Joining The Circle - Identifying Key Ingredients for Effective Police Collaboration within Indigenous Communities


Public Safety Canada funded this project as part of the interim response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The views and findings reflect those of the author(s) and those who kindly agreed to participate in the project.

Prepared by:
Dr. Chad Nilson
Barb Mantello

November 2019

About the Paper

This paper serves as the final deliverable resulting from a contribution agreement between Public Safety Canada and Community Safety Knowledge Alliance (CSKA). Its purpose is to inform the development of tools, programs, and future policies concerning police relationships in Indigenous communities. 


The authors are grateful to the staff, Elders, and community members of Muskoday First Nation, English River First Nation, and Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association for their guidance and support in the planning and delivery of this project.

About Community Safety Knowledge Alliance

CSKA is a non-profit organization that supports governments and the broader community safety and well-being sector in their drive toward new and effective models for, and approaches to, community safety and well-being. Through its four lines of business (research, evaluation, technical guidance/support and professional development) CSKA mobilizes, facilitates and integrates research and the development of a knowledge base to inform how community safety-related work is organized and delivered.

For further information on Community Safety Knowledge Alliance, please contact:

Shannon Fraser-Hanson, Manager
Community Safety Knowledge Alliance
120 Sonnenschein Way
Saskatoon, SK S7N 3R2
(306) 384-2751

Project Director: Cal Corley
Chief Executive Officer
Community Safety Knowledge Alliance
(613) 297-6728

Paper Authors
Dr. Chad Nilson  
(306) 953-8384  

Barb Mantello
(403) 360-2754

To reference this work, please use the following citation:

Nilson, C. and Mantello, B. (2019). Joining the Circle: Identifying Key Ingredients for Effective Police Collaboration within Indigenous Communities. Saskatoon, SK: Community Safety Knowledge Alliance.


Dr. Chad Nilson

Dr. Chad Nilson has a wide background in researching, developing and measuring collaborative social innovations for non-profit, municipal, provincial, federal and Indigenous organizations. As a community-engaged researcher, advisor and evaluator, Chad has contributed broadly to the field of community safety and well-being. Chad’s reputation and expertise has drawn him into many national and international projects of high profile and impact. He is primary investigator for the Living Skies Centre for Social Inquiry and a community-engaged scholar at the University of Saskatchewan’s Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science and Justice Studies. In these roles he has been invited to lead and mentor the measurement and development of community safety and well-being initiatives in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nunavut and Prince Edward Island. Chad’s relationship and involvement with Indigenous communities spans multiple nations and tribal territories. 

Dr. Chad Nilson

Barb Mantello Barb has a practical and instructional background in criminal justice. She spent 10 years working with young offenders before embarking on a post-secondary teaching and research career. Prior to retiring as Chair of the School of Justice Studies at Lethbridge College, Barb spent most of her academic years teaching and supporting students in pursuit of corrections, policing and other public safety careers. Barb has extensive experience with the development and implementation of applied learning at the college and university level. Part of that experience includes developing courses for face-to-face and online teaching platforms; completing curriculum reviews; and designing a specialized, competency-based cadet training program aimed to assist police agencies in hiring selections for their service. Based in Lethbridge, Alberta, Barb now provides research, advising, and developmental support to community safety organizations in Canada.


Opportunities for improving the safety and well-being of communities in Canada partially lie within the relationships that police have with citizens, leaders, and other human service providers (Lang et al., 2009; Rajaee et al., 2013; Skogan, 2006). This is especially true in First Nation, Métis, and Inuit (hereafter referred to as Indigenous) communities, where the importance of strong police-community relations is undeniable (Cunneen, 2007; Griffiths & Clark, 2017; Linden, 2005).  

One of the major challenges impacting safety and well-being in Indigenous communities is violence against women and girls (Brennan, 2009; Kwan, 2015). While violence on its own is a serious harm, the occurrence of violence further impacts victim employment (Reeves & O’Leary-Kelly, 2007), feelings of safety (Johnson & Dawson, 2011), physical health (Vos et al., 2006) and life satisfaction (Statistics Canada, 2009), among other hardships. At the community level, violence impacts stability in housing (Kirkby & Mettler, 2016), education (Lloyd, 2018), mental wellness (Statistics Canada, 2009), service access (AuCoin & Beauchamp, 2007) and economic outcomes (Zhang et al., 2013), among other community safety and well-being indicators.

Scholars of violence (Brownridge, 2008) find Indigenous women are, on average, four times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. Much of this is linked to the disproportionate accumulation of risk factors for violence that Indigenous women experience (Burnette & Renner, 2017; Pearce et al., 2015). Another contributor to this disproportion is that Indigenous women face multiple barriers in accessing help and support in both violence intervention and prevention (Davis & Taylor, 2002; Kurtz et al., 2013).

Police in Canada have an opportunity to work collaboratively with Indigenous communities to move upstream and address both the root causes of violence, as well as identify and resolve barriers to prevention/intervention services and support that Indigenous women face (Chrismas, 2016; Griffiths, 2019). While this pathway is not always clear or easy, there are opportunities for police to improve their policies, practices, and processes when engaging Indigenous communities. According to some experts (Chrismas, 2012), improved communication, community engagement, and empowerment can better align police agencies with the values of Indigenous people. This in turn, can have a positive impact on both police-community relations and community safety and well-being outcomes.

The purpose of this paper is to identify the key ingredients, techniques, challenges, and opportunities for police professionals to engage in effective collaboration within Indigenous communities. The consultations and data gathered for this paper identify how police involvement in information-sharing and collaboration with various Indigenous human service sectors can help reduce barriers, establish trust for police, and reduce violence against women and girls.

Key components of different multi-sector collaborative models were explored in preparation for writing this paper. Using a lens of opportunities and key ingredients, the analysis of data captured through this project identified leading police practices, skills and commitments that can be enhanced through tools, programs, and future policies for provincial, Indigenous and federal government. The intent of this paper is to not only inform the future but strengthen and validate existing efforts to improve police-Indigenous relations. The opportunities identified in this project show great potential for helping police professionals become successful in joining the circle and become an important part of Indigenous communities in Canada.  

The next section of this report begins with a background on the project, including a presentation of key objectives and outcomes, major research questions, and an explanation for how the entire project was guided by Indigenous communities. Following the background section is an overview of three key literature areas. They include: violence against Indigenous women, barriers that Indigenous women face, and collaborative opportunities for police to help reduce the risks and barriers associated with violence against Indigenous women and girls. Next, the methodology of this study involves a comparative model analysis, researcher observations, and interviews with key respondent groups: community stakeholders, topic experts, and collaborative model participants. Findings of this research are organized by the original research questions posed. Finally, the key deliverable in this paper is a list of actionable recommendations that police administrators, government leaders, and frontline professionals can implement in order to effectively collaborate with Indigenous communities in a way that reduces violence against women and girls.   


The impetus of this project can be traced back to Public Safety Canada’s response to the interim recommendations of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019). Under its Policy Development Contribution Program, Public Safety Canada announced funding opportunities to support research that contributes to cooperation between police services, social service providers and Indigenous peoples. The intent was for funded research to “inform the development of tools and resources which, once complete, will be made available to police services throughout Canada to enable the delivery of culturally competent police services to Indigenous peoples” (Public Safety Canada, 2019: 1).  

As a major contributor to linkages between research, practice and policy in Canada, Community Safety Knowledge Alliance (CSKA) submitted a proposal for funding in March of 2019. By May of 2019, CSKA signed a contribution agreement with Public Safety Canada to undertake this project. This paper serves as the final deliverable outlined in the agreement. Work for this project commenced in May and was completed in November of 2019.

2.1 Objectives & Outcomes

This project was driven by several objectives originally outlined in the proposal, and reinforced during preliminary and interim reporting activities to Public Safety Canada. They include:

The objectives for this project were designed to help produce three intended outcomes. These include:

2.2 Work Plan

To begin working on these objectives, the authors designed a project work plan that spanned the duration of the project. Various components of the work plan were dependent upon completion of other components in the plan. To outline each of these activities, Table 1 lists each activity, provides a description of the activity, and a timeline.

Table 1. Joining the Circle Project Work Plan



DATE (2019)

Mobilize Partners

Engaged Indigenous partners and multi-sector collaboration stakeholders in project planning and design.


Establish Project Questions

Utilized feedback and guidance from Indigenous partners to create research questions.


Determine Approach

Finalized goals of project and developed strategy for pursuing the research questions.


Initial Reporting

Submitted preliminary outline of project and initial cashflow.  


Conduct Literature Review

Examined variety of literature types and sources to determine case examples and common practices.  

Jun – Jul

Develop Consultative Methodology

Prepared process for data collection and analysis.


Conduct Initial Outreach

Reached out to stakeholders for coordination of dialogue, refinement of approach, and suggestions of respondents.


Finalize Data Tools

Prepared tools for data collection during consultative process.


Conduct Consultations

Gathered observations, feedback, suggestions from Indigenous communities, subject matter experts, and key stakeholders. 

Jul – Nov

Secondary Reporting

Submitted interim activity report, cashflow and financial statement.


Model Analysis

Assessed collaborative human service models on criteria determined through consultation process.

Sep – Oct

Collaboration Observations

Made observations of collaborative models and practices involving police partners.

Sep – Nov

Organize Data

Separate and organize data as it arrives.

Jul – Nov

Analyse Data

Analyze data gathered during research project.  


Prepare Report

Prepare evidence and outline recommendations for improving police-Indigenous relations.


Final Reporting

Submit final cashflow statement, final financial statement, final activity report, and final report to Public Safety Canada.   


2.3 Indigenous Guidance

To deliver an appropriate and effective resource for police in Canada, the research team included Indigenous guidance starting at the proposal stage and continuing through to the end of the project—where recommendations were made. To secure this guidance, the authors approached three separate guidance cohorts of Indigenous human service delivery. The first were Elders, staff and community members of Muskoday First Nation—a Cree and mixed tribe community in plains country. This cohort has multiple experiences developing collaborative human service models with police. The second guidance cohort were Elders, community members, and staff of English River First Nation—a Dënesųłiné community in the Northern forests. This cohort also has experience collaborating with police on multiple projects in their community. The third guidance cohort included Elders, staff, and community members belonging to Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association. This organization works to reduce violence against Indigenous women and girls, while also improving the resilience of Indigenous families to various forms of vulnerability (e.g., HIV, unemployment, criminality, overdose, homelessness, poverty).

Members of the guidance cohorts were approached for feedback and guidance at the proposal, planning, data collection, and results preparation stages of this project. Interaction with the guidance cohorts occurred through face-to-face visits, conference calls, and videoconferencing. Members of the guidance cohorts not only helped shape the methods and approach, but also provided insight into some of the themes, challenges, and trends appearing in the research. Another benefit of the guidance cohorts was their assistance in identifying and accessing interview respondents. Feedback from members of the guidance cohorts indicated that their participation in this project was “meaningful and motivating”. Several of the guidance cohort members provided additional insight during the data collection stage (i.e., interviews).

2.4 Research Questions

Several key questions guided this research project. These questions were developed following consultations with the project’s Indigenous guidance cohorts, reflection on the original project proposal, and examination of the key literature areas that were most relevant to the project. To assist in organizing efforts required by the project, the research questions are organized into four key themes (see Table 2). 

Table 2. Research Questions by Theme



Defining the Problem

1. What conditions or barriers contribute to increased vulnerability of women and girls to violence in Indigenous communities?

2. What police-related challenges impact efforts to reduce vulnerability and barriers to support for women and girls in Indigenous communities?

Identifying Solutions

3. What opportunities are there for police to contribute to a reduction in vulnerability and barriers to support?


4. What past community experiences can we learn from to inform future directions for police-Indigenous community relations?

5. Moving forward, what are the key ingredients for effective collaboration among police, human service providers and Indigenous peoples?


6. What key features and characteristics of future police tools and resources would best contribute to a reduction in vulnerability to violence among Indigenous women and girls?


To begin answering the research questions, several different bodies of literature were examined for insight and direction. The first of these is the literature exploring violence that impacts Indigenous women and girls. The review highlights some risk factors connected to violence, as well as the barriers impacting women at-risk for or already exposed to violence. Within the discussion on barriers facing Indigenous women is a sub-section on police-related challenges. A description of the different contributing factors to violence, along with barriers to support, show the need for police involvement in multi-sector collaboration. Exploring this further, the literature review then examines key concepts, practices, and approaches to multi-sector collaboration in human service delivery. This is followed by a review of collaborative models and key ingredients for collaboration mentioned in the literature.  

3.1 Violence Impacting Indigenous Women and Girls

Violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada is a significant national concern (Government of Canada, 2014). In 2009, a Statistics Canada survey found that Indigenous women were almost three times more likely to be violently victimized than non-Indigenous women. The majority of these women were between 15 and 34 years of age, and reported experiencing multiple episodes of violence (Statistics Canada, 2012).

According to the RCMP (2014), despite the fact that Indigenous women make up four percent of Canada’s population, they represent 16 percent of all murdered women in Canada, and 12 percent of all missing women on record. This disproportion can be explained in part by an elevated risk of partner violence for Indigenous women compared to non-Indigenous women in Canada (Brownridge, 2008; Daud, et al., 2013; Kirkup, 2016; Pederson, Malcoe & Pulkingham, 2013).

An examination of the literature on risk factors for violence against Indigenous women revealed a wide range of determinants. Some of the personal risks include alcohol use (Clough et al., 2014), drug use (Pearce et al., 2015), low emotional control (Jewell & Wormith, 2010), poor communication skills (Burnette & Hefflinger, 2017), poor physical health (Bianchi et al., 2014), and cognitive limitations (Keeling & van Wormer, 2011). Some of the risks considered to be more situational in nature, include historical oppression (Burnette & Hefflinger, 2017), parent alcohol abuse (Burnette, 2016), economic insecurity (Daoud et al., 2013), geographic isolation (Varcoe & Dick, 2013), low income (Burnette & Renner, 2017), and past exposure to violence (Abraham & Tastsoglou, 2016). Additional risks include infidelity, family conflict, and poor mental health (Collins et al, 2002).

3.2 Barriers to Services and Support

One of the main concerns of this research is the barriers Indigenous women face when reaching out for support because they are at-risk for or have been exposed to violence. According to some researchers (Davis & Taylor, 2002), Indigenous women are often “invisible”, which makes recognizing barriers impacting Indigenous women even more challengingFootnote1 . Others (Kurtz et al., 2013) argue that many Indigenous women do not access services because they feel their voices are silenced. Much of this is rooted in the deep effects of colonialism, which undermine both efforts to prevent violence, as well as efforts to support women impacted by violence (Kwan, 2015).

According to service providers working to reduce violence against women (Muskoday Community Health Centre, 2012), the consequence of this history is a deeply embedded social devaluing of Aboriginal women in Canada. In pre-colonial times, despite having different roles within society, Aboriginal men and women were generally regarded as equals. With European settlers also came the introduction of patriarchal and hierarchical systems of power. This is evident through the administration of Western policies such as The Indian Act. According to some observers (National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, 2006) “The Indian Act was particularly harsh on Native women. It imposed male-lineage and wrote male-female inequality into law” (p.12). The Indian Act formally justified the subordination of women in Aboriginal societies. Most reserve communities in Canada are still under the authority of the Indian Act, though some communities have taken steps to reduce the power differential and increase equality between men and women at the organizational/institutional level. However, there is still much more work that needs to be done as patriarchy and male domination is powerful and persistent across Canada and women’s struggle for equality is continually undermined (Pederson, Malcoe & Pulkingham, 2013).

The impact of gender differences has created a lot of additional barriers for women. These barriers come in four different types. These include personal, situational, systemic, and community-based (Ooshtaa, 2019). The following subsections further explain each barrier type.

Personal Barriers

Personal barriers include barriers that stem from an individual’s skills, abilities, personality, capacity, and behaviour. Some of the more common personal barriers impacting women who are at-risk for or who have been exposed to violence include distrust of service providers (Setting the Stage, 2013), lack of confidence in the police or justice system (Cao, 2014), low self esteem (University of Michigan, 2009), poor communication skills (Hegarty & Taft, 2001), anxiety accessing support from others (Narasimha et al., 2018), lack of awareness of services in the community (Du Mont et al., 2017), reluctance of victims to ask for help (Davis & Taylor, 2002), and cognitive limitations (Keeling & van Wormer, 2011).

Situational Barriers

Situational barriers include circumstances about or related to the individual which affect their ability to engage in services. Unlike ‘personal barriers’, they do not pertain to the individual, but rather about things going on around them (Ooshtaa, 2019). Some examples include lack of childcare (Burman, Smailes & Chantler, 2004), transportation (Setting the Stage, 2013), geographic isolation (Griffiths, 2019), financial ability (Burman & Chantler, 2005), and lack of family support (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2011).   

Systemic Barriers

Systemic barriers involve certain obstacles and challenges that are attributable to some sort of design feature, structure, rule, capacity, policy, or other element of the human service system (Dylan, Regehr & Alaggia, 2008). Common examples include wait-times (Ooshtaa, 2019), long and intrusive intake procedures (Setting the Stage, 2013), demanding admission requirements and steep entrance thresholds (Nilson & Okanik, 2016), limited service hours (Setting the Stage, 2013), a lack of resources (Daoud et al., 2013), un-coordination of existing resources (Aboriginal Affairs & Northern Development Canada, 2012), a lack of privacy and anonymity in small communities (Nilson & Okanik, 2016), ineffective services (Iyengar & Sabik, 2009), and barriers for victims when trying to find support.

One of the more challenging systemic barriers for women is conflicting approaches between support delivery models in the violence, mental health, and addiction sectors. According to Haskell (2010), while violence against women services are often based in feminist frameworks that advocate empowerment and social justice, health services such as addiction support often emphasize individual accountability. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation (2011), priorities between the three sectors may also differ, with support for violence focusing on safety, addictions services focused on sobriety, and mental health services on stabilization. Without recognition of the connections between violence, mental health, and substance use—services and supports are unlikely to meet the needs of survivors.  

Another major systemic barrier for women exposed to violence is that many support services (e.g., shelters, therapy, respite) are limited to those women who are clean and sober. Research shows a multi-directional relationship between violence, mental health issues, and substance abuse (Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2011; Haskell, 2010; Rossiter, 2011). As such, blanket restrictions for women seeking support based solely on mental wellness and/or substance use are essentially denying women support due to their symptoms of violence and/or attempts to cope with their environment (Setting the Stage, 2013). In turn, women exposed to violence may feel that they are being negatively judged for responding to violence in the way they choose. For some women, this judgement may be experienced as yet another form of disempowerment (BC Society of Transition Houses, 2011).  

A final systemic barrier is turnover among service provider staff. Helpers are at risk of experiencing compassion fatigue, burnout, and vicarious/secondary trauma (Ferencik & Ramirez-Hammond, 2011; McEvoy & Ziegler, 2006). Vicarious trauma is strongly associated with higher rates of illness, sick leave, and staff turnover. Vicarious trauma may also contribute to lower morale in the workplace and lower productivity (Ferencik & Ramirez-Hammond, 2011). All of these pressures impact the quality and availability of care for women at-risk for or exposed to violence.

Social Barriers

When it comes to social barriers, perhaps the two most impactful barriers are stigma and shame. As Haskell (2010) argues, disclosing victimization of violence may bring shame, not only to the woman, but to her family as well, which prevents many women from seeking support. Many victims would prefer to heal in private, behind dark glasses and closed curtains. According to some experts (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2011), their physical pain is more bearable than the shame and humiliation they are experiencing.

A third major social barrier to accessing support is fear. It is common for women and girls who have been abused to live in a high level of justifiable fear due to ongoing violence. Female victims of violence may fear leaving their partner due to increased chances that the violence will continue or even escalate (Hotten, 2001). Women may fear that no one will believe them and/or they will be judged by family and friends (Narasimha et al, 2018). They may have a fear of losing control through engagement with the justice system and, therefore, be reluctant to work with the police and the courts. Mothers may fear being seen as a ‘bad mother’ if their children witnessed the abuse. They may also fear the possibility of having their children apprehended by child protection services if they access support. Finally, women may fear potential changes in lifestyle if they no longer remain in their relationship (Setting the Stage, 2013).

Two additional common social barriers to accessing supports include denial and normalization of violence. From a community perspective, there is still a great tendency for people to ignore what happens behind closed doors. While theft, child abuse, or even animal cruelty might quickly be reported to appropriate officials, violence against women may not always be reported (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2011). From a victim perspective, normalization occurs through a process of rationalizing the violence, and blaming stress, substances, or financial difficulties for acts of violence towards them. On top of all this internal normalization, a perpetrator may make promises that the violence will never happen again. As part of the ‘cycle of violence’, many women and girls want to believe this to be true (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2011).

Community Barriers

When it comes to addressing problems of violence on-reserve, there are several challenges which make the process more difficult than addressing violence off-reserve. These challenges stem largely from most on-reserve communities having small populations (Government of Canada, 2004), geographic isolation (Griffiths, 2019), long histories of violence (Griffiths & Clark, 2017), a lack of resources (Bopp, Bopp & Lane, 2003), considerable social and economic problems (Assembly of First Nations, 2007), and drug and alcohol use (Gelles & Cavanaugh, 2005). Attempts to reduce these barriers are challenging, largely because they extend beyond the reach of most violence intervention and prevention programs. According to some observers (Guggisberg, 2019), the best approach to reduce community barriers are through culturally-appropriate methods designed with and supported by local community stakeholders.

3.2.1 Police-Related Barriers

At the centre of this research project is the question of how police-related circumstances may serve as barriers to services and support for Indigenous women at-risk or exposed to violence. A review of the literature identified four types of police-related barriers. Considering the small size of most Indigenous communities, each of these barriers can be widely felt, and in-turn, can have long-term implications for the members of these communities (Jones et al., 2014).

Police Perception

The first barrier identified in the literature concerned police perceptions of Indigenous communities and of Indigenous women. According to research on this topic (Lithopoulos & Ruddell, 2011), the perception that police have of individuals impacts their approach to each situation. In the case of victims to violence, for example, police support for victims is often contingent on the severity of injury (Campbell, 1998), credibility (Frohman, 1991), sexual history (Campbell, 2006), and substance use (Campbell 2006). Another determinant of police support for victims is the officer’s own stereotypes of Indigenous people (Neugebauer, 2000). According to Palmater (2016), racism and sexism among policing professionals is a reality in Canada. These stereotypes have major implications for violence against Indigenous women—including the way in which victims of violence approach the judicial process (Dylan, Regehr & Alaggia, 2008).  

A contributor to these stereotypes is the actual policing environment within which officers stationed in Indigenous communities must work in. Results of the Ipperwash Inquiry indicate that the reasons that community policing models are challenged in Indigenous communities is because of “the placement of officers from outside the community, people with little knowledge, little sensitivity and even less interest in knowing the residents, the lack of trust between police and members of the community, and, the high crime rates that force police with limited resources to focus on responding to problems, with virtually no time for prevention” (Human Sector Resources, 2004: 9).

Public Perception

The second type of police-related barrier impacting services and support for Indigenous women at-risk of or exposed to violence is public perception. According to Cao (2014), Indigenous people have lower level of trust and confidence in police. This sense of distrust can lead to a lack of cooperation with police investigations and the perception and experience that police officers are indifferent to the plight of victims. This is particularly problematic in cases involving domestic violence and sexual assault (McGillivray & Comaskey, 1999).

Another factor in public perception of police is the outcomes of police work in Indigenous communities. According to Rhoad (2013), police failures to protect Indigenous women and girls from violence and violent behavior add to longstanding tensions between police and Indigenous communities. The lack of success in protecting victims of violence further undermines police efforts to build positive relationships with community members.

Policing Structure

The third type of police-related barrier concerns the structure and design of policing services in Canada. Most Indigenous communities are policed by a provincial policing service (e.g., Ontario Provincial Police, Sureté du Québec) or the RCMP in all other provinces and territoriesFootnote2 . By being organized on a provincial or national scale, police officers are often transferred between different detachments every few years. This mobility challenges the ability of police officers to develop lasting relationships that are important for effective violence prevention/intervention (Lithopoulos, 2015).  

Another structural issue is the size of detachment areas within which Indigenous communities are located. Since most Indigenous communities have small populations, not only are a small number of officers assigned to each community, but those officers are also assigned to also police other communities in the area. Due to the high visibility of police activity in these communities, everyone sees and knows what the police are doing. This high visibility brings significant consequence to small detachments who are quite often only seen under negative circumstances (e.g., arrest, fight breakup) (Griffiths, 2016).

Reporting Violence

Another police-related challenge involves the reporting of violence to police. Generally, many occurrences of violence are never actually reported to police (Status of Women Canada, 2019). Those incidents which are reported, most often involve serious violence, an intoxicated offender, or child witnesses. These more complicated situations, while certainly important to address, usually involve some degree of mandated services. When services are mandated, there tends to be less opportunity for multiple human service providers to collaborate with one another in helping the victim and perpetrator (Nilson, 2014).

Another challenge with violence being reported to the police is that it is often very limited to a smaller cohort of victims. An Australian study (Voce & Boxall, 2018) of violence reporting showed that victims who are female, non-white, experiencing frequent violence and who have been abused in the past, are more likely to report. Unfortunately, Indigenous women who are just newly at-risk or who have limited exposure to violence, tend to report less. This marks a lost opportunity to support women and girls upstream prior to violence becoming a regular occurrence in their life (Before it Happens, 2019).

A third challenge with reporting of violence is that it can negatively impact public opinion of the police. According to Griffiths and Clark (2017), under-reporting of violence to the police undermines police ability to prevent or intervene in escalations of risk to violence. When this occurs, it not only impacts collaboration with the community, but it suggests that police are indifferent to the plight of victims. Fueling this under-reporting further, is a distrust for the police that is often tied to police inability to successfully reduce violence in communities (McGillivray & Comaskey, 1999).


As the above literature review identified, geographic isolation, social conditions, a history of distrust of the police, combined with the structure through which police services are delivered in Canada, can present significant challenges to the safety and well-being of Indigenous communities. However, the unique characteristics of Indigenous communities provide police with opportunities in multi-sector collaboration that can help communities overcome many of these barriers (Griffiths, 2019). Supporting this claim, Chrismas (2016) proposes that the pathway to enhancing positive relations between police and Indigenous communities is through increased multi-sectoral collaboration around social problems.

Collaboration scholars (Agranoff & McGuire, 2003) argue that multi-sector collaboration is an effective approach for addressing a variety of social problems. In fact, much of what we know about risk factors for violence concern the risk factors of these other social problems (Barton, Watkins & Jarjoura, 1997). In fact, other researchers (Echenberg & Jensen, 2009; Newcomb & Felix-Ortiz, 1992; Shader, 2003) suggest that various risk factors for individual harms are not only related to one another but combine to have a cumulative effect. The composite nature of risk for those individuals and families most affected by social problems has prompted several observers (Amuyunzu-Nyamongo, 2010; Hammond, et al., 2006; Huang et al., 2009; Pronk, Peek & Goldstein, 2004) to advocate for multi-disciplinary approaches to addressing the needs of individuals presenting with composite risk.

Additional research shows multi-sector collaborative approaches to improve social outcomes in the areas of sexual exploitation (Clayton et al., 2013), sexual health (Landers et al., 2011), community school support (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2010), youth development (Barton, Watkins & Jarjoura, 1997; Hernandez-Cordero et al., 2011), population aging (Hee Chee, 2006), child protection (Darlington & Feeney, 2008), health promotion (de Vries et al., 2008), home care (Dodd et al., 2010), special needs education (Farmakopolous, 2002), community-based mental health (Fieldhouse, 2012), housing (George et al., 2008), disease epidemics (Thomson et al., 2016), addictions (Treno & Holder, 2002), primary health (Lewis, 2005), employment support (Lindsay, McQuaid & Dutton, 2008), and of course, violence (Banks et al., 2009).  

Collaboration among human service professionals is described as “an interpersonal process through which members of different disciplines contribute to a common product or goal” (Berg-Weger & Schneider, 1998: 98). Some (Claiborne and Lawson, 2005) add that collaboration is a form of collective action that involves multiple agencies working together to address mutually-dependent needs and complex problems. Others (Bronstein, 2003: 299) explain that collaboration is a partnership process that involves “interdependence, newly-created professional activities, flexibility, collective ownership of goals and reflection on process”.

Success of collaborative relationships requires much more than simply mutual interest of the partners. Some of the key determinants of successful collaboration include past experience with collaboration (Daley, 2009), the design and function of the collaborative process (Bolland & Wilson, 1995), knowledge among the partners (Boughzala & Briggs, 2012), communication patterns (Broom & Avanzino, 2010), marketing of the collaborative (Austin, 2008), organizational characteristics of the partners (Lehman et al., 2009), trust between partners (Weaver, 2017) and both non-spatial and geographic proximity of partners to one another (Knoben & Oerlemans, 2006). 

Once collaboration begins to occur, the partners begin to experience a number of benefits. According to Kaye & Crittenden (2005), collaboration legitimates an issue, attracts broader support, and creates new synergies. Another benefit of collaboration is that it helps to close service gaps and increases the capacity of the partners involved (Nowell & Foster-Fishman, 2011). Perhaps the most common benefits of multi-sector collaboration include the broadened understanding of an issue (Sanford et al., 2007) and the diversified knowledge and skills to address the issue more effectively (Hulme & Toye, 2005).

While there are several documented benefits of multi-sector collaboration, challenges also exist. Some of the more common challenges mentioned in the literature on multi-sector collaboration include differences in prioritization between the partners (Margolis & Runyan, 1998); barriers to information sharing (Munetz & Teller, 2004); power and autonomy to fulfill obligations (Byles, 1985); difficulties with shared measurement (Davis, 2014); and the general costs of collaboration itself (e.g. time, funding) (Kaye & Crittenden, 2005).

To overcome these challenges, there is value in being mindful of key ingredients suggested for multi-sector collaboration models. Following a study of 126 collaboratives involving criminal justice professionals in Canada, Nilson (2018) identified and categorized several ingredients into five main themes. These include: partnership, process, commitment, resources and perspective. Table 3 lists these ingredients under each theme.

Table 3. Key Ingredients of Successful Multi-Sector Collaborative Initiatives




  • Clear understanding of purpose and structure of partnership.
  • Strong ongoing communication among partners.
  • Appreciation for strengths and limitations of project partners.
  • Mutually-empowered and accountable working relationships.
  • Sufficient autonomy from mandate to participate as a full partner.
  • Mutual objectives and shared priorities concerning the initiative.


  • Shared ownership over process design, implementation, and refinement.
  • Well-structured process that is logical and replicable.
  • Effective education and messaging on model process and practice.
  • Strong fidelity of the process and overall partnership model.
  • Clear information sharing protocols and practices.


  • Dedication to the collaborative and partnership process.
  • Commitment of sufficient time, resources, and staff involvement.
  • Continuity in active leadership to support the initiative.


  • Sufficient skill-based cross-training in process and collaboration.
  • Flexibility to engage and deploy in a team environment.
  • Diverse resources, skillsets, and expertise to address the problem.
  • Coordinating mechanism to maintain momentum and direction of the partnership.
  • Sufficient resources to carry out collaboration activities. 


  • Willingness to pursue alternatives to the status quo.
  • Must see collaboration as the solution (as opposed to multiple unilateral efforts).
  • Must genuinely see value and utility in interagency collaboration.
  • Strong community support for initiative intent and purpose.

(Source: Nilson, 2018: 24)

3.3.1 Police Involvement in Collaboration

Over the past two decades, police involvement in multi-sector collaboration has increased in Canada and other democracies. Some of this is driven by the belief that collaborative models foster the type of inclusiveness, support, and shared ownership that best support vulnerable populations—thereby better improving community safety (Gilling, 1994). Others (Heller, 1992) point out that multi-sector collaboration promotes greater efficiency in service delivery and expands agency leverage through partnerships and resource-sharing. In more recent years, perhaps the most prevalent reason for police to become involved in multi-sector collaboration is because of the opportunity it provides to simply “do better” (Mcfee & Taylor, 2014).

The literature on multi-sector collaboration shows police involvement in a wide variety of models. Some of these include service-based collaboratives (Bruns, 2015; Cherner et al., 2014; Mears, Yaffe & Harris, 2009; TRiP, 2016); addictions and housing initiatives (Tsemberis, 2011); police and mental health crisis teams (Belleville Police Service, 2007; Chandrasekera & Pajooman, 2011); health and education partnerships (Buchanan, 2008); complex case management (Clark, Guenther & Mitchell, 2016; Fraser Health, 2017; Gaetz, 2014); police and domestic violence teams (Corcoran & Allen, 2005; Nilson, 2016a); emergency response partnerships (Murray, 2015); restorative justice programs for both youth and adults (Bonta et al., 2010; Wilson et al., 2009; Latimer et al., 2001); community safety and well-being action teams (Nilson et al., 2016); court diversion programs and problem-solving courts for both youth and adults (Werb et al., 2007; Hornick et al., 2005; Fischer & Jeune, 1987); Aboriginal partnerships (Hubberstay et al., 2014; Public Safety Canada, 2014); community safety teams (City of Calgary, 2010; Hogard, Elis & Warren, 2007; City of Edmonton, 2013); police prevention initiatives (Giwa, 2008; Dumaine, 2005; Walker & Walker, 1992); and multi-sector harm reduction programs (van der Meulan et al., 2016; Cooper et al., 2005; Kerr et al., 2005).

Within the policing sector, research has shown collaboration to improves outcomes in intimate partner violence (Kisely et al, 2010), police satisfaction (Corcoran et al., 2001), probation (Gibbs, 2001), offender re-entry (Bond & Gittell, 2010), and work with young offenders (Callaghan, et al., 2003; Erickson, 2012). Collaboration has been shown to nurture outcomes in other human service areas, including increased access to services and improved responsivity of those services to client needs (Gray, 2016; Clement, 2016; Cherner et al., 2014; Rezansoff et al., 2013); improved information sharing among participating organizations and greater interagency awareness (Gossner et al., 2016; Bellmore, 2013; Lipman et al., 2008); enhanced community/school engagement (Lafortune, 2015; Cooper, 2014); and, reduced risk/vulnerability of clients and families (Gray, 2016; Kirst et al., 2015; Augimeri et al., 2007).

3.3.2 Collaborative Models

Past analyses of multi-sector collaboration (Braga & Weisburd, 2012; Hayek, 2016; Przybyiski, 2008; Public Safety Canada, 2012; Stewart, 2016; Struthers, Martin & Leaney, 2009) have shown a growing reliance on partnerships to produce desired social change in Canadian communities. Compilations of the literature on criminal justice involvement in these models demonstrates increasing commitment toward social innovations at local, provincial and national levels (Nilson, 2018).

When it comes to human service professionals working collaboratively with Indigenous populations, there is also a growing understanding of traditional practices and protocol (Menzies & Lavallée, 2014). This, combined with the uptake of multi-sector collaboration in Canada, provides new opportunities to reduce or eliminate violence against Indigenous women (Chrismas, 2016; Muskoday Health Centre, 2012).

Literature (Taggart, 2015) on collaborative models in human service delivery show that successful intervention and prevention of violence requires a multi-system approach that addresses all of the conditions related to violence (e.g., racism, poverty, addictions). Addressing the various needs, interests, and barriers pertaining to violence invites a role for several interests to be involved. While social work professionals most often come to mind in violence intervention and prevention, there is an equally important role for health care practitioners (Thackeray et al., 2010), educators (Sundaram, 2014), spiritual leaders (Puchala et al., 2010), female survivors of violence (Wendt, 2013), and the police (Davis & Taylor, 2002).  

While police hold the roles of enforcing laws through investigation, charge, and arrest, there are other ways the policing sector can contribute to violence prevention and intervention. In their research on effective solutions for violence against Aboriginal women in Australia, Davis and Taylor (2002) explain how among multiple important innovations, having police involvement at all levels was very important:

“It was about having a family violence intervention team who work with the police like a drug squad. They are housed away from the police station, there are three or four police officers involved, one being the DV liaison officer, three cops being part of the follow-up and two community-based workers, one Aboriginal and one non-Aboriginal woman…” (p.82).

In an attempt to assess their own involvement in multi-sector collaborative efforts to reduce violence against women, the RCMP (2017) completed an organization-wide scan of all models, initiatives, and projects that their members were involved in. Results of the assessment revealed the RCMP to be involved in at least 61 different types of collaborative activities. Among these 61 activities, all of them had occurred in more that once province or territory—with many being implemented across the country.

Each of these models identified through the RCMP assessment were grouped into one of four categories. Those considered to be policing, investigative and justice initiatives included examples like “Diversion Courts”, “Hub Model”, “Inter-Agency Violence Coordination”, “Risk Management Team”, and “MMIWG Family Liaison”. Those within the crime prevention category included examples such as “Aboriginal Shield Program”, “Band Engagement on Family Violence”, “Cadet Corps”, “Community Safety Plans”, “Moose Hide Campaign”, and “Working with MMIWG Groups”. Examples of collaborative training activities included “Bullying and Cyber-Bullying”, “Elder Safety”, “Family Violence and Historical Trauma”, “Girls Empowerment and Safety”, “Human Trafficking and Safety”, and “Suicide Prevention and Intervention”. Lastly, other initiatives included “Family Violence Initiative-Funded Projects”, “Indigenous-Specific Shelters” and “Protocols with Indigenous Organizations” (p.33-34).

In a recent national scan of 126 different multi-sector collaborative initiatives involving criminal justice professionals, Nilson (2018) examined the characteristics, purpose, design, intended outcomes, challenges, and benefits of each model. The author then organized these models into 20 groupings, which all fit into one of 6 approaches to community safety and well-being. To summarize these models, Table 4 provides a brief description of each grouping by approach.

Table 4. Model Groupings of Multi-Sector Collaborative Initiatives in Canada by Approach




Upstream Intervention

Collaborative Risk-Driven Intervention

Multiple human service providers meet weekly in a disciplined discussion forum to detect acutely-elevated risk, share limited information, and plan/deploy rapid multi-sector interventions before harm occurs. Situations are closed as soon as services are mobilized.

Incident Response

Police and Mental Health Crisis Teams

Police officers partner with mental health crisis responders to respond to situations involving incidents stemming from mental health or addiction conditions.

Police and Domestic Violence Teams

Collaborative initiatives between police and a range of human service providers in the community that are implemented before, during, and after incidents of domestic violence. Child protection/family service workers may be deployed with police to respond to domestic/family violence calls. These specialized units are based on a coordinated model of specially trained police working in partnership with specially trained victim service workers from a community-based agency.

Emergency Services Collaboration Teams

Emergency services collaboration teams involve collaboration to enable emergency services - fire, police, and paramedic services – to more effectively share information and respond to emergency situations.

Coordinated Support

Service-Based Support Collaboratives 

A large group of initiatives involving collaboration between criminal justice professionals and other human service providers are defined as service-based supports. These initiatives mobilize service delivery from multiple sectors to support vulnerable individuals and families. In general, methods of needs assessment, care planning, and ongoing coordinated case management make up the activities in this model. Typically, service supports are coordinated until an individual or family stabilizes and can sustain their stability independent of support from human service providers.

Integrated Police and Parole Initiatives

The integrated police and parole initiative is designed to strengthen the link between branches of the criminal justice system by partnering corrections organizations with police services. The program uses a case management model of service delivery and consists of three components: comprehensive assessment of the offender’s circumstances including, but not limited to, a risk and criminogenic needs assessment; risk management interventions through supervision and other environmental structures; and risk reduction through rehabilitative interventions designed to reduce re-offending over time.

Offender Reintegration Programs

Offender reintegration programs involve collaborations between parole and community-based services (e.g., housing, vocational support, education) upon release of an offender to support successful re-entry into the community following a period of incarceration.

Community Prevention

Community Safety Teams

Formal working partnership among police, fire, rescue, public health, housing, and emergency medical services to work with residents, businesses, and organizations to continuously assess and generate solutions to a broad array of community safety concerns such as underage drinking, drug houses, unsafe dwellings, etc.

Police Youth Outreach Programs

Police collaborate with youth services in the community to engage youth and develop a positive relationship with law enforcement. These types of programs may be targeted (e.g., programs for high-risk youth) or broader in nature (e.g., in-school programs). Youth outreach programs may involve partnerships with a wide range of community-based services to deliver programs that range from sports activities, art projects, drama productions, community cleanups, and hiking trips to leadership skills training.

Aboriginal Partnerships

Partnerships between the criminal justice system and local Aboriginal communities/services to ensure self-determination and promote healing and justice consistent with Aboriginal traditions and models of healing and wellness.

Collaborative Community Prevention

Collaborative community prevention initiatives are those programs in which criminal justice system representatives work with community-based services to deliver primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention activities in a community setting. These activities may be targeted (e.g., sexual offender programs) or broader (e.g., increasing officer visibility in public areas). 

Harm Reduction Programs

Harm reduction programs involve criminal justice professionals to employ a health-centred approach that seeks to reduce health and social harms associated with drug use.

Multi-Sector Cross Training and Education

Criminal justice practitioners and professionals from other community-based services provide information and training to one another and/or receive joint training. Criminal justice professionals gain awareness of community resources and community needs, and other human service professionals gain knowledge of police and other criminal justice protocols.

Community Safety Planning

Involves a multi-sector process of assessing community needs, securing leadership support, mobilizing community assets, and developing a strategic plan to improve community safety.

Collaborative Systemic Solution-Building

Human service organizations partner to identify opportunities to improve the human service delivery system and address systemic problems through information sharing, data analysis, research, and consultation.

Program-Based Prevention

Program-Based Support Collaboratives 

A wide variety of group and individual-based programs designed to support vulnerable individuals and their families. The focus of these programs is largely to strengthen the resiliency of participants and reduce their risk factors for anti-social behavior. These programs can often involve participation and support of criminal justice professionals.   

Community Programs inIncarceration Facilities

This model involves the delivery of community programs (e.g., vocational training, maternal support, trauma groups) to inmates who are incarcerated within the incarceration facility. Specially trained facilitators from community-based organizations deliver programs directly to the inmate population during their incarceration.

Alternative Justice

Restorative Justice Programs

Restorative justice programs are collaborative community-based programs in which corrections works with other community services to manage minor domestic violence or drug offenses outside of the criminal justice system. Offenders must adhere to a set of conditions for participation and continued management of the issue outside of the court system, including participation in targeted community programming. Victims are also connected to appropriate services.

Problem-Solving Courts

Problem-solving courts (e.g. drug courts, domestic violence courts) offer a process to deal with a particular matter outside of the court system. Offenders are placed on a diversion plan outlining certain criteria (similar to probation) and program participation that must be completed to avoid a criminal record. Court diversion programs exist across Canada for both youth and adults.

Youth Diversionary Programs

Evidence-based process designed to divert moderate-risk youth from entering the criminal justice system. Validated screening and assessment tools are used by trained police officers to identify youth needs and risks. A multi-sector team of human service professionals conducts case planning, provides coordinated service delivery, and monitors youth performance until vulnerability subsides. 

(Source: Nilson, 2018:16-18)

Indigenous Models

Among the models featured in Nilson’s (2018) work, several were either implemented in Indigenous communities or designed to serve Indigenous populations. Some examples have been pulled from the larger work and are featured in Table 5 below.  

Table 5. Examples of Police Involvement in Collaborative Models Serving Indigenous People




Muskoday Intervention Circle

Designed as a duo-enhancement to the Hub Model. In one way, the team works further upstream to support individuals before risks elevate. In another way, the team continues to collaborate after the intervention until client reaches a satisfactorily level of stabilization. 

Muskoday Intervention Circle (2015)

Samson Cree Nation Hub

Weekly meeting of multiple service providers focused on detection of elevations in risk, sharing of limited information, and rapid interventions designed to mitigate risk.

Nilson (2016b)

The Regina Intersectoral Partnership

Shared assessment of client need; integrated coordination of support; ongoing barrier reduction; continuous trouble-shooting; and police involvement in mentoring, recreation and school engagement activities.

TRiP (2016)

British Columbia Indigenous Courts

Developed in consultation with First Nations, speciality sentencing court brings together multiple stakeholders (including police) to plan support, healing and rehabilitation for the perpetrator and victims in the community.

Provincial Court of BC (2019)

Violence Against Women Case Review Project

Human service and legal professionals collaborate with police to review cases of sexual assault to determine opportunities to improve how violence against women can be addressed by the legal system.

OCTEVAW (2017)

Risk Management Teams

Collaboration among courts, police, human services, Elders, and community leaders to offer victims and perpetrators safety planning and service access. 

RCMP (2017)

3.3.3 Key Ingredients

The central purpose of this report is two-fold: first, to identify key ingredients to effective police collaboration with Indigenous communities, and second, through this to contribute to a reduction in violence against women. Much of the literature reviewed in preparation of this report speaks to opportunities to build and strengthen good relations between police and Indigenous communities (Blagg, 2008; Human Sector Resources, 2004; Griffiths & Clark, 2017; Tyler, 2006). Some of this collaboration-related literature delves into opportunities to reduce violence against women (Griffiths & Clark, 2017; Jones et al., 2016; Puchala et al., 2010).

Earlier challenges for police and policy leaders include that for many years, despite the high importance placed on positive relationships between police and Indigenous communities, there was very little evidence around “what works” (Human Sector Resources, 2004). More recently, however, researchers (Chrismas, 2016; Jones et al., 2016; Nilson, 2018) have begun to assess several components of police-Indigenous relations to identify “what works” and “how”.  

To begin, effective collaboration requires policing approaches to be driven through a “community policing” lens rather than “reactive enforcement” paradigm (Human Sector Resources, 2004). Initiatives built under such a framework must enhance Indigenous ownership and control over justice and justice-related processes (Blagg, 2018). Opportunities to achieve this include local governance structures like a police board or commission (Human Sector Resources, 2004). Others recommend recruitment strategies (Hylton, 2005), retention strategies for Indigenous officers (Cefai, 2005), community mentors (Griffiths & Clark, 2017), and cultural training (Palmater, 2016).

Next, police must secure community confidence (Myhill & Quinton, 2010) and legitimacy (Tyler, 2006). These ingredients can be secured when three things occur. The first is when police address problems that the community identifies as important to them (Mazerolle & Wickes, 2015). The second is when communities believe that authorities, institutions, and social arrangements are proper and just (Tyler, 2006). Lastly, the third is when it becomes clear that police and the community members share values (Griffiths & Clark, 2017).

To illustrate this process, Griffiths and Clark (2017) present a case study on police-Indigenous relations in the Yukon. Their findings reveal that the collaborative initiatives formed in the aftermath of several critical incidents significantly altered the dynamic between the police and Indigenous communities. Their case study illustrated that it is possible for large police organizations, in this case the RCMP, to adapt its policies and operations to better address the needs of the local communities it serves. In doing so, communities become a partner in addressing issues of crime and disorder.

A similar study of multi-sector collaboration was conducted in Samson Cree Nation, located in central Alberta. Results of the study (Nilson, 2016b) showed that police buy-in to the collaborative, shared ownership, and mutual commitments with other service providers, not only improved relationships between the RCMP and other service professionals, but between RCMP and the public. Indicators of success included more information-sharing with police, outreach for help from citizens, and reduced risk among target populations. 

To offer some additional insight into key ingredients for effective collaboration between police and Indigenous communities, Jones et al., (2016) share several global themes from their review of community perspectives on policing in Saskatchewan. These include:

(Jones et al., 2016:2-3)

Collaboration Ingredients to Reduce Violence 

More specific to violence, key ingredients for police collaboration with Indigenous communities include community involvement in the design and delivery of justice and human service delivery (Blagg, 2008). Examples of this include police support for legislation that protects victims (Levan, 2003), online interventions (Rempel et al., 2019), harm reduction programs (Shannon et al., 2008), school and college-based interventions (Crooks, Jaffe & Kerry, 2019), spiritual programming (Puchala et al., 2010), and ‘women’s desks’ to handle harassment and domestic violence complaints (Perova & Reynolds, 2017). 

In addition to community involvement, there also must be community commitment. According to Muskoday Community Health Centre (2012),

“A fair and pragmatic approach to changing social conditions—such as violence, addiction or poverty—requires long-term commitments of multiple partners. These partners must accept     that working outside of their silos and collaborating their efforts is the only way to deliver an   effective and sustainable solution to a social problem” (p.6).

With communities committed to collaboration, and committed to working innovatively, there is greater opportunity to identify the root causes of violence (Burnette, 2016). Understanding the root causes of violence better prepares collaborators to identify and mitigate the most pressing needs facing women, girls and their perpetrators.

In addition to community involvement and community commitment being required to reduce violence against women, the models themselves must be developed using insights from Indigenous women (Kurtz et al., 2013). Having the insight of Indigenous women properly informs narrative used within the partnership, and strengthens the relevance and overall outcomes of the service delivery model.  


To answer the questions driving this research project, a mixed methodology was employed. Each component of the methodology was designed to try and uncover knowledge on opportunities and key ingredients in establishing effective police collaboration within Indigenous communities. In total, there are five components of the methodology. These include: community interviews, subject matter expert interviews, model participant interviews, collaborative model analysis, and observation. To show how each question is pursued through this methodology, Table 6 shows the methods and data sources used to answer each question.

Table 6. Research Methodology Matrix




1. What conditions or barriers contribute to increased vulnerability of women and girls to violence in Indigenous communities?

a) literature review
b) expert interview
c) community interview

a) published; grey literature
b) vulnerability stakeholders
c) human service providers, women exposed to violence

2. What police-related challenges impact efforts to reduce vulnerability and barriers to support for women and girls in Indigenous communities?

a) literature review
b) expert interview
c) community interview

a) published; grey literature
b) vulnerability stakeholders
c) human service providers, Elders, community leaders, women exposed to violence

3. What opportunities are there for police to contribute to a reduction in vulnerability and barriers to support?

a) literature review
b) expert interview
c) community interview
d) model participant interview

a) published; grey literature
b) vulnerability stakeholders
c) human service providers, Elders, community leaders, women exposed to violence
d) participants of collaborative models

4. What past community experiences can we learn from to inform future directions for police-Indigenous community relations?

a) literature review
b) expert interview
c) community interview
d) model participant interview
e) model analysis
f) observations

a) published; grey literature
b) vulnerability stakeholders
c) human service providers, Elders, community leaders, women exposed to violence
d) participants of collaborative models
e) literature; model champions
f) research team

5. Moving forward, what are the key ingredients for effective collaboration among police, human service providers and Indigenous peoples?

a) literature review
b) expert interview
c) community interview
d) model participant interview
e) model analysis
f) observations

a) published; grey literature
b) vulnerability stakeholders
c) human service providers, Elders, community leaders, women exposed to violence
d) participants of collaborative models
e) literature; model champions
f) research team

6. What key features and characteristics of future police tools and resources would best contribute to a reduction in vulnerability to violence among Indigenous women and girls?

a) literature review
b) expert interview
c) community interview
d) model participant interview
e) model analysis
f) observations

a) published; grey literature
b) vulnerability stakeholders
c) human service providers, Elders, community leaders, women exposed to violence
d) participants of collaborative models
e) literature; model champions
f) research team

To better explain how the research team pursued answers to the research questions, the following sub-sections introduce each component of the methodology.

4.1 Community Interviews   

The first part of the methodology included interviews with respondents from various Indigenous communities across Canada. Through a process of non-probability convenience sampling, respondents were identified through Internet and phonebook searches (Jager et al., 2017). In creating search parameters, the research team strived to achieve a broad-based sample of respondents. This involved outreach to Elders, community leaders, women exposed to violence, and a variety of human service stakeholders.

In total, 69 individuals were interviewed during the community interview component of this project. Interviews with community respondents were guided by the Community Interview Guide (see appendices). Interviews with community respondents lasted between 15 and 90 minutes. Responses were gathered in-person (n = 40) or over the phone (n = 29). Among the 69 individuals who received a request to be interviewed, only 4 refused to participate (response rate = 94%).

4.2 Subject Expert Interviews   

The second part of the methodology involved interviews with individuals considered to be subject matter experts in the areas of family violence, social policy, policing, law, multi-sector collaboration, women’s health, Indigenous governance, research, and human rights. Respondents were identified in one of three ways. Some were identified during the literature review process and others were mentioned during planning consultations with the guidance cohorts. The remainder were identified by asking previous respondents who they suggested would be a relevant stakeholder to include (i.e., non-probability referral sampling).

In total, 29 subject matter experts were interviewed using the Stakeholder Interview Guide (see appendices). Most interviews were conducted either on the phone (n = 21) or in-person (n = 4). Each interview lasted between 30 and 120 minutes. A small number (n = 4) of respondents opted to answer the questions in writing and submit their responses to the research team electronically.

4.3 Model Participant Interviews

The third component of this methodology involved reaching out and interviewing actual participants of collaborative human service models in Indigenous communities that involve police. During the literature review, initial consultation, and collaborative model analysis portions of this methodology, several collaborative models of human service delivery were identified. The research team reached out and requested interviews with participants of the models. In total, all 47 model participants who received an interview request, agreed to be interviewedFootnote3.

Interviews with Model Participants lasted between 45 and 90 minutes. All were conducted either in-person (n = 32), through video conference (n = 14), or over email (n = 1). Interviews with Model Participants were led by the Model Participant Interview Guide (see appendices). Due to the sensitive nature of some topics covered in this research, model participants and their models were promised anonymity in the results write-up.     

4.4 Collaborative Model Analysis  

The fourth part of the methodology involves analysing existing collaborative models for opportunities and challenges concerning police involvement in these models. During both the literature review and preliminary consultations conducted during the planning stages of this project, the research team looked for existing multi-sector human service models being implemented in Indigenous communities. The purpose of this exercise was to learn about effective police participation in these models. In particular, the analysis was designed to examine three topics of police involvement in multi-sector collaborative models: a) police preparation for participating in the model; b) common challenges of police while engaged in the model; and c) maintaining effectiveness while engaged in the model.

4.5 Observation   

The final component of the methodology involved naturalistic observation of some of the collaborative human service models included in this research. Through model contacts made during the consultation stage, arrangements were made for the research team to observe some of the core components (i.e., meetings) of the collaborative models. During the observation process, the research team captured notes on a variety of themes, including: synergy, teamwork, communication, process, discipline, roles, challenges, and main characteristics. In total, 3 different opportunities for observation were made available to the research team. These include observations of Samson Cree Nation Hub, Muskoday Intervention Circle, and English River Intervention and Support Circle.


Data collected for this evaluation were analysed in October and November of 2019. Results are presented by each individual method used to capture data. The first set of results presented are those stemming from interviews with Indigenous community leaders, Elders, human service professionals, women exposed to violence, and community members. The second set of results stems from data gathered during interviews with subject matter experts. The third set of results derives from interviews with participants of Indigenous collaborative models involving police. The fourth set of results involve a model analysis completed using data from the interviews and literature review. The final set of results includes observations made by the research team.


During the research project, 69 individuals from Indigenous communities agreed to take part as interview respondents. Respondents in this group included a wide variety of community leaders, Elders, human service professionals, women exposed to violence, and community members. In total, 46 of these interviews were with First Nation respondents, 21 of these interviews were with Métis respondents, 1 interview was with an Inuit respondent, and 1 interview was with a non-Indigenous respondent working for an Indigenous organization. While most interviews were conducted individually, one group interview with 17 human service providers from different professional backgrounds was facilitated Footnote4. Regionally, respondents came from Indigenous communities in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Nunavut. To show you the sectors engaged in this process, Table 7 shares the number of respondents by sector/role.

Table 7. Sector and Role of Community Interview Respondents (N = 69)










Business Owner









Culture and Spirituality



Early Childhood Development









Employment Support



Family Violence









Income Assistance






Leadership (Chief, Council, President)



Mental Health









Sports and Recreation



Women Exposed to Violence



Police Partnerships

The first question on the survey asked respondents how they would describe their relationship with police in the community. This was a fixed response question that offered three possible answer choices: ‘not good’, ‘ok’, and ‘good’. Results show that a majority of respondents described the relationship with police in their community to be either ‘ok’ (42.1%) or ‘good’ (47.8%) (see Table 8).

Table 8. Respondent Description of Relationship with Police in Community (N = 69)




Not Good









The second question asked respondents whether the police partner with any organizations in their community. This was also a fixed response question with three possible answer choices: ‘they do not’, ‘I do not know’, and ‘yes they do’. Results of the analysis show that most (63.5%) of respondents answered ‘yes they do’. In contrast, only 23.1% felt police did not partner with others, and 13.5% reported that they ‘did not know’ (see Table 9).

Table 9. Respondent Reports of Police Partnering with Other Organizations in Community (N = 69)




They do not partner



Do not know



Yes, they do partner



As a follow-up to the previous question, if respondents reported that police did partner with organizations in their community, they were asked to explain the type of partnership. Feedback from respondents identified a few different observations. Some of the more common responses include inter-agency meetings, neighbourhood watch, school presentations, awareness walks, Aboriginal Shield, search and rescue, the Hub Model, and problem-solving teams. To provide further insight, Table 10 divides responses between partnership models or initiatives and partnership gestures or activities.

Table 10. Community Interview Respondent Identification of Police Partnership Examples




  • Inter-agency meetings
  • Neighbourhood Watch
  • Anti-gang walk
  • Emergency Management Team
  • Cadet program
  • Aboriginal Shield
  • Police Management Board
  • School liaison
  • Search and Rescue Team
  • Hub Table
  • Intervention and Support Circle
  • Problem-Solving Teams
  • Anti-Bullying Program
  • Bike Safety Program


  • Presentations at the school
  • Sponsor safety walks
  • Respectful of our needs and do what is necessary
  • Help other organizations when requested
  • Collaborate around suicide threats
  • They have an open-door policy
  • Help plan large cultural events
  • Support local initiatives
  • Good relationship with village council
  • Ongoing communication with chief and council
  • Attend community events
  • Sponsor community bar-be-que

Good Relations

The next question asked respondents what they believe makes for a good relationship between police and the community. Table 11 groups some of the more common suggestions into themes. These include communication, action, presence, effort, engagement and approach. 

Table 11. Respondent Suggestions for what Makes a Good Relationship with Communities




  • Inform community of efforts/activities
  • Open communication
  • Increased information-sharing


  • Proper introductions of new officers
  • Make the community feel safe
  • Value all calls and information received by community
  • Support other organizations when they need help
  • Recruit more Indigenous officers


  • Consistent presence
  • Live in the community and be part of it
  • Regular visible patrolling
  • More presence in the schools
  • Be seen in community businesses


  • Make an effort to reduce stigma
  • Understand our culture
  • Show an interest in learning about us
  • Demonstrate an effort to be involved
  • Understand history and endorse reconciliation


  • Regular visits with youth
  • Regular meetings with leadership
  • Actively participate in community meetings
  • Solid networking
  • Reach out to all age groups
  • Build relations with struggling families before bad things happen
  • Attend community events
  • Play sports with youth
  • Visit with families and elders
  • Be inclusive


  • Be positive and humorous
  • Good rapport with youth
  • Be more to the community than just enforcement
  • Show that they want to help the community

Bad Relations

In contrast to the last question, respondents were asked to identify what makes for bad relations between police and the community. As Table 12 indicates, feedback from community-level respondents identify some challenges around inaction, process, lack of knowledge, absence, opinion, and negative attitude. 

Table 12. Respondent Reports for what Makes a Bad Relationship with Communities




  • Slow response times
  • Not fixing mistakes when they happen
  • Miscommunication
  • Not solving problems that arise
  • Not making an effort, other than reporting to leadership


  • Prioritizing certain incidents over others
  • Not fulfilling obligations of the community tripartite agreement
  • When First Nation police resources are constantly used in the adjacent municipalities

Lack of Knowledge

  • Assumptions and not knowing facts
  • Relying on stigma and preconceived notions
  • Not understanding culture and traditions


  • Not being present in community
  • Not attending community events
  • Not showing up when invited
  • Only being seen when bad things are happening 
  • Only coming to the community when called
  • When they do not use the office we gave them
  • Only attending certain events.


  • Gossiping and rumours
  • Negative comments on social media
  • Not taking complaints seriously
  • Negative media
  • When the community does not know who the officers are

Negative Attitude

  • Negative police attitude to Indigenous people
  • No sense of ownership over community safety
  • Stereotypes or racist attitudes
  • Using intimidation tactics
  • Notions of paternalism and superiority
  • When racism exists, for either side

Desire to Partner with Police

The fifth question asked what would make service providers want to partner with police on projects. Responses tended to fall into three types of desires for wanting police partnership in projects. The first was to have an impact on police. By this, respondents felt that police involvement in projects would help police become more empathetic to members of the community, reduce racism among police officers, eliminate stigma police have on community members, and provide police with a sense of belonging and purpose in the community beyond simply enforcement of laws.

The second type of desire for police partnership in projects involved an impact on the community. Respondents felt that police involvement would improve the image of police in the community, help community members see the police as human beings, help youth become comfortable with police, encourage leaders to welcome police to the community, and ultimately, help the community develop trust for police. When these impacts occur in communities, respondents report that it allows community members to see different sides of an issue, become empowered to take ownership over community safety, and instill a feeling of safety in the community.

The third type of desire for police partnership involves benefits to the project and community itself. According to respondents, police involvement can help community partners benefit from the resources, knowledge and expertise of police. Several respondents pointed to the fact that, quite often, “police bring ideas from other First Nation communities on what works”. This helps create awareness on best practices, as well as opportunities to improve safety in the community. Other benefits mentioned by respondents include improved information-sharing, legitimization of an issue, greater accessibility to police, a reduction in communication barriers, and more efficient problem-solving in the community. According to one respondent, “crime issues are complex, we need police to help figure things out.” A final benefit mentioned by several respondents included the element of crime deterrence that accompanies police presence: “When police are involved, would-be criminals are wearier, and less happens in the community.”

Determinants of Vulnerability

While a major goal of this project is to create understanding of opportunities for effective police collaboration with Indigenous communities, another goal is to identify vulnerability and barriers impacting women who are at-risk for or have already been exposed to violence. During the interview process, respondents were asked to identify what contributes to an increase in vulnerability to risk of violence for Indigenous women and girls. Respondents outlined a number of different determinants. To organize these determinants, Table 13 separates the results by nature of determinant. 

Table 13. Determinants of Vulnerability to Violence by Nature of Determinant




  • Substance use and addiction
  • Poor coping skills
  • Aggression
  • Male upbringing
  • Past victimization


  • Substance use and addiction
  • Pre-exposure to violence
  • Lack of empowerment
  • Fear of repercussions for leaving
  • Trauma
  • Dependence upon others
  • Low self-esteem
  • Do not know warning signs of violence
  • Lack of interpersonal skills
  • Financial insecurity
  • Family pride and social standing 


  • Stigma against vulnerable women
  • Normalization of violence
  • Social media
  • Lack of positive role models
  • Sexualization of women
  • Low value of indigenous women
  • Male dominancy
  • Lack of housing
  • Gangs

Police-Related Barriers to Violence 

When it comes to violence prevention and intervention, one of the biggest challenges is barriers to services and support. Many of these barriers stem from personal, situational or systemic circumstances. An opportunity for reducing vulnerability to violence is for police to be aware of the barriers that community members and professionals feel that police may contribute to. Respondent feedback on this topic identified a number of barriers. Table 14 groups these barriers into three types: capacity barriers, perspective barriers, and process barriers. 

Table 14. Police-Related Barriers to Reducing Vulnerability to Violence for Indigenous Women




  • Lack of services
  • Low visibility in the community
  • Unfamiliarity with culture
  • Don’t know the community
  • Lack of proper training and knowledge on violence


  • Toxic masculinity
  • Stigma against indigenous women
  • Jadedness from years of experience
  • Lack of empathy during calls


  • Lack of information-sharing
  • No follow-up following calls
  • Police only act after serious harm occurs
  • Lack of communication  
  • Remove perpetrator only temporarily
  • Lack of anonymity when police show up
  • Not spending enough time with victims
  • Leaving women alone after an incident

Opportunities to Decrease Vulnerability

Moving towards a discussion on solutions, respondents were asked to identify any opportunities they felt the police have to accomplish two things. The first is to contribute towards a decrease in vulnerability to violence. The second is to reduce barriers to support. Responses from the community stakeholder group identified a variety of opportunities for each of these goals. As Table 15 shows, some opportunities for reducing vulnerability of risk to violence against women include the police having a stronger presence in the community, collaborating with service providers, and being more approachable and accessible to women who are at-risk for or expose to violence. When it comes to reducing barriers to services and support, respondents suggested that police could increase response time, follow-up with victims, become aware of community culture and dynamics, listen to the perspective of victims, and train officers on important topics related to violence against Indigenous women.  

Table 15. Opportunities for Reducing Vulnerability and Barriers to Support



  • Stronger police presence
  • Take immediate action when a call is made
  • Do regular well-being checks
  • Collaborate with service providers
  • Follow-through on investigations
  • Offer a girl’s program in schools
  • Take restraining orders seriously
  • Host sharing circles for women
  • Provide education and awareness on abuse
  • Engage families in helping at-risk women
  • Be approachable and accessible to at-risk women
  • Faster response time
  • Provide follow-up support to victims
  • Provide on-reserve victim services
  • Make people aware of their rights
  • Become aware of cultural aspects
  • Better enforcement of law
  • Listen to the victim’s experience
  • Better communication with victims
  • Accept that violence is a major issue
  • Provide more education for officers
  • Promote awareness of support services available

The final question asked respondents to add any additional thoughts or ideas they did not get the chance to share earlier in the interview. The following suggestions summarize what was shared by respondents at the end of the interview.


To begin each interview, respondents were asked to describe the experience they had collaborating with police on current or past initiatives. Many of the respondents had numerous and lengthy experience while a few were relatively new to collaboration. The types of experience are captured in Table 16. 

Table 16. Respondent-Reported Experiences Collaborating with Police



Aboriginal Liaison Officer
Advisory Panel
Area Drug Strategy
Block by Block
Domestic Violence Team
Federal/Provincial Policy
Hub Model
Inter-agency System
Justice Committee
Liaison Worker
Morning Star
North Family Centre
North Star
Operation Runaway
Police and Crisis Team
Professional Justice Reform Initiatives
Protection worker
Provincial Partnerships
Restorative Justice measures
Sexual Exploitation Intervention Committee 
Start Program
Thunderwing Project 
Violent Threat Risk Assessment
Women’s sharing Circle

Aboriginal Justice Network
Build relations with community
Canoe Trips with Tribal Council
Consultative meetings for community issues
Course design for Canadian Police College
Crisis Coordinator
Critical Incident Stress Foundation/Management
Develop partnerships to promote good relations
Habitual runaways offer support and services
High risk probation client supervision
Look at reducing auto thefts
Meet quarterly to address wide variety of issues
Missing person collaborations 
Promote public safety
Referral to programs with teams built around them
Support at risk kids
Teams to help runaways
Teen males to build healthy males in community
Training venture with agencies in community
Walk a Mile in her Shoes
Women’s Shelter
Work with at risk youth
Worked on Missing Women files

Strong Relationship between Police and Community

The respondents were first asked to describe what helps make for a strong relationship between the police and the community. Several themes emerged from the responses, the first being effective and consistent communication and engagement—meaning that police need to be consistently present and actively reaching out in a variety of both formal and informal, non-enforcement and non-crisis response settings. Respondents indicated that consistency and building relationships are important; so, when conflict occurs it can be resolved in healthy ways. Numerous respondents talked about the importance of attending community events, stopping in for coffee, participating in activities with youth, as well as at formal planning and governance tables. One respondent noted: “We have two officers that come for coffee at our organization and all 30 employees and interns and students see that and we are all laughing and talking and they see that they aren’t always coming for a bad reason”.

Part of consistent and effective engagement included officers needing to take the initiative to understand and get to know the culture and members of the community, and to let down their guard and allow the community members to get to know them as people too. Many respondents also pointed out the same responsibilities of the community—to be open to a different relationship with police, and having personal accountability to foster that relationship.

Community members also spoke about the importance of retaining the individuals who they have built relationships with and the challenges they have with police organizations that mandate officers transfer out. According to one respondent, “We just finish building good relations with the officer, then she is transferred and we have to start all over again. It makes no sense.”

Responses also included listing individual skills and characteristics necessary for building a strong relationship. This included the authentic willingness to listen, to be down to earth (relatable), possess a commitment to serve the community, and not hold prejudicial views. Other individual characteristics included being sincere, humble, honest, patient, open-minded, self-aware, and notably, have a sense of humor.

A third theme emerged around governance and decision-making. Within these responses was both explicit and implicit references for collaborative, community-led solutions at both the individual and senior/group level to not “tell” folks what to do but rather “ask” them to do something. According to one respondent:  

“You can’t go in projecting your police values onto the community and judge whether or not they conform to your expectations. You need to go with an open mind and understand that your view is not the only view and certainly, that the views that you have is not the same that they have.”

Similarly, some stakeholders from police organizations that included officers in relationship-building roles spoke about the need for leadership support balanced by the need to allow them autonomy to make decisions to be more responsive to community needs.

In order build strong relationships with community, respondents discussed needing a truly collaborative approach where definitions, values, goals, actions and vision are developed together and supported throughout the entire organization, not just a specific division, unit or individual. This included the need for accountability at the higher level, where goals and actions are measured and monitored. According to one respondent,

“We need to focus on trauma and health issues rather than crime issues. That is really about having that shared language and same language and goals. If we are going to collaborate – we all need to have that shared values, language and goals. If people are opposed to what each is doing, it will never be effective. Focusing on the shared language, goals, and values is how we can be effective.”

The fourth theme emerging from the interview dialogue included adequate and designated resources needed to build relationships with Indigenous communities. In rural and remote locations, it is quite common for one or very few officers to cover a large geographic area with little administrative support. This makes it difficult to find the time to attend community events, let alone keep up with incident and enforcement responses. According to one human service professional,  

“We have to realize that the police are the safety net for the failures of the rest of the organizations. You look at the failures in our systems – the lack of funding in health, social services, mental health, addictions, housing – where does that fall on when someone is having a mental health issue? It falls on police at 2AM. A lot of that stuff, if every agency does what they are supposed to do, we wouldn’t need as many officers as we do.”

A fifth theme to emerge related to the need for transparency including at the individual and community-level, particularly around privacy issues, access to data and statistics, and policies and procedures. Having a good relationship included equal access to information and data, and having open, honest conversations about the issues, challenges and competing perspectives.  

A sixth, and likely the most important theme to emerge was on reconciliation. This was articulated as the need for police to acknowledge their role in the past harms inflicted on Indigenous people, their current role in the over-representation of Indigenous people in the justice system, and current racially-biased practices and culture that exists in most policing organizations. Many respondents spoke passionately about the absolute necessity for police to acknowledge and understand the historical effects of colonialism on Indigenous people, and to honor Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing and have this apparent in their interactions with communities. This relates to the previous themes on communication, engagement, individual characteristics, collaboration, governance and power, and transparency.

Lastly, in order to support reconciliation, respondents talked about the necessity of recruitment and training that selects recruits based upon the qualities and skills required to build relationships with communities. Some respondents spoke about the challenges in bringing existing officers up to speed when they arrive at a new posting. Some felt that holding knowledge exchange workshops could help stimulate curiosity and facilitate a deeper desire to learn. Others were less optimistic that this desire or openness can be taught. What was clear, is that respondents did not feel that online learning could achieve this goal. Some respondents spoke about the importance of strong leadership to hold people professionally accountable to developing and supporting relationship-building.

Police Policies or Practices which Make Collaboration Difficult

The second question of the interview process asked respondents to share their observations regarding policies or practices that impact collaboration with police in a problematic way. Bureaucratic process and practices within large organizations such as the RCMP were described as having a negative impact on collaboration. This included, the practice of transferring members whether internally or externally to other positions and/or out of a geographical area (usually every 2-5 years) without input, notice or a transition period or plan. Respondents were also frustrated with having to have to start over, and having to re-invest valuable and scarce time re-orientating and teaching officers about their communities. Some discussed the unequal and at times unrealistic and unfair expectations of police organizations for Indigenous communities to volunteer training, community members, staff time, and Elder support. Some contrasted this expectation in comparison to police vs. Indigenous community budgets and police organizations that spend significant resources on consultants but were not willing to equally compensate Indigenous knowledge and expertise.

“It is an onerous task on community to invest a lot of time and effort into the relationship and educating the officer…. And the department got that for free – and then they are being asked to do it again and again to give their time to educate officers….They aren’t willing to put up the money to pay for the education – it is just a cycle of exploitation that continues and is a narrative of how most police agencies operates…we think just the opportunity to educate us is enough…There needs to be a paradigm shift of how police view their relationships and viewpoints on diversity and inclusion.

The respondents also observed jurisdictional issues and red tape between many layers of municipal, provincial, and federal police organizations. They noted a lack of collaboration amongst themselves and challenges getting timely approvals to participate in community events and initiatives.

As mentioned in the section above, policies around data, information and privacy made collaboration difficult. The respondents found that there were restrictions and protectionist policies on information sharing. It was noted that there are indeed ways to follow information sharing guidelines while still having open conversations. In particular, respondents were frustrated with a lack of information sharing within governance processes like goal-setting and developing shared measures of success when current state data and statistics are not made available. Also noted was a lack of transparency for current operational practices/policies that should be reviewed for implications for women and girls experiencing violence and for Indigenous people. One specific example given by a respondent was around processes for reporting complaints against police and whether or not it created access and barrier issues for Indigenous people who have had negative experiences with police.

Notably, because some policies and operational procedures could not or would not be made public, some respondents expressed confusion as to if they were dealing with an issue with individual officer behaviour or a policy of a particular police service. Interestingly, one respondent specifically noted a police culture around risk and litigation designed to protect police from law-suits. The respondent noted a comparison to the way doctors and hospitals respond when potentially at-fault and the challenges it poses when one side becomes closed off.

Another factor that makes collaboration difficult is that because policing is a white, male-dominated organization, there are internal challenges around racism and violence against women. Respondents explained that most police organizations have not done a good job of acknowledging their historical role in the harms against Indigenous people and have not done enough to gain back the trust of Indigenous communities. They noted the lack of a diverse and representative workforce, and a lack of spaces and practices that support cultural protocols like smudging.

Respondents also discussed policing culture and training that promoted a reactionary style of policing that doesn’t align with Indigenous values. Respondents expressed a desire to move away from reactionary approaches and work to create more health and human-centered collaborative approaches to community safety.

Challenges Impacting Police Effort to Building Relations with Indigenous People/Communities

In examining responses to the question regarding challenges which impact the police efforts to build relations with Indigenous people and communities, the most prevalent theme was around cultural and racial biases of police towards Indigenous people, but also included comments on reciprocal biases. Although it was more common for respondents to note issues with police and within police organizations, a notable number of respondents, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, noted biases as a barrier for both police and communities in building relationships. As one respondent shared,

“People have to see you as humans on both sides. From the Aboriginal perspective, we have to see police as humans and the other way - police have to see us as humans.”

Barriers also included exposure biases for police that stem from many non-Indigenous officers encountering Indigenous people in negative and high-stress enforcement-related situations. Similarly, for many Indigenous people, encounters with police are often negative. Other barriers include language barriers, unsupportive leadership, and intentional staff turnover.

The final barrier concerned inadequate or inappropriate training. Accord to respondents, there needs to be an examination of training methods and ways of acquiring knowledge by police agencies. They felt that among police, there exists a general lack of knowledge on the history of Indigenous peoples and an understanding of Indigenous cultures. This barrier was especially relevant and pressing for stakeholders from rural and remote communities who only have one or two officers posted to their community. Respondents felt that there isn’t enough cultural training for police, and what is offered is sometimes not mandatory, is offered by uninterested/non-Indigenous trainers or online, and is not effective.

Human Service Providers as Partners

When asked what makes human serviced providers want to partner with police, respondents recognized the integral and vital role that police fulfill in their communities and a desire to expand and grow partnerships. Almost all respondents noted that at the very core, they share the common goals of community safety community well-being. Some admitted that complex problems they deal with necessitates breaking down silos, working together and considering community-led, “practical” solutions.

During the interview process, respondents often acknowledged the legitimacy of policing in communities which included their long-established institutions, with legislated powers, significant social equity and influence, significant financial and human resources, and expertise. Police were also seen as sources of knowledge and information about laws, data, and statistics. As a result of their legitimacy, police can provide communities, organizations and human service providers access to information, networks, funding, and human resources. Some respondents also noted that police who partner and build relationships in communities gain trust, access and supports, especially when addressing issues of crime and violence. In particular, one community noted a decrease in critical incidents and arrests because of the collaborative and wrap-around approach police and service providers take to respond to crises in their community.

Other respondents thought of partnerships from a systems-thinking perspective. For these respondents, police play an important part of the community-services ecosystem and the services provided. However, they also serve as a source of what is wrong in the system and how partnering afforded an opportunity to address issues. Respondents explained that they and the police are often interacting and working with the same individuals and should be working together to address individual needs and prevent further interaction with the justice system.

Police and human services are dealing with people who are impacted by the justice system and human services see the value, resources, information and the police as part of solution. Respondents indicated that partnerships allow for better information sharing and enables responses that are quicker, and in turn, human service providers can provide better assistance to the clients that they serve.

Lastly, some respondents noted the importance of partnering with police for the positive role-modeling and influence they have on youth. As one respondent described, police involvement in mentoring youth, including women and girls, puts a face to the names of officers in the community:

“I think especially for our community policing for youth, the youth regard the RCMP officer in uniform as a role model, so we try to set the RCMP as a public image in our schools and programming as a “lead by example” and we want them to be part of it so our youth can see it is positive and a good relationship you want to have. Also, in general to show the community that the RCMP are people too and we want to show them that we can have a good relationship with them.” 

Key Ingredients, Traits, Skill-Sets That Contribute to Positive Relations in The Community

In examining responses about the key ingredients, traits and skill-sets for positive relationships, four basic themes emerged. These include leadership, training and education, staff hiring, and the role of police in the community. Table 17 summarizes results of respondent feedback on this topic.

Table 17. Key Ingredients, Traits, Skill-Sets for Effective Police Collaboration





  • Be visible
  • Build friendships
  • Be trustworthy
  • Support partners
  • Protect victims
  • Enforce law
  • Problem-solve
  • Respond to needs
  • Provide information
  • Help community members
  • Support initiatives
  • Listen and reflect
  • Leave ego at the door


  • Open-minded  
  • Flexible
  • Supportive
  • Understands the need for collaboration
  • Diverse background
  • Human service experience
  • Lived experience
  • Indigenous
  • Women
  • Inspired to help
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Genuinely likes people
  • Sense of care
  • Youth and child development
  • History of Indigenous people in Canada
  • Trauma and grief
  • Mental health and addiction
  • Cultural values
  • Collaboration and partnership
  • Social innovation
  • Community protocols
  • Indigenous world view
  • Relevant and updated
  • Cultural competencies
  • Open-minded
  • Middle management buy-in
  • Accountability to collaborate
  • Equal prioritization of collaboration with other lines of police business.
  • Reflection
  • Driven to improve
  • Informed
  • Transparent
  • Be silent partner and let the community lead they know what is best

Factors Contributing to Increased Vulnerability of Women and Girls to Violence

The next question in the interview process asked respondents to identify what factors increased vulnerability of women to violence. Notably, one respondent rejected the wording of the question and instead challenged that we should be examining the factors that are contributing to men being violent.
According to other respondents, the intersectionality of the multitude of gender, race, socio-economic and individual factors contributing to vulnerability to violence is significant, severe and systemic.

Many respondents reflected on Canada’s colonial and patriarchal systems and the impacts that the reserve system, residential schools, the Indian Act, the 60’s scoop, and resulting intergenerational trauma and loss of cultural identity and the powerful roles of women in Indigenous cultures. A number of respondents commented on variations of the notion of the culture of disposability of Indigenous women as demonstrated by the Murdered and Missing Women and resulting inquiry. Reponses also included the historical and current application of laws that criminalize being poor and the justice systems which have failed to protect Indigenous women and victims of violence.

Situational barriers increasing vulnerability included geographic isolation, lack of community resources and services, and lack of access to services and programming. While individual barriers included a lack of personal supports, healthy relationships and role models, a lack of self-confidence, previous exposure to violence, lack resources including money, shelter, and transportation, and having children and ‘not wanting to uproot the children’. Figure 1 summarizes the key vulnerability factors identified by respondents.  

Figure 1. Factors Contributing to Vulnerability to Violence for Women and Girls

Figure 1. Factors Contributing to Vulnerability to Violence for Women and Girls
Image Description

The Graphic summarizes the key vulnerability factors which were identified by respondents.

They are listed as follows:

  • Low self esteem
  • Lack of education
  • Lack of resources – food, water, shelter
  • Access to Transportation
  • Substance abuse and mental health issues concurrently
  • Social Status imbalance; marginalized communities
  • Isolation on reserves; geography remoteness
  • Loss of women in traditional understanding
  • History of Racism and colonization
  • Individual and family factors
  • Intergenerational trauma
  • Cycle of abuse
  • Lack of resiliency
  • Social Learning
  • Lack of personal supports
  • Jurisdictional challenges
  • Sexual abuse
  • Single parents
  • Un or under employed


Police Contributing to Barriers to Reduce Vulnerability

During the interview process, there were four respondents who stated that they did not believe police contributed to barriers to reduce vulnerability. Among the majority who believed that police contributed to such barriers, several themes emerged.

One of the themes centred on interaction and follow-up. Respondents indicated that the police were contributing by brushing off complaints, victim blaming and turning away victims who wish to report violence due to their own biases or lack of motivation to investigate a complicated file. The usage of patronizing language when referring to “women” as “girls” was a component of interaction. Stereotypes, whether those are implicit or explicit biases held, and comments such as “oh well she was an addict—when murdered”, demonstrate a challenge. On a positive note, some respondents felt that Tina Fontaine’s death shifted thinking and empathy is getting better.

The second theme related to a lack of knowledge and training regarding the cycle of violence. According to respondents, there needs to be greater emphasis on learning how to interview and support victims of violence in appropriate ways. According to respondents, how questions are asked does not reflect sensitivity to victim, as many questioning techniques appear offensive. The individual officer and their personal outlook, attitudes, point of view and belief may express that the victim’s situation is their own fault and that they are contributing to the problem.

The third theme concerned the design of the human service system. According to one respondent, 

“This isn’t about the Police as much as it is about the system who are trying to work with the   women to reduce vulnerability and they create barriers by making clients attend meetings when they are supposed to be in school or trying to keep jobs; need to meet with clients after hours. Not accounting for the intersectional challenges these women face.”

Multi-Sector Collaborative Initiatives Contributing to a Decrease in Vulnerability to   Violence and a Reduction in Barriers to Support

During the interview, respondents were asked to indicate awareness regarding multi-sector collaborative initiatives that contribute to a decrease in vulnerability to violence and a reduction in barriers to support. Figure 2 offers a list of the models identified by respondents.

Figure 2. Multi-Sector Collaborative Models that Contribute to Reduced Vulnerability

Amethyst Project
Baby Steps program 
Blackfoot Family Lodge
Block by Block
Chronic Runaway Initiative
Community meetings
Community Mobilization projects
Connecting youth Culture
Domestic Violence Coordinator
Domestic Violence Shelter
Downtown Police Units 
Eliminate Poverty
End Homelessness Winnipeg
Exploitation Educators
Gang Awareness Inter-Agency Network 
Grand River Employment and Training
Grassroots mobilization
Hub Model
Integrative Wrap Around Process
Measuring Safety Morning Star
North End Women’s Centre
Outreach presentations
Police and Crisis Teams

Police Athletic League for Youth
Programming for Men
Warrior Dad’s
Andrews Street Family Centre
Provincial Initiative Restorative Justice Strategy
Philadelphia Model
Provincial Partnership Committee for Missing Persons
Public Education with Schools
START Program
Street Reach
Strengthening Families Program
Summer programs for youth
Domestic Violence Response Team
Transition houses
The Regina Intersectoral Partnership
West Flat Citizen’s Group 
White Buffalo – SORE Program
Victim Services
Youth diversion programs

Opportunities for Police to Contribute to Decrease in Vulnerability to Violence and Reduction in Barriers

Next, respondents were asked what opportunities there were for the police to contribute to a decrease in vulnerability to violence and a reduction in barriers to support. Responses were largely focused in the areas of ongoing education, diversion, relationships, and policies.

According to respondents, ongoing education for officers should target the following areas:

Diversion was also indicated as an opportunity to decrease vulnerability. According to subject matter experts, police should be the last stop, not the first. They stated that charging people does not change behavior and they recognized that lives need to be changed. They further indicated that restorative justice needed to be examined as a mechanism in this. Specific initiatives could target youth with an example provided regarding chronic runaways being the focus of a special program being the focus in one local area. Resources would be needed along with public education. 

Meaningful partnerships were viewed as another mechanism for opportunities to contribute to a decrease in vulnerability. A willingness to partner with all types of organizations, participate in partnership engagement forums, and build community relations capacity were viewed as reducing barriers. It was further stressed that the police should not have the choice to refuse to sit at a table focused on these issues.

The final opportunity for police to contribute to a decrease in vulnerability to violence involved a change in policy. Suggestions by respondents included:

Requirements for Successful Collaborative Initiatives

The next question asked respondents to describe important requirements for successful multi-sector collaboration. Feedback from subject matter experts revealed four themes. The first theme was for partners to clearly understand the problem. Completing ground work at the beginning involves having strategic meetings with leadership first, then move to middle management, and finally to the direct service providers. Respondents indicated that it was important to provide supporting documents and information necessary to understand the problem.

The second theme was to create a shared vision. In creating a shared vision, it was suggested to think outside the box, try new things, and adapt. An ability to see the big picture was indicated as valuable. A need to move together and avoid politics and division along with self-determination were viewed to contribute to successful partnerships. Keeping strategic focus, committed active involvement and cooperative participation will enhance the success of the collaboration. Finally, getting to know the people you will be working with will also contribute to a successful initiative.

The third theme centred on involving the right partners. The stakeholders related that getting buy-in from all entities participating and creating a shared sense of purpose regarding what you are doing is important. Carefully choosing people who will help the process, work through conflict, have hard conversations that are emotional, not be afraid, and make a commitment to work collaboratively is also necessary. Respondents further recommended that training for collaboratives should occur before they begin, in order to fully understand their role at table. It was also mentioned that some type of oversight body be established for policy challenges. Lastly, if the initiative was to address vulnerability of Indigenous women and girls then the foundation of collaboration should come from Indigenous women and girls.

The fourth theme was an ability to share and access each other’s information. This could transpire in a common or shared space. It was noted that reducing barriers, especially privacy issues and having immediate access, would create transparency, build trust, inspire listening, and remove defensive behaviour. Checking egos at the door, patience and a desire to learn were also mentioned as factors contributing to successful partnerships.

Tools or Resources to Support Police in Building Effective Relationships in The Community

The last question asked respondents to suggest any resource or tools they felt would help improve police relations with Indigenous communities. Suggestions included the following: 

A sub-category of suggested resources identified by respondents include those which are evaluative in nature. Several respondents made suggestions of opportunities to incorporate measurements of collaboration into performance monitoring and promotional decisions. These suggestions include:


Group interviews with participants of multi-sector collaborative models involving the police began with a question on their experience collaborating with police. Besides their current experience on the Hub/Intervention Circle, some reported to have sat alongside the police while serving on advisory boards or planning teams. Others report having actually sat on police management boards in their community, and/or having police sit on their own boards.

When reflecting on these experiences, participants were asked to explain how police were able to build the relationships necessary to effectively participate in the collaborative model. Feedback from respondents identified that good communication, ongoing interaction, and visibility in the community were all very helpful. Additional responses identify that good relations were formed when police reached out in support of the collaborative initiative, took a lead or supporting role in the launch of the initiative, and got the job done when they were asked to do something as part of the initiative.

During this discussion, respondents were also asked what has occurred since police joined their collaborative model. Responses from each cohort identified a number of benefits to service providers as well as women who are at-risk for or have been exposed to violence. As Table 18 shows, some of the benefits of police involvement to service providers include protection police offer to staff, the guidance they provide around law, and the strengths they bring to difficult situations. Some of the benefits to women include support for victims, deterrence of further violence, and an improved feeling that something can be done about their current state of risk or harm.

Table 18. Benefits to Service Providers and Women At-Risk/Exposed to Violence



Protection of staff
Guidance around law and the legal process
Strength during difficult situations
Insight from other communities
Legitimacy and empowerment for the model
24/7 support in times of crisis
Ability to secure commitments from others
Bring a sense of safety to community
Can bring a heavy hand when you need it
Reduces stereotypes police have of service providers
Bring different perspectives on the matter
Offer a deterrence mechanism
They get the job done and are accountable
Follow the chain of command
Are starting to be more proactive than reactive
Police have contact with community members
Can provide additional information we don’t have

Support for victims
Deterrence of further violence
Feeling that something could be done
Improved feeling of safety
Do safety checks on women and children
Can arrange for perpetrator to leave
Can assist families after hours
Can make connections to supports following an incident
Provide things in black and white
Can get through to victims before forgiveness happens
Can explain legal protections and options for safety
Can assist in accessing shelter, victim services, crisis help
Some understand culture and mobilize Elders

The fourth question asked of respondents invited some dialogue around some of the police-related challenges that make collaboration difficult in their model. Respondents identified four main areas of difficulty. The first concerned policy. According to respondents, police are often limited in their information-sharing, which makes problem-solving difficult in the community. According to one respondent, “the police seem to take information but they don’t always give something back”. Another policy-related challenge, perhaps the most damaging to collaborative models, is the constant transfer of officers within the RCMP. As one respondent described,

“We spend 2 or 3 years building a solid, meaningful relationship, and just when things are going good, they are transferred out and we have to start all over again. This really disrupts the flow   and synergy around our [Hub] table.”

Another challenging area concerns police practices. According to one respondent, some of the questioning techniques police use are difficult for service providers. Related to this, another respondent complained that sometimes, police want to enforce laws or pursue a warrant just as the rest of the team is starting to make progress with the client. Supporting this, another respondent explained that “this interrupts the momentum of healing and stability.” A third comment on practice was that while unintentional, the way police handle themselves can be intimidating to some community members.

The third grouping of challenges involved police capacity. According to respondents, police in their communities are often short-staffed and stretched across a large detachment area that often includes several different communities. This makes collaboration difficult, because the police are not always available to participate in the model. Another capacity-related challenge was that because of their national structure, the RCMP seldom can ever bring money into an initiative. According to one respondent, “everyone here can chip in money from their programs except the RCMP. Their organization is so big and complex that frontline officers have no way of asking for money to help support the initiatives they participate in.” A third capacity-related challenge is that most police services are short on Indigenous officers and female officers—both of which are important for policing Indigenous communities. 

The final police-related challenge concerned knowledge. Several respondents pointed to the fact that while most police make an effort to try and learn things about communities, they do not always have the time or wherewithal to learn properly. One respondent felt that police tend to lack knowledge on Indigenous governance structures, which can cause challenges when building partnerships. Another knowledge-related challenge concerns police not understanding the history, culture, or traditions of Indigenous people.

The next question asked model participants to reflect on their experience working with police, and identify ingredients that they believe made the police partnership effective. To begin identifying key ingredients for effective partnerships, the research team came up with a single word adjective for each response provided. To check for reliability of the coding process, all ingredients were re-examined using an intercoder reliability test. Results show that both researchers coded the ingredients the same way. As Table 19 shares, examples of these key ingredients include police officers having a humble approach, being vested into the initiative, being seen in the community, and visiting people in their homes, among others.     

Table 19. Model Participant-Reported Key Ingredients in Police-Indigenous Relations



Embrace the community when they reach out to you


Be accessible to women and human service partners


Must want to be in the community


Get to know community members and the different families


Work with other service providers


Make solid commitments and fulfill them


Communication and follow-up


Have consistency in ways in which you police


Understand the culture and traditions


Strong relationships with leaders and staff


Visit people in their homes


Have a humble approach, be human


Try to include other agencies when you can


Be able to educate and support skill development


Be informed of the interconnectedness of risk factors for violence


Understand the social determinants of health


Be comfortable leading conversations around partnership


Have ownership over violence against women


Have patience for mistakes and setbacks


Know your limitations


Police with a problem-solving perspective


Work upstream before crisis


More Indigenous officers


Need female officers


Mobilize partners and resources when necessary


Realize how others see you


Be willing to share information


Play a part in building solutions


Be solutions-focused when approaching problems


When police are on board with an initiative, that is a big asset


Build a shadow before moving on


Understand trauma and its impact on people


Build trust with other organizations


Understand the barriers women face


Take reports seriously


Be seen in the community


The final question for model participants asked what kind of resources, tools, knowledge or training would help police become effective participants in multi-sector collaborative initiatives within Indigenous communities. Responses to this question included the following:


Through the literature review and interview process, the research team was able to identify 48 initiatives, activities or processes considered to be multi-sector collaborative models. The inclusion criteria were kept basic. First, police had to be involved in the model. Second, the model had to involve some sort of commitment to a process or activity that was intended to achieve results (e.g., risk reduction, community trust). Third, the model had to have been mentioned in the literature or during interviews with topic experts or Indigenous community leaders, Elders, human service professionals, women exposed to violence, and community members. Figure 3 lists these models in alphabetical order.

Figure 3. Multi-Sector Collaborative Models

Aboriginal Shield (RCMP)
Amethyst Project (Alberta)
Anti-Bullying Program (Plaisance, QC)
Baby Steps program (Saskatoon, SK)
Bike Safety Program (Boothroyd, BC)
Blackfoot Family Lodge (Lethbridge, AB)
Block by Block (Winnipeg, MB)
Chronic Runaway Initiative (Saskatoon, SK)
Community Mobilization (Manitoba)
Cultural Connections (Thunder Bay, ON)
Domestic Violence Coordinator (Saskatoon, SK)
Domestic Violence Response Teams (Medicine Hat, AB)
Domestic Violence Shelter (Thompson, MB)
Downtown Police Units (Lethbridge, AB)
Eliminate Poverty (Saskatoon, SK)
Emergency Management Team (Attawapiskat, ON)
Employment and Training Supports (Grand River, ON)
End Homelessness (Winnipeg, MB)
Exploitation Educators (Calgary, AB)
Gang Awareness Interagency Network (Winnipeg, MB)
Grassroots Mobilization (Calgary, AB)
Hub Model (Samson Cree Nation, AB)
Integrative Wrap Around Process (Edmonton, AB)
Interagency Planning Meetings (Beardy’s, SK)

Intervention and Support Circle (Muskoday, SK) Kanikanichin (Winnipeg, MB)  
Missing Persons Partnership Committee (Regina, SK)
Morning Star (Hollow Water, MB)
Neighbourhood Watch (North Battleford, SK)
North End Women’s Centre (Winnipeg, MB)
Peacekeeping Initiatives (Saskatchewan)
Philadelphia Model (Calgary, AB)
Police Advisory Committees (Saskatoon, SK)
Police and Crisis Team (Sioux Lookout, ON)
Police Athletic League for Youth (Ontario)
Police Management Board (Montreal Lake, SK)
Pre-Cadet Program (RCMP)
Problem-Solving Teams (English River, SK)
Public Education with Schools (Patuanak, SK)
School Liaison (Thompson, MB)
Search and Rescue Team (Treaty 2 Territory, MB)
START Program (Selkirk, MB)
StreetReach (Manitoba)
Strengthening Families Program (Saskatoon, SK)
The Regina Intersectoral Partnership (Regina, SK)
Thunderwing (Winnipeg, MB)
West Flat Citizens Group (Prince Albert, SK)
White Buffalo – SORE Program (Saskatoon, SK)
Kanikanichin (Winnipeg, MB)

From the initial population of 48 collaborative models identified, the research team selected a sample of 7 different models to include in a more thorough analysis. Selection of this sample was based upon repeated referencing of the model by multiple interview respondents, followed by availability of literature on the actual model. For each model in the sample, interview data were combined with narrative in available literature to identify key information about effective police participation in each model. In particular, documented experience in the literature, combined with lived experience of interview respondents, helped to inform this analysis.

As Table 20 shows, the 7 collaborative models included in this analysis are: Education and Awareness Presentations; Hub Model; Inter-Agency Planning Teams; Multi-Sector Coordinated Support; Police Advisory Committees; Police and Mental Health Crisis Teams; and Sport, Culture and Recreation Collaboratives. The key variables explored in this analysis include a) police preparation for participating in the model; b) common challenges of police while engaged in the model; and c) maintaining effectiveness while engaged in the model. Results of the analysis reveal some common lessons learned about effective police involvement in collaborative models.

Concerning ‘preparation for participation in the model’, some examples of the key steps for police to prepare include: understand the model, know your role, clarify expectations, acquire autonomy to participate properly, secure the time to properly participate, verify agency commitment, learn process, determine your contributions, identify performance indicators, establish a trouble-shooting process.

Some examples of the common challenges police encounter when participating in collaborative models include finding the time to participate properly, the uniform being a barrier, distrust from partners, scheduling logistics, information-sharing limitations, conflict between mandates of organizations, partners not understanding what police can do and not do, communication interruptions, lack of coordination, limitations of partners, your own judgements and assumptions. 

Finally, to maintain effectiveness while engaged in the model, example results show that police should maintain shared ownership, simplicity of process, model fidelity, adequate skillsets, value for the model, consistent engagement, ongoing communication, regular reporting, periodic progress assessment, transparent trouble-shooting, clarity of model goals, understanding of model among police colleagues, and celebration of wins.

Table 20. Collaborative Model Analysis Results






Education and Awareness Presentations

Presentations to communities on important topics chosen by the community.

Verify agency commitment, determine your contributions, know your material, have access to resources

Scheduling logistics, limitations of partners, finding time to participate properly

Adequate skillsets, clarity of model goals, connection with the audience, appropriateness of content

Hub Model of Collaborative Risk-Driven Intervention

Detection of risk, limited information-sharing and rapid intervention ending in mobilization of services and supports.

Understand model, know your role, learn process, clarify expectations, secure adequate time to participate, establish a trouble-shooting process  

Finding time to participate properly, information-sharing limitations, conflict between mandates of organizations, communication interruptions 

Maintain shared ownership, model fidelity, value for the model, clarity of model goals, consistent engagement, police colleagues understand model

Inter-Agency Planning Teams

System alignment and collaboration around community needs.

Understand the model, know your role, acquire autonomy to participate, determine your contributions

Lack of coordination, limitations of partners  

Maintain shared ownership, maintain purpose, clarity of model goals, action-based outcomes

Multi-Sector Coordinated Support

Codesign, implementation and monitoring of client-focused service access and barrier reduction plan.

Understand the model, know your role, determine contributions, acquire autonomy to participate, secure adequate time to participate, establish trouble-shooting process

Partners not understanding what police can do/not do, communication interruptions, uniform barriers, conflicts between mandates of organizations, scheduling logistics    

Adequate skillsets, simplicity of process, ongoing communication, regular reporting, periodic progress assessment, celebration of wins transparent trouble-shooting

Police Advisory Committees

Community guidance and direction on police priorities and operations.

Establish guidance protocol, engage proper partners, clarify roles,

Police judgements and assumptions, misunderstanding of model, 

Implement recommendations, respond to community need, validation of community insight

Police and Crisis Teams

joint response to community crises involving mental health, violence, suicide, injury, drugs, etc.

determine contributions, understand the model, identify performance indicators

distrust from partners, resource availability, scheduling logistics, limitations of partners, partners not understanding what police can do/not do

adequate skillsets, regular reporting, periodic progress assessment, transparent trouble-shooting, celebration of wins

Sport, Culture and Recreation Collaboratives

planning and delivery of opportunities for community participation in activities.

determine contributions, secure adequate time to participate

resource availability, limitations of partners, participant retention

maintain shared ownership, community input, value for the model, celebrate wins


Throughout this project, there occurred three opportunities for observation. The first opportunity was throughout the course of the consultation and interview process. The second opportunity came when interview respondents invited the research team to observe their respective collaborative models in practice. The third opportunity came during the analysis of data, preparation of results, and reflection on the literature.

Concerning the first of these observations, it is clear in the dialogue from respondents that there is certainly some level of respect for police among Indigenous people. However, that respect is vulnerable to limitations in police capacity, lack of commitment to community, disrespect for community members, and racist stereotypes. Several respondents admitted that nation-wide, police officers are busy. However, this doesn’t excuse them from fulfilling Indigenous peoples’ expectations of police—which are very community-based in nature.

Another observation from the interview process is that Indigenous communities see police as having an important role in communities. However, just because that role is important, it should not be taken for granted. Much of the disappointment heard during the interviews and consultation process stemmed from police attitudes that seems to dismiss community dissatisfaction because the police are busy and are doing their best. Hopefully this paper will provide a few opportunities on how to minimize that reaction.

The second opportunity for observations came when the research team was given the chance to observe some of the models in practice. In total, the authors were able to observe 5 different models of multi-sector collaboration. They include Education and Awareness Presentations, Collaborative Risk-Driven Intervention, Inter-Agency Planning Teams, and Multi-Sector Coordinated SupportFootnote5. During these observation opportunities, the authors were able to identify four themes. These include: engagement, role understanding, team synergy, and challenges (see Table 21).

Table 21. Key Themes Identified During Observation of Collaborative Models




It appeared that the level of police engagement in the models depended upon how long an officer had been in the community; whether he/she was the regular model participant or a backup to the regular one; their own interpersonal skills; the receptiveness and collegiality of the other model partners; the ability of both officers and model participants to overcome stigma of one another; and a combination of how well police leaders support the model with how busy the detachment area is.

Role Understanding

Another observation area involved the extent to which police officers understood their role in the model. In some cases, police very clearly knew their role and were open to expanding that role depending upon the expressions of their human service colleagues. However, in other situations, police did not know their role in the collaborative. This made things slightly awkward, and certainly less productive compared to situations where roles were clearer. It appeared that role understanding is dependent upon how much of a welcome into the model that officer received, how accessible the knowledge-keepers or experts on that model were to the participating officer, and how interested the officer was to actually be a contributing partner in that collaborative model.    

Team Synergy   

The effectiveness of many collaboration models largely rests on the team synergy surrounding the model. Among the models observed during this study, synergy seemed to be stronger where there was a process or format for collaboration. Synergy was also stronger when the team was focused on an immediate outcome (e.g., client service access) as opposed to a longer-term outcome (e.g., community change). Lastly, synergy within these collaborative models appeared to be stronger when police demonstrated some sort of shared ownership and commitment to the model.


Some of the challenges observed within these collaborative models include inefficiency, lack of fidelity, knowledge gaps, information-sharing barriers, differences in capacity, rigidness of mandates, and unaligned perspectives and outcomes of the partners. Additional challenges include difficulties in relationships, interpersonal skills, and histories among the participants.

The third opportunity to make some observations occurred while pulling this entire report together. The first observation was that there is a lot of literature explaining how police disappoint, fail or let down Indigenous communities. By identifying multiple police-related challenges and barriers, the interviews certainly helped to explain why this literature is so abundant. However, the interview process also pointed out a significant gap in the literature. That gap consists of all the benefits, rewards, and appreciation Indigenous communities experience with police. Despite colonial history and a blemished past for policing in Canada, many respondents pointed to the good merits and necessity for police in their collaborative model, and in their community.   

The second observation made while preparing this final report was that, despite tremendous differences, collaboration among police and Indigenous partners can be achieved when all partners share common values. Some of the values observed within collaborative models that enjoyed an effective relation with police include hard work, mutual respect, communication, efficient process, strong discipline, clear roles, broad representation from all sectors, and shared ownership.  


This research project was designed to identify police-related barriers to support for Indigenous women who are at-risk of or who have been exposed to violence. As a mitigation strategy, multi-sector collaboration was explored as a tool that police can use to reduce barriers as well as risks to violence. Achieving outcomes through multi-sector collaboration, however, requires effective relations between police and Indigenous communities. The results of this project outline opportunities for identifying challenges and building pathways for police to develop the key ingredients necessary of establishing effective relations with Indigenous communities. This discussion of findings presents answers to the main questions driving this research.

The first question inquired about the conditions and barriers that increase vulnerability of Indigenous women and girls to violence. Findings from the literature review confirm the disproportionate prevalence of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Determinants of this violence include both personal risks (e.g., substance use, self-esteem) and situational risks (e.g., geographic isolation, low income). Results from the literature review and interview process suggest that the most significant challenges for Indigenous women are multiple barriers which impact their ability to access prevention/intervention services and supports. These include historical barriers (e.g., colonialism, residential school), personal barriers (e.g., distrust), situational barriers (e.g., lack of childcare), systemic barriers (e.g., wait lists), social barriers (e.g., normalization), and community barriers (e.g., small populations). 

The second question of this study specifically inquired about police-related barriers and their impact on Indigenous women and girls. Findings of this study identified one significant barrier to be the negative perceptions or stereotypes that some police have of Indigenous people. In reverse, negative public perception of police can also serve as a barrier impacting women who are at-risk for or have been exposed to violence. Another significant police-related barrier includes the inefficient service structure of policing—particularly in rural police service delivery that is often impacted by slow response rates and officer turnover. Additional police-related barriers include rigid policing mandates, low visibility in the community, limitations in information-sharing, disengaged mid-level managers, unfamiliarity with Indigenous culture and traditions, out-dated police operating structures, an “I-got-this” attitude, and differences in priorities and perspectives between police and Indigenous community partners.

The third question pursued in this study challenged the research team to identify opportunities for police to contribute to a reduction of vulnerability and barriers to support. The findings of this study point to a broader discussion of multi-sector collaboration involving police. Corroborated by the literature (Braga & Weisburd, 2012; Chrismas, 2016; Hayek, 2016; Przybyiski, 2008; Muskoday Health Centre, 2012; Taggart, 2015), findings of this study suggest that a multi-sector lens provides an opportunity to address the composite nature of risk to violence. Interview dialogue not only suggests that police benefit from collaborating with human service providers, but the latter (and their clients) also benefit when they are able to effectively collaborate with police. Increased capacity to improve safety and well-being, access to police resources and tools, and improved safety for clients and service providers involved in violence intervention and prevention all reflect the benefits experienced through multi-sector collaboration, including the police.

To learn about the opportunities, challenges and lessons learned in multi-sector collaboration, the fourth question pushed the research team to identify and explore existing models of collaboration being implemented within Indigenous communities (or with Indigenous clients). Results of interview data helped the research team examine seven different collaborative models. Findings from the analysis of these models revealed the importance for police to be prepared, predict and resolve challenges, and maximize effectiveness by properly engaging Indigenous partners.

When police decide to pursue multi-sector collaborative opportunities within Indigenous communities, several key ingredients are required for success. To answer the fifth question of this study, these ingredients are outlined in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Key Ingredients for Effective Police Relations with Indigenous Communities

The final question of this study tasked the research team with identifying key features and characteristics of future police tools and resources that would best contribute to a reduction in vulnerability to violence among Indigenous women and girls. Findings from the literature review, expert interviews, community interviews, model participant interviews, model observations, and model analyses were used to arrive at a compilation of suggestions. These suggestions are grouped by topic (see Table 22). They include tools, training, experience, guidelines, and policy.

Table 22. Key Features and Characteristics of Future Police Resources



  • Local service and cultural asset guide for each community
  • Vulnerability to violence assessment and response toolkit
  • Tool that demonstrates linkages among risk factors from multiple sectors
  • Resource outlining barriers that women exposed to violence encounter

Training Topics

  • Cultural /ceremonial / traditional protocols
  • Historical experience of indigenous peoples
  • Active community engagement
  • Effective police-indigenous relations
  • Skill development in multi-sector collaboration
  • Policing-related barriers to support for women at-risk/exposed to violence
  • Identifying and resolving challenges in indigenous communities 


  • Participate in community events
  • Observe/participate in ceremonial, traditional or spiritual activities 
  • Observe/participate in collaborative models with indigenous people


  • Active response to trauma
  • Building relations within indigenous people (elders, youth, leaders, staff, adults)
  • Effective communication with indigenous human service partners
  • Supporting indigenous women/girls who are at-risk/exposed to violence
  • Meaningful participation in multi-sector collaborative models


  • Performance structure that incentivize community engagement and partnership
  • Linkages between effective indigenous relations and job promotion
  • Longer postings of officers in indigenous communities where relations are strong
  • Regularly-assigned neighbourhoods/beats for urban police
  • Regular reporting to indigenous leaders on successes and challenges in collaboration
  • Increased proportion of women and indigenous officers 
  • Low threshold friendly home visiting and outreach to the community


The key deliverable in this paper is a list of actionable recommendations that government stakeholders, police administrators and frontline professionals can implement in order to effectively collaborate with Indigenous communities in a way that reduces violence against women and girls. Appearing in no particular order of importance, the following recommendations are inspired by the findings of this report.


Efforts should be made to encourage senior police leaders to initiate a paradigm shift within their organizations to align and prioritize strategic planning, resource allocation, policies, procedures and practices with multi-sector collaboration efforts. Leadership commitments to this transformation process will contribute to medium and longer-term outcomes in community safety and well-being.


Police organizations should focus on engaging mid-level managers in building pathways to effective police collaboration within Indigenous communities. Both the literature and interview process single out mid-level management as the place where high-level commitments and frontline experience seem to disconnect. Having mid-level managers involved will close this gap, and bring much-needed support for frontline officers making efforts in communities to effectively collaborate. 


Police educators, with the support of Public Safety Canada’s First Nations Policing Program, should pursue development of imbedded coursework in cadet training around multi-sector collaboration, problem-solving, and upstream service mobilization within Indigenous communities.


Public Safety Canada, in partnership with Indigenous educators and policing stakeholders, should develop a robust police training program and corresponding campaign to be implemented Canada-wide and at all levels of police organizations. Training should focus on Indigenous history, colonialism, residential schools, the 60’s scoop, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, and findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Training strategies might include experiential learning, virtual reality, survivor stories, usage of self-reflection, and the KAIROS blanket exerciseFootnote6. Proven approaches to the delivery of such training should be incorporated to present the relevant history and experience without undermining the very spirit and intents of both collaboration and reconciliation. 


Police organizations should empower and enable police officers to detect vulnerability to violence upstream, and support client service access before violence occurs. The most effective efforts in crime prevention, violence elimination, and community safety are when vulnerable individuals and families are supported before crisis occurs—not after. Police are in very advantageous positions to detect risk upstream, and by collaborating with service partners, open up opportunities to support individuals at-risk of violence. To act on this, police need support and encouragement from leadership to get involved, and collaborate upstream.


Police professionals at all levels should be assessed for cultural competency, in a manner co-created by Indigenous and police stakeholders. This competency should be embedded and continuously supported throughout the life of a police career.


Police organizations should develop a measurement structure used to track police involvement, challenges, solutions, and positive outcomes in collaboration within Indigenous communities. Ongoing monitoring of these data can help identify opportunities to build capacity, troubleshoot, and strengthen collaborative commitments police make to Indigenous communities.


Police organizations should establish longer postings of officers in Indigenous communities. By the time most police officers have created positive relationships, are able to problem-solve, and are contributing to improvements in the community, they are transferred. Too often, important police relationships with communities come to an end when an invested officer transfers out. 


A criterion for candidate assessment should be their willingness to see collaboration as a vital tool in law enforcement, their interest in Indigenous community engagement, and their ability to see themselves as an asset and support to individuals who are at-risk of or who have been exposed to violence.


Police planning, measurement, accountability, and reporting should be pursued through a framework of shared ownership between police, their authority (e.g., provincial government), and local Indigenous communities. This provides an opportunity for both police and their human service partners, to become mutually accountable for the safety and well-being outcomes in a community. A shared ownership framework would help build leadership support required to overcome difficult challenges in multi-sector collaboration. It would also contribute to increased capacity for police and Indigenous human service partners to generate a collective impact on violence against women and girls.   


In the spirit of collaboration, police themselves should have a nationally and provincially-coordinated and collaborative approach to implementing these recommendations, and learning from one another during the implementation process.


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Joining the Circle: A Review of Effective Police Involvement in Multi-Sector Collaboration in Indigenous Communities 

Topic Expert Consultation Guide

The goal of this project is to identify challenges and opportunities in building strong relationships between police and human service professionals who serve Indigenous peoples. Part of this project involves the gathering of perspectives from various community safety and well-being stakeholders. Participation in interviews for this project is voluntary. Information gathered during the interviews will remain confidential and anonymous. All data will be kept securely.

Do I have your verbal consent to proceed with the interview process?   __ yes     __ no

a) Name:              b) Organization:


1) Can you briefly describe your experience collaborating with police on current or past initiatives?

2) What do you feel helps make for a strong relationship between police and the community?

3) Are there any police policies or practices that make collaboration with police difficult?

4) What challenges do you feel most impact police efforts to build relations with Indigenous people and/or Indigenous communities?

5) What makes human service providers want to partner with police on projects?

6) What are the key ingredients, traits and skill-sets that contribute to police building positive relations in the community?


7) What factors contribute to increased vulnerability of women and girls to violence?

a) Do the police contribute to any barriers in efforts to reduce vulnerability?

8) Are you aware of any multi-sector collaborative initiatives that contribute to a decrease in vulnerability to violence and a reduction in barriers to support?

9) What contributes to the successful partnerships required for such collaborative initiatives?

10) What opportunities are there for police to contribute to a decrease in vulnerability to violence and a reduction in barriers to support?

11) Do you have any suggestions of tools or resources that could be created to support police in building effective relationships in the community?

12) Do you have any other comments or feedback concerning “police relations” or “opportunities to reduce vulnerability of women to violence”?

Joining the Circle: A Review of Effective Police Involvement in
Multi-Sector Collaboration in Indigenous Communities 

Community Interview Guide

The goal of this project is to identify challenges and opportunities in building strong relationships between police and human service professionals in Indigenous communities. Part of this project involves the gathering of perspectives from individuals who work or live in Indigenous communities. Participation in interviews for this project is voluntary. Information gathered during the interviews will remain confidential and anonymous. All data will be kept securely.

Do I have your verbal consent to proceed with the interview process?   __ yes     __ no

1) How would you describe your relationship with the police in this community?

__ not good __ ok        __ good

2) Do you know if the police partner with any organizations in your community?

__ no they do not   __ I don’t know  __ yes they do

a) If “yes”, please explain:

3) What do you feel helps make for a good relationship between police and the community?

4) What do you feel makes for a bad relationship between police and the community?

5) What makes human service providers want to partner with police on projects?

6) What contributes to increased vulnerability of women and girls to violence in your community?

a) Do the police contribute to any barriers in efforts to reduce vulnerability?

7) What opportunities are there for police to contribute to a decrease in vulnerability to violence and a reduction in barriers to support?

8) Do you have any other comments or feedback concerning “police relations” or “opportunities to reduce vulnerability of women to violence”?

Model Participant Guide

The goal of this project is to identify challenges and opportunities in building strong relationships between police and human service professionals in Indigenous communities. Part of this project involves the gathering of perspectives from individuals who work or live in Indigenous communities. Participation in interviews for this project is voluntary. Information gathered during the interviews will remain confidential and anonymous. All data will be kept securely.

Do I have your verbal consent to proceed with the interview process?   __ yes     __ no

1) Besides your current model, what sorts of experience do you have collaborating with police in this community?

2) Can you explain how police were able to build the relationships necessary to effectively participate in your collaborative model?

3) What have been the benefits to police joining your model?

4) What are some of the police-related challenges impacting your model?

5) Reflecting on your experience working with police, what are the key ingredients that make police-involved partnerships effective?

6) What sorts of resources, tools, knowledge or training would help police become effective participants in multi-sector collaborative initiatives within Indigenous communities?


  1. 1

    The term “invisible” is used because Indigenous women and their needs are often overlooked in society.

  2. 2

    Several Indigenous communities and territories have their own police service (e.g., Manitoba First Nations Police Service).

  3. 3

    To minimize the impact of this research on relationships, the model identities are kept confidential.

  4. 4

    The same instrument was used for the group interview as all of the individual interviews.

  5. 5

    To protect the confidentiality of respondents, the exact names of observed models are withheld from this report.

  6. 6


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