s Settler Capitalist Status Quo since 1873" National RCMP Research Council. Retrieved 2023-06-12.
- Wendy Gillis (2023-02-23). https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2023/02/23/canadian-police-used-deadly-force-at-record-rates-in-2022-new-research-finds.html "Canadian police used deadly force at record rates in 2022, new research finds" The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2023-05-29.
- "Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Data and Transparency Project". Tracking (In)Justice. Retrieved 2023-06-23.
- Jeffery Monaghan (2023). "RCMP and the Targeting of Progressive Movements" National RCMP Research Council. Retrieved 2023-06-13.