I have been noticing a lot of coverage lately about the mistreatment of First Nation people at the hands of some police forces. This issue really came to a head with the deaths of two First Nation men in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Apparently these men were taken by the police in an unhealthy state to the outskirts of the city and left to make it back into downtown in the freezing cold on their own. These men, Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus, should not die in vain. The very least we should expect is that our justice system deals with racism within our police forces so these tragic and horrible occurrences do not happen again.

I am sure most police forces and most police officers are not racist, but I also believe these recent tragic occurrences and many other cases point to the fact that racism can sometimes hide even in the hearts and minds of those we least expect it from. I have heard it said that the best way to defeat racism is through education, and I believe this is true. Perhaps it is time that First Nation communities and areas with large First Nation populations are forced to have their police officers put through an anti-racist process. We need to sensitize our police forces about our cultures, our traditions, our problems, our issues and our history. This cannot be done by reading books or through one-day workshops. We need some kind of strategy from our First Nation leaders in cooperation with our police forces and also prison-system personnel.

Every police force should have the opportunity to learn about First Nation people. I really believe we will see a change in this racist type of attitude if we make it mandatory that police forces go through a process of gathering knowledge first-hand with Native leaders, Elders and educational professionals. We need to get in touch with our police forces. We have to make the effort to get close to these people in privileged positions of power to make sure we give them the opportunity to grow and to heal, so our people are treated with respect and dignity. It is no excuse to treat First Nation people or anyone else with disdain simply because they may have a health concern like alcoholism or drug addiction. It is also necessary that we educate our police forces about alcoholism and drug addiction.

I really believe most police officers will accept the opportunity to spend some time with First Nation people and to learn about us. I am not saying absolutely everyone will benefit from this exposure, but even from my own limited experience I realize on a regular basis that my myths and stereotypes about other cultures are wrong. The only way I find out what another culture is about is through personal contact. Of course, it also helps that more and more police forces are hiring First Nation people, and I hope this development continues to expand.

We need our police forces and we absolutely must have police officers that are well-trained, well-disciplined and maybe most importantly well-educated in all aspects of the society they serve and protect. Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus have paid dearly to bring this lesson to us all. Let us now honour their spirits with the development of a process where we can heal from this tragedy and also make sure this does not happen again anywhere in our home and native land.