Why Indigenous Canadians on reserves are reluctant to complain about the police

  • John Kiedrowski President, Compliance Strategy Group, Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • Michael Petrunik Retired Professor, Criminology Department, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • Mark Irving Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
Keywords: Public complaints, Indigenous policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Police misconduct


Recent widespread protests and intensive media coverage of actual and alleged acts of police misconduct against members of vulnerable populations (e.g., Indigenous and racialized persons, mentally ill and/or addicted persons) overrepresented in the criminal justice system have renewed interest internationally in the factors influencing civilian complaints against police. In Canada, a major concern exists regarding how Indigenous persons who feel improperly treated by the police perceive and confront barriers to making formal complaints about such treatment. This study focuses on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the police agency providing services to the majority of rural and northern reserve communities. Our survey and interviews with influential “community informants” (in this instance community court workers) with intimate knowledge of such local communities, shared culture and language, and vicarious appreciation of the experiences of community members support the view that Indigenous persons do encounter significant barriers to launching formal complaints and are consistent with other research literature. We discuss our findings, raise policy considerations for decision makers such as police leaders and police complaints bodies, and outline implications for future research.

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How to Cite
KiedrowskiJ., PetrunikM., & IrvingM. (2021). Why Indigenous Canadians on reserves are reluctant to complain about the police. Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being, 6(3), 148-155. https://doi.org/10.35502/jcswb.201
Original Research