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RCMP NL sweat lodge reflects “commitment to true reconciliation”


November 20, 2019
By Staff
Image: RCMP NL

RCMP Newfoundland and Labrador has constructed a sweat lodge on the grounds of its headquarters in St. John’s, the second one to be established by the RCMP in Canada.

“Connecting with Indigenous Peoples through the understanding of and participation in their cultural traditions is vital for the RCMP,” said Assistant Commissioner Ches Parsons. “The establishment of a sweat lodge here on the grounds of Headquarters is an important step in the reconciliation process and reflects our commitment to engaging with Indigenous communities in respectful and meaningful ways.”

Sweat lodges are part of Indigenous tradition and are commonly used within the Indigenous community, the agency stated. Made of natural materials, it is a space where sacred purification ceremonies or “sweats” are held for the purpose of spiritual cleansing and healing. During the sacred ceremony, participants sit inside the lodge where special heated rocks, called grandfathers in homage to Indigenous ancestors, are brought in and water is poured over them to create steam.

RCMP employees, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, will be able to attend sweat ceremonies as a safe space for self-reflection and prayer.

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An inaugural sweat was held at the RCMP Sweat Lodge, with participants including Assistant Commissioner Parsons, Commanding Officer of RCMP NL, constables Brad Squires and April Janes of RCMP NL Indigenous and Community Policing Services, and Sgt. Troy Bennett, who is based in the Stephenville Detachment and is a member of the Qalipu First Nation, as well as other participants. Indigenous Elder Kenny “Mutchie” Bennett, also a member of the Qalipu First Nation, conducted the ceremony.

“The construction of a sweat lodge by the RCMP is significant for me both as a police officer and as an Indigenous resident of this province,” Bennett said. “The sweat lodge offers healing that supports our mental and physical well-being and I am proud that the RCMP sees this as an important piece of our relationship with Indigenous Peoples and communities.”

Indigenous groups were consulted in the plans for the establishment of a sweat lodge at RCMP Headquarters, including the Qalipu First Nation and the Miawpukek First Nation.

“At this important time of reconciliation in Canada, this initiative by the RCMP is symbolic of an acknowledgement and a respect for Indigenous Peoples in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Chief Brendan Mitchell of the Qalipu First Nation.

“Seeing the construction of a sweat lodge at the RCMP headquarters in St. John’s, NL, following the introduction of the Eagle Feather in the Judicial System as a new option for witnesses, victims, and police officers to swear legal oaths upon, similar to what has historically been done with the Bible, says to Indigenous People that we are on the road to reconciliation,” said Chief Misel Joe of the Miawpukek First Nation. “Every aspect of a sweat lodge ceremony, including construction, is filled with deep spirituality. It is a special place where we connect, reflect, cleanse and heal, all of which are needed for true reconciliation.”