Halifax — The RCMP is looking to rebuild trust after a gunman disguised as an officer killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia. The force wants to remind the public that such incidents are incredibly rare, and to trust that the men in black with guns in the community are here to help.
Nova Scotia RCMP Cpl. June Birney said, “We have a long history in Canada, starting from our days reinforcing the colonization of the western territories, brutally crushing any resistance from First Nations. We’re proud to continue those traditions of oppression today, and we want the community to know exactly who we are.”
Cpl. Birney also noted that people who still have fears should consider the circumstances around their interactions with police.
“If you’re driving dangerously, texting on your phone, or just trying to live your life as a black or Indigenous person, that’s likely why you’re being stopped. Police may also pull you over for things you may not be aware of, like burnt-out lights, or just because the officer is on a power trip.”
Hellen Cunningham, a resident of Sydney, N.S., had a frightening run-in with police last week. She recently moved to the area and had been struggling with the difficult emotions leaving her home in Alberta. After sharing these emotions with friends online, one family member called the police to check on her, to make sure she was healthy and well. A police officer later arrived at her house, brandishing a weapon.
“It was absolutely terrifying! It’s the middle of the night, there’s this guy in all black carrying a gun is on my porch, saying he’s the police, demanding to be let in, telling me he ‘just wanted to talk.’”
Cunningham called 911 and was able to verify that the armed person on her property, pounding on her door, was a professional officer. They also connected her with a crisis hotline, to help her through the panic attack set off by the officer.
“I’m glad he didn’t shoot me, probably ‘cause I’m white, but it’s good to know it was a professional and not an imposter.”
Asking for Proof
Cpl. Birney affirmed that people can always ask an officer for their identity — the same way you can beg God to bring your dog who was shot by police back to life.
“You can technically ask anyone anything,” said Birney.
She encouraged the public to believe that the police are who they say they are, and that incidents like the April rampage are exceedingly rare.
“We want to assure the public that the individuals shooting people in their own homes and assaulting them in the streets are — and have always been — professional police officers, not imposters.”
Violence perpetrated by police officers in the United States has also stoked the fires of distrust here at home. Hundreds of cellphone videos show officers cracking down on peaceful protests in cities across the country with batons, rubber bullets, and tear gas.
Cpl. Birney reassured The Manatee that RCMP officers are careful to conduct most of their state-sanctioned violence in rural Indigenous communities, away from major centres and out of the eyes of the public — unlike rubber bullets and tear gas.