I call this meeting to order. Welcome.
I am hearing an echo in my ear. Are we good now? Okay.
This is meeting number eight of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. When we initially set up this meeting, we thought it was going to be an in-person meeting. Fortunately, on Monday, we were able to change that to be a virtual meeting. I anticipate that for the foreseeable future, the public safety committee will be having virtual meetings rather than in-person meetings.
I would ask for a little forgiveness and understanding among colleagues today, as well as those who are witnesses and those who are watching. We may have a few glitches. Probably the major source of glitches will be the chair.
As you are speaking, if you plan to use an alternate language, you'll notice there's an icon at the bottom of the screen: English, French, and back and forth. If you decide to switch languages, just pause for a second.
Please wait until I recognize you by name, and then you can click on your microphone. I've already established that I can't cut off your microphone, which is really quite regrettable, as far as I'm concerned.
As a reminder, all commentary should be addressed through the chair.
I will say to the witnesses, if you keep an eye on the chair, I'll try to signal when your time is up. I don't wish to interrupt you, but I'm going to be.... The tyranny of the time is really quite regrettable.
When you're not speaking, mute your mike. We're obviously encouraging the use of headsets, and it looks as if almost everybody has a headset.
To begin, we have three witnesses: the Assembly of First Nations and....
I see that my colleague Jack has a motion, which we did discuss earlier. I'm looking for Jack to read that motion quickly and to look for immediate consensus on that motion.
I just want to acknowledge the territory that I'm on right now, the Shuswap territory in British Columbia.
Seeing that I only have seven minutes, I just want to thank everybody for this very important matter in terms of policing. I think, during this pandemic since March, we've seen a lot of situations where many first nations have been adversely affected by policing, whether it was the three in Winnipeg, Chantel Moore on a wellness check in New Brunswick or Mr. Levi in New Brunswick as well. I myself have a family member, Everett Riley Patrick, who died in custody in Prince George, British Columbia.
Going forward, I do have a presentation. It was quite lengthy, and it really talked about the history of policing, not only in British Columbia but, I suppose, Canada itself.
I just want to move right to the recommendations, which, I think, are quite important. I have 14 recommendations that came from our organizations. I just want to note, too, that, as the regional chief of British Columbia, I hold this file for justice, as well as Ghislain Picard. He's the regional chief for Quebec and Labrador.
The first recommendation is really to accelerate federal action on the calls to justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The federal government finalized the report last year and promised an action plan within a year. That year has passed, and right now we really need those calls to justice implemented. There were well over 231 recommendations.
Recommendation number two is working with first nations on a legislative framework to support first nations-led policing with the proper financial resources to support self-determining efforts of first nations policing services. Recently we heard from the federal government that there is a promise to go from program funding to essential services funding, but it has to be much more than that, and more so for first nations that are asserting their sovereignty and their self-determination in terms of policing. There are tripartite agreements with many first nations and also with first nations that have treaties, and those need to be finalized in terms of making it clear how those laws are implemented. Really, I think creating a better relationship with federal and provincial governments is required.
Recommendation three is federal and provincial support for first nations' restorative justice initiatives and respect for the jurisdiction that arises from such initiatives. Prior to colonization, many first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples had their own model of policing and their own laws. They asserted their laws, and those laws need to be upheld.
Recommendation four is to immediately establish an independent review of the RCMP's operational practices involving wellness checks that provides recommendations for reforms. As expounded in point five, police are ill-equipped to deal with sensitive situations involving wellness checks. An independent review is needed to make recommendations on how other services, like mental health support, homelessness and other social work services, can be addressed without the police, and more importantly, in terms of mental health, it's really required there.
Recommendation five is redirecting fiscal resources from militarized policing to much-needed and more effective social supports such as mental health support, homelessness support and social work support that do not require police presence.
Recommendation six is the implementation of zero-tolerance policies on the use of excessive force.
Recommendation seven is for a review of the RCMP Act to include providing more power to a civilian oversight body and providing provisions that clearly state first nations' jurisdiction in matters of policing.
Recommendation eight is to develop legislation that outlaws white supremacist ideologies, while simultaneously increasing the role of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to deal with the private matters involving racist hate speech and action.
Recommendation nine is for greater accountability for the protection and respect of the fundamental human rights of first nations, including the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Recommendation 10 is to increase the use of police body cameras in first nations communities and access to video records.
Recommendation 11 is to enhance de-escalation and implicit bias training, including cross-cultural training.
Recommendation 12 calls for recruitment and promotion of first nations within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Recommendation 13 is to change the name of Canada's national police force to police service—it's not a “force”, but should be a “service”—to signal to the rest of Canada that violence towards first nations and other racialized groups is no longer tolerated.
Recommendation 14 is to create a national first nations justice strategic framework, action plan and commitments, led by first nations with the full support and partnership of Canada and the provinces.
For British Columbia, we have a British Columbia first nations justice strategy that involves justice not only within the province of British Columbia, but nationally. I believe we're the only province and region that has a strategic plan. Thanks are due to our chair, Doug White, who's on this call right now, and our B.C. First Nations Justice Council for developing that plan. We need more like these.
Currently, we are working on a proposal to the federal government, and certainly we need support from other regions. We're out there soliciting other regions and other provinces' first nations to say what they would see strategically in a national justice strategy.
I think it really involves policing. For many years, since colonization began, the police force was used to take our people off the land. More recently, with the advent of the residential school policies, many of our children were taken from our homes and brought to residential schools.
In my language, Dakelh, the Carrier language, we call the RCMP nilhchuk-un, which, interpreted in our language, is “those who take us away”. Really, it was the RCMP who took our children away. In many respects, that's the way we still see the RCMP—as we've seen even during this pandemic—because of the many instances of excessive use of force on our indigenous people across this country. There definitely needs to be systemic change, away from very punitive policies towards indigenous peoples and racialized minorities in Canada.
Here, what we're looking at is more restorative justice and a call to look towards rehabilitation and towards alternatives to jails. In Canada and British Columbia, many first nations lead statistically in terms of incarceration rates and also in terms of those who have died during custody.
Right now, policing is seen as mainly a program fund, although has promised us right now that it will become more essential services funding. That is a positive move, but I think it needs to be more than that. You'll definitely hear from other indigenous leaders in this presentation calling for the same thing. We definitely need a change in policing in this country that we call Canada.
With that, I'd like to thank you all for listening to my presentation today. I look forward to the other presenters here today.
Mahsi cho, thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's great to see everyone. Ublaahatkut
, good morning.
I'll be sharing my time with President Kotierk.
The Inuit Nunangat is the homeland for Inuit. It encompasses 51 communities spanning four regions: in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut.
We, as Inuit, disproportionately experience police violence compared to most other Canadians, as well as a host of challenges in accessing justice. Police violence isn't just an issue unto itself; it is part of a larger systemic issue in relation to social inequity. Things such as housing, mental health care, access to education, employment, poverty, all these things have to be discussed in relation to police violence as well.
We see police violence through the high rate of police-related deaths in the communities in comparison to other regions of Canada. Although aggregated data is not available for all four Inuit regions, and also not available for Inuit living outside of Inuit Nunangat, what we know paints a distressing picture of the systemic nature of police violence and discrimination against many of our communities.
There were 16 police-related deaths in the last 20 years. Nunavut's overall per capita rate of police-related deaths since 1999 is more than nine times higher than that of Ontario, and about three times higher than that of both Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
The situation in Nunavik is also grim. Between July 2014 and October 2018 alone, eight Inuit were killed and at least four injured by the Kativik Regional Police Force. Between 2016 and 2018, the KRPF was involved in about 10% of all cases of police-related deaths or injuries in the province, or 55 times that of the Montreal police force. The situation for Inuit in the Northwest Territories and Nunatsiavut, as well as for those living outside Inuit Nunangat, is less clear.
What is clear is that systemic racism, and racism itself, kills. The police force is largely itinerant. They don't have a clear connection to community, and there are very few police officers who are Inuit. This leads to the types of staggering figures that I just discussed with you.
Action is required to curb these disturbing trends, and these actions should include a systematic, independent review of the policing practices of the RCMP and the KRPF. In consideration of that action, Inuit participation in the construction of the governance of that review should be first and foremost. We are tired of being left on the sidelines when there are reviews, because in the end, our views and our perspectives are always at risk of being drowned out by other considerations.
Buying cameras and other measures should be taken to enhance transparency and accountability within law enforcement. Greater recruitment and retention of Inuit and Inuktitut speakers in law enforcement is necessary to build trust and improve communication between Inuit and law enforcement. Aggregated Inuit-specific data from across Inuit Nunangat, as well as outside Inuit Nunangat, is required to more fully understand and address police-related violence against Inuit.
I'll hand the rest of my time over to President Kotierk.
: Qujannamiik Natan. Ullukuut.
An imbalance of power and control has characterized the relationship between the RCMP and Nunavut Inuit since the relationship began. This is well documented through the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, which describes the relationship between 1940 and 1975. The RCMP came to our homelands as agents of the federal government, not only as agents of change, agents of colonialism, but also with the self-interested view of a country that needed to assert Arctic sovereignty.
There is no doubt that the relationship between Nunavut Inuit and the RCMP is complex and strained. The RCMP was instrumental in relocating Inuit families into communities; the RCMP was instrumental in sending Inuit children to residential schools; the RCMP was instrumental and in the slaughter of Inuit sled dogs.
I'll quote John Amagoalik in speaking about how his family was moved from Inukjuak in Northern Quebec, Nunavik to the High Arctic in Nunavut:
I think it is important for people to understand that when the RCMP made a request to you in those days, it was seen as something like an order. You are ordered to do this. The RCMP officers had a lot of power. They could put you in jail. That's the way they were viewed in those days. A request from the police was taken very, very seriously.
Today, many of the social and economic challenges experienced by Inuit are rooted in the loss of power and control caused by much of the colonial relationship. Due to the scarcity of mental health services and supports, the RCMP is often the first stop for Nunavut Inuit to get access to care, yet care is often not received. Instead, Inuit are targets of excessive force in interactions with the RCMP.
As Natan pointed out, since 1999 there have been at least 15 deaths in Nunavut at the hands of the RCMP. The RCMP does not understand our culture, nor does it understand our language, as demonstrated by the ratio of Inuit to non-Inuit officers in Nunavut.
No wonder there is a relationship of distrust between Nunavut Inuit and the RCMP. If in fact the purpose of the RCMP is to serve and protect, the onus and responsibility is on the RCMP to build the trust in our Inuit communities. There needs to be a trauma-informed approach that recognizes that in very recent history, Inuit have experienced a shift in power and authority, and that there are reasons why there are social ills in our communities.
There needs to be an independent oversight model that monitors the behaviour of the RCMP and its interaction with Inuit. There need to be more Inuit RCMP officers. There needs to be better cultural training for RCMP officers who will be working in our Inuit communities. In order to nurture and strengthen community trust or community relationships, RCMP officers need to stay in our communities longer so they become part of our communities.
I appreciate the opportunity to join your committee today, and I thank my colleagues for allowing me to be here.
I also want to thank the witnesses. It's great to have you here, and it's great to hear your testimony and input into this very important matter.
I heard much, from each of you, about the importance of relationships. A couple of you at least talked about service rather than force, and that kind of language. I appreciate that.
As the former mayor of a small city in Saskatchewan, I can say that we had a unique policing situation, in that we shared a detachment. We shared our police service in our little city with the surrounding rural municipality and two first nation communities. There was a very obvious correlation between the relationship, or the rapport, that our community partners had with our commanding officer and how that affected the overall relationship with the service.
One of the highlights we had in our little community, and our community's relationship with the RCMP, was that at one time we asked them—in their annual performance planning cycle—to place a priority on promoting relationships and promoting the good things they do. We found that to be very effective for the community partners of the city, the rural municipality, the first nations communities and the RCMP, as it turned into a positive exercise in building relationships.
I'd like to give you all an opportunity to speak to this if you could. To each of you: Would you offer, or could you discuss, any best practices or any experiences you've had in your past relationships with the RCMP that could be a lesson for all of us across the country to use in improving that relationship in that spirit of service, rather than force?
Thank you for that question, Mr. Vidal. I think the example you gave of a small community is a perfect example of how the RCMP needs to relate to the governance.
For my first nations community.... I am from the Takla Lake First Nation. We have three police officers in our territory. There is, for the most part, a good relationship with our chief and council and our community, including adopting some of those police officers into our potlatch system and adopting some of them into the Caribou Clan.
The other example I have is in the Prince George area, where we have created a good relationship with the high-level superintendents. It really began with Brenda Butterworth-Carr, who is a woman of first nations descent. She worked in Ottawa for a while, and now works for the provincial government in policing.
I still have a good relationship with the superintendents, but even though on a very high level we have good relationships with many political people, it doesn't translate to those police officers who are on the beat. There are still high levels of incarceration and death rates in Prince George, going back to Clayton Willey in 2003, a Wet'suwet'en man, Dale Culver, in 2017, and more recently my cousin, Everett Riley Patrick, in April.
We could have a great relationship at the very highest levels, but if it isn't translating down to the police officers, it's not going to create the change we need. More often than not, we're seeing deaths in large municipalities like Winnipeg. We have many other reports, like the Frank Paul inquiry in Vancouver. In the Oka crisis, in that municipality, the use of force by many of those police officers militarized and brought in the Oka crisis 30 years ago.
As you can tell, we can have great relationships at a high level, but if they don't translate down to that level, we're going to have a really tough time.
Following my time as a member of the RCMP, I spent seven years as a police chief, two years in Durham Region and then five years here in Ottawa. From an education perspective, I have an undergraduate degree from Acadia University, a master's from Royal Roads and a doctorate from the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security at Charles Sturt University. All my education was completed while continuing to work full time in my policing roles.
Following my policing career, I was appointed to the Senate. I have continued to teach at various universities in Canada and internationally. As well, I do research, often into the issues that impact our criminal justice system and, of course, policing itself.
In relation to your work here, I wanted to speak to a few areas that I believe are important to this discussion. They include training and recruiting, education and of course the most recent argument for the defunding of the police. I will conclude my comments with my view on systemic racism in policing.
Although it is already dated, there is a 2014 Justice Goudge report, “Policing Canada in the 21st Century”, which I believe the committee may want to look at, as there are good avenues for discussion that you could consider.
On the recruitment and training perspective, I believe we need a national review in both of these areas. I would argue that policing today no longer follows standards that are set out nationally, but rather they are found within the mandate of the provinces and territories, and as a result are difficult to completely engage in.
We have, give or take, 180 police agencies in Canada with expenditures of around $15 billion. The disparity in training and recruiting is notable. I would argue that this is an area where the federal government could set a path forward in setting national policing standards for both officers and police agencies. I have met previously with first nations police chiefs, and they expressed a similar concern and stated that they would also support such a movement.
Other countries have been able to do this by setting up a college of policing model—not to be confused with the police college. As an example, the U.K. has done this. They established the College of Policing, which is a professional body for everyone who works in policing in England and Wales. The purpose of the college is "to provide those working in policing with the skills and knowledge necessary to prevent crime, protect the public, and secure public trust.”
Their functions include three primary areas: knowledge, such as developing research and infrastructure for improving evidence of what works; education supporting the development of individuals in policing, including setting educational requirements; and lastly, standards that draw on the best available evidence of what works to set standards in policing for forces and individuals.
I would make the argument that a similar model should be developed in Canada. You may see some jurisdictional arguments with maybe some jurisdictions arguing they'd like to opt out. I would suggest that it would be at their peril.
We can see across this country that without this model, we are scattered from both a recruiting standards and training standards perspective. In Ontario, it's 13 weeks to complete your basic training; in the RCMP it is six months, and some other jurisdictions are even longer. The stark reality is that the challenges police agencies face have changed dramatically, and I'm not sure that we've kept up.
Education of police officers is essential to the development of the officer and the organization overall. Research conducted in the United Kingdom and Australia speaks to the importance of not only continuous training of police officers but of continuous education as well.
I do not argue, as some may, that police officers must have a university degree to begin their career, but I am of the firm belief that education needs to be a foundation of their career and provided throughout their career. Some countries require that a police officer complete an undergraduate degree to be considered fully accredited. Some require education to be taken in its entirety prior to entering the police service, and others require that it continue throughout their career. Regardless, I believe that a focus on education will be important as we look to move forward.
The last area is defunding of police. This most recent argument is one that, in a different way, has been argued by police officers and police leaders for decades, except they have been arguing that the demands placed on them would often be better served by others.
In 2008, when the federal government advised they would provide funds for a 2,500-officer program, many—including myself and senior union leaders—argued that the funds would be better advised to be provided for mental health and addictions services. The continued growth of expectations placed on police has seen a concurrent growth in policing budgets at some level.
As an example, the deinstitutionalization of mental health facilities in the late 1980s and into the 1990s saw a growth in the involvement of police officers in mental health calls for service. The provinces believed that the process of moving patients or clients into communities was better for the lives of the individuals, and it was. However, there were also substantial savings that were often not reinvested in the community programming to provide support.
The impact is that all too often the police have become the de facto response unit to mental health calls for service, often without the resources needed to fully engage. Instead, they use the tools they have.
Some police agencies have identified that a full 20% of the calls for service are mental health calls, often not criminal in nature. Some would argue that more mental health workers, working hand in glove with the police responding to these calls, would be a better service. It's been done, and it is better. However, even this response is a downstream service.
The stark reality is that wait times to see much-needed mental health resources in the community are shockingly insufficient, and that investment in this upstream section of the health system is where it could make the greatest impact, and we would reduce the demand on police—most importantly, by having the right resource engaged at the right time for the right reason.
The same could be argued for the lack of drug addiction resources, where we have six- to eight-month wait-lists in many provinces for residential or even non-residential drug treatment. Many of the people on these wait-lists find themselves involved in the criminal justice system, many times while waiting for treatment.
Again, funding for residential and non-residential drug treatment would remove many of the addicted from the work of our law enforcement and criminal justice systems and place it where it should be, which is with health officials.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
I'm the chief executive officer of the Legal Services Board of Nunavut, which is the territorial legal aid provider.
Nunavut's legal aid context is a little different. There are very few private lawyers in Nunavut. The Legal Services Board is by far the largest employer of lawyers in Nunavut, perhaps even in the Arctic. Certainly that's the case with respect to criminal law. Almost 100% of criminal cases pass through our staff lawyers and our contract lawyers at some point, and we probably carry more than 90% of them to conclusion.
I reside in Rankin Inlet, which is a community of about 2,500 people in the Kivalliq region in central Nunavut. I've been there since January 2019. I grew up in a series of remote first nations communities in northern Manitoba and northern Ontario. While I have a lot of experience working and living with indigenous communities, I want to be really clear that my perspective is not that of an indigenous person. I was listening in on the previous witnesses. With respect to Nunavut, President Obed and President Kotierk's evidence and perspective is, I'd submit, the lens through which these issues need to be dealt with. I can offer some technical advice, but I want to be really clear that I don't experience the systemic racism in the same way that the Inuit members of my community do.
When we talk about systemic racism, for me it's a fairly simple equation: Is there a racialized group that is experiencing a disproportionate burden or barrier? Is that ongoing and persistent? Are remedial efforts ineffective or nonexistent? I would submit that the evidence that this is the case with respect to policing in Nunavut is overwhelming.
We can start in terms of evidence. We can look at the data from StatsCan that suggest that Nunavummiut, people who reside in Nunavut outside of Iqaluit—in most communities, that's over 90%—are four times as likely to be charged with a criminal offence than other Canadians. Once charged, they're more likely to be prosecuted. Once prosecuted, they're more likely to be convicted. Once convicted, they're more likely to be sentenced to jail. They are sentenced to longer sentences, and they serve more of those sentences. I've summarized some of that data in the Legal Services Board 2018-19 annual report, if you're interested, and there are sources for it as well.
Also, when we look at the evidence of systemic racism with respect to policing in Nunavut, we can also look at the repeated instances that we hear throughout the justice system of interactions between the police and members of the community that are fraught with violence and that are otherwise problematic. I summarized almost 30 of those last June and forwarded them to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. I met with the commissioner and asked her to consider doing a systemic review. However, those instances that I reported on are still a fraction of what we hear in the community on a regular and ongoing basis. They're present in the courts. There's a consistent process of charges being withdrawn or judicial commentary on these instances. There is a wealth of evidence that there are, on the ground, problematic interactions of a nature that, frankly, just don't exist to the same extent in other jurisdictions in the country.
Then the other piece of evidence is sort of what's missing: any systematic, public or transparent approach to the conduct in criminal investigations and proceedings in relation to this conduct. There have been a few conduct investigations and one set of criminal charges that have been laid in Nunavut against police over the past 20 years.
Generally speaking, I estimate that partly because there is very little in the way of a systematic approach to conduct investigations on the part of the RCMP senior management and partly because it's not a transparent model, we just don't see evidence of these matters being addressed.
Very quickly, I'd say that obviously it's really clear that a new model is required for policing in Nunavut. Regardless of the content of that model, I'd say that there are three elements that must be addressed for any change to be possible.
One is increased resources to front-line policing. In this age of “defund the police”, I know that's not a very popular point of view, but the conditions that rank-and-file officers are forced to deal with are unbelievably arduous and stressful, and no change is possible without more resources. Also, frankly, you're never going to attract qualified Inuit applicants to go and work in those conditions either. Without increased funding for front-line policing, no change is possible.
Second, you need increased resources for restorative justice and social services in the communities. I cannot emphasize enough the lack of alternative dispute resolution or counselling or therapeutic services in Nunavut communities. There is basically a dearth of any of the range of services that are provided in other communities in this country. As a result, all these problems are handed to the police, and they respond with the tools they have, which more often than not are tools of coercion, arrest and charging.
The third thing that has to change is there needs to be meaningful, robust, independent civilian oversight. That means independent civilian investigations on criminal and use-of-force and death allegations, independent complaint-based conduct investigations, and independent oversight at the national level of RCMP policy and strategic direction. I think it's clear that the senior management of the RCMP are unable to drive change and respond to this. The current situation, in which they're not accountable to civilian oversight in a structured way, is part of the problem.
By way of introduction, let me just say that I'm Robert Wright. I'm a social worker and a sociologist whose 30-year career in the field has brought me into the fields of child welfare, correctional mental health, education and a range of other fields. I have worked extensively with victims and perpetrators of violence of all forms. I want to thank the committee for having me as a witness. I hope I can bring an informed perspective to the committee.
I hail from Nova Scotia, the unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq peoples. People of African descent were not so much settlers as they were settled on this territory, and we have been here for over 400 years and have still here in Nova Scotia some of the oldest and largest Black communities of Canada.
When it comes to thinking about systemic racism in policing, we have the distinction in Nova Scotia of having been the province of the inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Donald Marshall Junior. We're also the province of the Supreme Court decision in the case known as R.D.S., and as the pioneer of the impact of race in cultural assessments, I am proud that Nova Scotia is the first jurisdiction in Canada to use these specialized pre-sentence reports to support the courts' arriving at more informed sentences in an effort to address in part the dramatic overrepresentation of people of African descent under correctional supervision in Canada.
I was a participant in a dialogue between members of African-Canadian communities and the Canadian Human Rights Commission several years ago. The Office of the Correctional Investigator had representatives at that meeting, and it was their presence at those meetings that prompted the OCI to make a focal point of their 2013 report a focus on diversity in corrections and the experiences of Black inmates under correctional supervision.
I do not believe I need to tell the members of this committee or Canadians viewing this proceeding that racism exists in the criminal justice system and that policing, as the doorway into that system, is in a critical location to address issues of systemic racism, overrepresentation and differential treatment of people of African descent within those systems.
In response to your questions later, no doubt I will reference recommendations that have been articulated in other reports and studies, but I want to use my time now to emphasize two or three points that I think are critical as we consider how to address the systemic racism that exists in policing and in other layers of the criminal justice system.
The first point is that any reform, any study, any solution must be led by people of African descent. In response to the challenges that we have had here recently in Nova Scotia related to police street checks—and I won't speak in great detail about the machinations that accompanied focus on the dramatic overrepresentation of Black bodies in those statistics—I will say that members of the African-Nova Scotian communities here have called for a provincial African-Nova Scotian policing strategy. It is our belief that no internal studies, no provincially led studies that do not focus and prioritize the leadership and the engagement of people of African descent will be sufficient to address the problem.
The second thing that I would point out is that in the effort to solve the problems that exist in policing, to defund the police by shifting resources to community agencies, mental health services and the like that might be better able to serve our populations, we must remember that those organizations to which we would shift those funds themselves all have records of systemic racism against people of African descent, and it would likely occur that simply the location of our systemic oppression and exclusion would be shifted, rather than that the systemic racism problem would be solved.
Finally, I would simply say that in our effort to address systemic racism in policing, it will be important that all of those organizations that have oversight over policing, from the human rights commissions to police review boards to police commissions and the like, would bring systemic racism to an end in all of those locations. It will be essential in this work.
Thank you for the time, and I look forward to engaging in the questions.
Thank you very much for the question.
My police training was with the RCMP, and we were training police officers to go everywhere and anywhere in Canada. You found out where you were going close to the end of your career. The training was not specific to the location you were about to go to. Instead, it was generally identified nationally as a first nation, Inuit or Métis community, for example. I think we have seen a shift.
Certainly, when I was in the Yukon, when officers came we would oblige them to be educated in the first nation communities in the Yukon. In fact, when they would arrive in a community, they were actually mentored by a local elder in those communities. I think that paid dividends. The Council of Yukon First Nations was very involved in the development. I think it paid dividends in terms of the relationship building and in terms of the knowledge and understanding of non-indigenous officers, or even indigenous officers from other parts of Canada, who had come to the Yukon.
I think that type of model works well. Because the RCMP training facility is so large and has so many people go through, it's more difficult to give them the level of training they would need on every potential location they would go to.
I have to say, though, I am concerned about the fact that our training is still at six months and, like I said, in the province of Ontario it's 13 weeks. I think a review needs to be done as to whether or not the same amount of time that was needed at that time is needed 30 years after I went through the RCMP training academy. I think that would be an important step forward as well.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would also like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples.
I want to congratulate all the witnesses for their testimony today.
I only have three minutes, so I will be very brief.
I will not have an opportunity to ask everyone a question, but Mr. Wright, Mr. Cowan and Senator White, thank you very much for your testimony.
Mr. Wright, you had mentioned the importance of having a critical race perspective. You gave us an example that when people are being arrested, you will see that Blacks.... If you don't use a critical race perspective, you'll come to the wrong conclusions.
I also appreciate what Mr. Cowan said, in terms of Inuit and further-afield indigenous people, that they won't feel that our federal policing service is a safe place for them to make a career.
Mr. Wright, do you find that African Nova Scotians consider the RCMP or local police services to be safe places?
Thank you very much for the question, sir.
Certainly 15 or 20 years ago, the RCMP would not have allowed—or seldom would have allowed—you to transfer to the isolated northern communities in the three northern territories. At that time we had hundreds, if not more, applicants looking for transfers north who already had a substantial amount of experience. That's not true today and the challenge that I think they're facing in the RCMP is that they are probably thousands of officers short already. They do not have enough officers to even fill the positions they have across the country. On top of that, they have a much lower number of officers applying to go into the isolated posts in the northern territories, for example.
As a result, they're having to send people with less experience than they would have in the past. That is a problem. I don't know if it's one that's solved easily, beyond getting the RCMP numbers up to the level they should be and then trying to see whether or not they could recruit from those first nation, Inuit and Métis communities to go back into those communities—and I would argue the same for northern Saskatchewan. Many Inuit would not necessarily want to work in the community they grew up in, for example, so I'm not suggesting that, but nothing stops them from working in another community in a different part of Baffin Island.
I'm always back to the same thing: If we cannot represent those we serve, we're not representing those we serve. As I would argue in the past, we want to be recruiting with a window, not a mirror. If we can't get to that point, we're probably not going to be successful in in cracking this nut, as I think Mr. Fergus said.