Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I know that, technologically, interpretation between French and English can be a challenge, so I will limit myself to making my presentation in one language. Obviously, I will be able to answer questions in English or French, if there are any.
Mr. Chair, members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, first of all, I just want to say that I support the comments made earlier this morning by my colleague from British Columbia, Regional Chief Terry Teegee. As you heard this morning, he shares with me the responsibility for justice issues at the national level for the Assembly of First Nations in Canada. I would also like to thank the Huron-Wendat Nation for having me here today to make this presentation.
First of all, systemic discrimination must be seen as part of Canada’s colonial past. Law enforcement played a major role in the colonization process. For example, it was the police who abducted our children and forced them into residential schools. It was the police who prevented our peoples from participating in their ceremonies and practising their spirituality. While others saw the police as a service for their protection and safety, our people saw them as the oppressors, so much so that in many first nations languages, as my colleague said earlier this morning, the word “police” is translated as “those who abduct us.”
Despite constitutional guarantees, and after several Supreme Court decisions, first nations constitutional and treaty rights continue to be violated with impunity. While systemic racism and discrimination are widely recognized and documented, some prefer to view them as the problems of others, denying that they are rooted in the very fabric of Canadian society. The right to protection and safety is something that other citizens can take for granted. However, we, the first nations people living on our territories, do not have these guarantees. This is primarily a human rights issue, but it also concerns the relationship between the justice system, the police and our peoples.
Why is the issue of the relationship between first nations peoples in Canada and law enforcement so difficult to address? The strained relationship between first nations peoples and the police has been the subject of extensive reporting since the 1960s and has been documented time and time again. Since 1967, at least 13 reports have examined this relationship. They have addressed all facets of the situation. Countless research reports have examined the issue. In every case, the conclusion is the same: Canada has failed.
Those who still doubt that the justice system has failed our people may want to take a closer look at our current reality. Numerous studies have confirmed that first nations people are more likely to be detained by the police following an arrest, most often on the basis of prejudice and racism. They are also more likely to be detained for long periods of time as part of the bail process. They are more likely to be sentenced to imprisonment and, too often, for long periods. They are more likely to be imprisoned for non-payment of fines. You can add to these deplorable facts that first nations people are more likely to be killed in police operations.
First nations women are not excluded from these statistics. A recent report published on the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal indicates that first nations women are a target group, as they are 11 times more likely to be arrested than white women. As the report of the National Survey on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls indicates, there are numerous reports of police abuse, excessive use of force, misconduct and racial profiling. These actions, taken by state officials responsible for public safety, are incompatible with their duties as peace officers and are indicative of systemic racism.
Now more than ever, the state must ensure that the police protect the public and that mechanisms are in place to do so. Over the years, despite numerous attempts to remedy the situation, the state has failed to adopt accommodation measures that truly mitigate the effects of imposing Canadian legislation on first nations peoples.
Issues of systemic discrimination against first nations are still not being addressed in a manner that reflects the urgency of the situation. Violence against first nations continues to make headlines. The time for rhetoric and political stasis is over; it is time to address the various issues that plague the justice and policing systems.
Other studies or surveys will not tell us more about what we already know. Canada must take immediate action, introduce a national plan and call on the provinces to formally recognize systemic racism. This action plan must also involve all levels of government to eradicate all forms of racism and discrimination against first nations peoples in institutions across the country, starting with police services.
The right way forward is to establish a national first nations justice and policing strategy and action plan. We need a collaborative engagement process to jointly develop legislation designed to implement necessary criminal justice and policing reforms. This task is before us. This is a national emergency. Systemic racism has gone on far too long.
In closing, I would also like to reiterate my support for the recommendations made by my colleague, Regional Chief Terry Teegee, before you this morning.
I would like to start by recognizing the two territories that we're meeting on this afternoon: the Wikwemikong unceded territory, composed of the Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples, and the territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation.
I would like to thank you all for the opportunity to appear before this committee to provide these submissions today on behalf of the Indigenous Police Chiefs of Ontario, also known as IPCO. My name is Terry McCaffrey and I am the chief of police for the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service and the president of IPCO.
Over my 24-year policing career, it has been an honour to have served over 35 first nations communities across three provinces—Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario—all under a first nations policing program known as the FNPP.
IPCO is composed of nine self-administered indigenous police forces across Ontario. Those services are the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, the Anishinabek Police Service, the Lac Seul Police Service, the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service, the Rama Police Service, the Six Nations Police Service, the Treaty Three Police Service, the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service and the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service.
IPCO is a not-for-profit organization incorporated under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act on September 16, 2019.
The vice-president of IPCO is Jerel Swamp, who is the chief of the Rama Police Service, and the secretary-treasurer is Roland Morrison, chief of police for Nishnawbe Aski Police Service.
IPCO advocates in unity for equality for our indigenous policing services. Our mission statement is that our nine stand-alone indigenous police services are standing together as one to advocate policing equity across our communities and our membership; essential service status; full parity with other Ontario police services, including wages, benefits and pensions; full and adequate staffing, equitable for our unique needs; legitimate recognition as the experts in indigenous policing; and policing that is fully autonomous.
For decades, self-administered first nations policing in the province of Ontario has been chronically underfunded. First nations officers have been forced to work in conditions that other officers throughout the province—and country, for that matter—would never be subjected to.
As policing programs, indigenous police services are not subject to any policing legislation, and our communities have not had the benefit of policing backed by the rule of law. The severe underfunding of indigenous policing creates a unity between the police service, the community, and political leadership in our combined advocacy to the federal and provincial governments for fair and equitable funding to ensure our indigenous police services can provide effective, efficient and culturally responsible policing to the communities we serve. We are proud that despite these serious impediments, we have managed to progress and have truly created a connection with our communities built on cultural respect and autonomy.
IPCO was pleased to hear say that first nations policing must be made an essential service and recognize that we have been overlooked for far too long. The June 23, 2020, edition of the Toronto Star, reporting on Minister Blair's comments about making first nations policing an essential service, discussed a report by the Council of Canadian Academies, which said that without indigenous policing services these many indigenous communities are stuck with a colonial policing model that overlooks indigenous cultural traditions and fails to create the necessary bonds of trust.
The IPCO services have made the effort to make sure that our policing services align with the values of our communities, instead of trying to force our communities to align with conventional policing values. We are the experts in culturally responsive policing.
A perfect example of our police services aligning with our community values is the recent first nations border closures and community COVID measures that have taken place during the current pandemic. In early March, first nations leadership was considering putting measures in place to close borders to protect the health and safety of community members. Political leadership made clear to indigenous police services that they did not want to rely on a delegation of power from the Indian Act, but rather wanted to rely on their inherent rights and requested that the police service enforce the border closures.
In consultation and collaboration with political leadership, our indigenous police services assisted in the creation of a governance model that was vested in the inherent right to self-government and relied on existing provincial legislation such as the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and the Trespass to Property Act for enforcement.
This governance approach was initially met with resistance. The Solicitor General for Ontario, Ms. Sylvia Jones, recommended that the community pass bylaws under the Indian Act for border closures, even though the Indian Act bylaws were devoid of any prosecutorial or adjudicative mechanisms. It was recommended that these bylaws could be used as teaching tools. This approach was wholly rejected by our communities. Our leadership wanted a governance process that allowed for enforcement of the border closures and community COVID measures.
After extensive correspondence by political leadership and IPCO to the Ontario Attorney General and Minister Jones, we were informed on July 13, 2020, by Attorney General Downey that the provincial government takes very seriously “the importance of ensuring that the emergency protection measures that are put in place in First Nations communities to ensure the safety and well-being of their members during this outbreak are effectively and consistently enforced.” This letter goes on to advise that the provincial government will prosecute any charges laid relating to border closures under the EMCPA and the Trespass to Property Act.
I understand that aspects of the indigenous policing model are not transferable to conventional policing. I also accept that the indigenous policing model is not perfect, but what we do have that at times some conventional police services lack, especially with racialized and indigenous communities, is trust.
The years of overpolicing of indigenous, Black and other marginalized people by conventional policing services have caused significant mistrust of police. We have seen this play out in the United States with the protests in the wake of the George Floyd death, as well as here in Canada with the recent police-involved deaths of an indigenous man, Mr. Rodney Levi, and an indigenous woman, Ms. Chantel Moore. Communities want accountability from the police.
Indigenous police services are accountable to our communities, and not just when there's a tragedy. We are responsible and accountable each and every day. That is what culturally responsive policing looks like in our indigenous communities. We design our services to be culturally responsive and we train our officers to provide culturally responsive policing services. This is our standard, and ultimately this is our strength.
As Sir Robert Peel set out in his nine principles of policing, in order for the police to properly perform their duties there must be public approval for police actions, and the more police engage in the use of physical force, the more public co-operation with the police will diminish. Our indigenous police services live these principles.
IPCO participated in this process today to offer a hand in friendship and reconciliation, despite our concerns about the lack of appropriate funding for indigenous police services, because we truly believe that community collaboration and culturally responsive policing engaged in by indigenous police services are models that could be helpful to rebuilding public trust and confidence in conventional policing here in our country.
Thank you very much for your time.
, and good afternoon, I guess, where you are.
Thank you for the invitation to be a part of this very important conversation.
I look forward to sharing information about my community, the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, or KDFN, and summarizing a collaborative, community-driven approach we have created to address community safety concerns.
I am not here today to dispute whether systemic racism in policing exists. While I can't say it is as widespread as it once was, I think we can all agree it is real and that it lives on in many of our communities and institutions today.
Given the global conversation, I would like to premise my words by saying I openly support those speaking out against systemic racism and I acknowledge the harmful effects it has had on the health and well-being of first nations people, and indeed other people of colour.
At the same time, I see value in our existing policing services. While I am not a supporter of the calls to defund policing services, I think reform is needed. Here at home, I am sure our police department could use some additional resources, given the increased crime in our area. In some cases the increased demands and inadequate resources have had a trickle-down effect, especially as it relates to prioritized calls and response times. Citizens have reported it can sometimes take an hour or more for an officer to show up, and there have been calls for which no officers attended at all.
To provide further insight, shortly after I was first elected in 2014, KDFN began looking for ways to deal with community safety concerns. I think the breaking point came after the murders of two people. These unfortunate tragedies were the catalyst for change. It brought to the surface many issues and challenges around being an urban first nation.
Through many discussions with our citizens, we learned of numerous break-ins and violent crimes. We heard from single moms who were sleeping with baseball bats by their beds, from elders who didn't feel safe going out for a walk and from citizens concerned with bootlegging and drug houses. Simply put, our community was crying out for change.
It was also made very clear that there still remained a strong distrust of the police. People are often reminded of the trauma from residential schools, the sixties scoop and forced relocations when dealing with the police, not to mention that the intergenerational fallout continues to be a challenge. As well, let's not forget about the unfinished business surrounding missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
In many ways, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, along with its 94 recommendations, and our constitutionally protected final and self-government agreements helped to establish the initial path forward.
The first step in any crisis is the admission that there is a problem, and there needs to be a demonstrated willingness to listen and participate in the hard discussions. That also means not being afraid to scrutinize your own environment. We cannot criticize if we are not willing to accept our own shortcomings. In our case, we chose to listen, learn from one another and put the words into action.
From the onset, we knew that if we were going to turn things around, we had to engage our community; and if meaningful change were to occur, it had to come from within. We also needed to reset and rebuild relationships with our community partners, so together, with the community's help, we created a comprehensive community safety plan.
We established an interagency working group of community partners including the RCMP; Bylaw Services; the Safe Communities and Neighbourhoods unit, or SCAN; Public Safety and Investigations; and the Correctional Service of Canada. We built an innovative community safety officer program, or CSO program, which launched in 2016.
It is the CSO program that I wish to highlight today. The program is designed to strengthen relationships. It works closely with law enforcement, provides early detection and de-escalation of conflict in the community, and is culturally responsive. It has been well received by our citizens.
I wish to be clear. The CSO program is not intended to replace the police. The four officers we have don't enforce the law but help to de-escalate in certain situations. They have also intervened in cases that could have ended badly, especially for women who were in unsafe situations.
It is a great example of conflict-free resolution. It has proven its worth not only to the community but to the RCMP, which has provided support to this program because it has been such a help. The CSO program frees up RCMP officers to do other work. The calls to service have been reduced significantly since the program started.
While funding continues to be an issue, the program has gained full participation of the Yukon government, the RCMP and many other community partners. We have learned a lot about each other in the process.
Any officer working in a first nation community needs to understand the dynamics, the culture, the history, and the trauma of our people. This is key to strengthening the connection and relationship with the community.
We remain committed to the process. Recently, we signed a historic document with the RCMP, defining a new relationship. The letter of expectation, or LOE, promotes a positive and co-operative relationship and provides policing priorities, goals, and strategies that are specific to the needs of KDFN.
Ultimately, it is about choosing a path where strong partnerships allow us to develop the kind of policing we know we need in our community. If we are truly going to make a difference, the justice system must create the space for community-borne safety initiatives like ours. I think we can agree that together we can bring about the much-needed change we seek.
Sha¨`w nithän, gùnálchîsh, mahsi cho.
Thank you for your question, which is most relevant.
There is indeed a commitment. We are currently at the commitment stage. The next session will be held in the fall. Obviously, we hope that work will begin quickly in preparation for that session. As we all know, time is of the essence. Therefore, the sooner things are done, the more we will be able to table legislation that meets our expectations.
We had the opportunity to co-author a bill, which was a very successful experience for us. I am talking about Bill , which deals with first nations children, youth and families, that is, aboriginal people. Of course, we would like to see things done in a similar way.
I should add that, for several years now, we have often maintained that our services should be recognized as essential. That being said, as the national executive, we recently passed a resolution stating that funding should be granted based on the needs expressed by the communities, and not just on a parity basis. I think this is an extremely important nuance.
In short, we hope that it will be possible, in practical terms, to get to the table quickly and begin the work.
I think what a lot of this boils down to is removing barriers. There are a number of barriers, especially in our indigenous police services, that we have been allowed to remove so that we can attract more, recruit more and be more successful in getting our recruits to the training environments.
That being said, if we're looking to hire for a northern Ontario community, just the fact of their being able to get testing—to come out from their community and have to go to, say, Thunder Bay, for example, to get some testing done—could be an enormous barrier for somebody who could potentially be a lifelong, 30-year officer who would serve your community well. That being said, if I can just quickly touch on anything, it's at that recruiting level that we need to remove barriers.
Some other things, too, like the psychological examinations that are being done, are systemically flawed. Some questions are in there that will put you on the wrong side of the curve immediately, like “Do you see spirits?” I've heard that question. Well, indigenous people will attend ceremonies, and this is a firm belief. Immediately it's systemically flawed in some of those areas. They need to be looked at in a complete reform to allow for our people to be hired.
Thank you to all of our witnesses.
In three minutes, I don't have time to ask you all the questions I'd like to ask, but I would like all of you to give some thoughts and maybe provide those in writing.
How do we ensure that we get enough women applying to be officers in first nations policing so that we don't make the mistakes of other police services where women are under-represented? If you can give that some thought, and if all three of you have thoughts on that, could you provide those to me?
Chief Bill, what you're doing in community is a model that I've heard about. It's a real pleasure and honour to meet you. I commend you for what you're doing.
We've talked a lot about investing more in police. Your model relies on community safety officers. I'm wondering, are police really the right people to be responding to mental health calls, to be responding to some of these things? Should we be putting more into policing, or should we be putting more into services and individuals who can work in communities to deal with mental health issues and other social issues, as opposed to sending the police to those calls?
Good afternoon, members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to provide some testimony.
My name is Jeffrey Schiffer. I'm a Métis person. As the chair has said, I'm currently the executive director of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto.
I want to start by acknowledging the Algonquin territory that you're all gathered on today, as well as the traditional territory of the Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Anishinabe people from which I join you.
I applaud you for calling a series of hearings to discuss systemic racism in policing. This is an issue that we can trace back to the very inception of Canada.
As you're all aware, our nation is built on treaties. Canada today in fact derives its legal status as a nation from treaties. As numerous national commissions, inquiries and reports have noted, the indigenous signatories of these treaties had very different understanding of the implications of these agreements.
Policing in Canada emerged in part as a mechanism to enforce and expand colonization. The North-West Mounted Police, created in 1873, occupied a central role in managing and containing indigenous populations as European settlement advanced. They played a central role in forcibly relocating indigenous people to reserve lands established by the Crown and also in removing indigenous children from their families to be placed in residential schools. For almost 150 years, police in Canada have been utilized to enforce colonial interpretations of the original treaties and to implement Canadian law, which sometimes is not congruent with the vision of a shared nation that was initially promised to indigenous peoples.
We're at a crossroads today in Canada. As RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has stated, “systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included”. Our national, provincial and territorial, and municipal police services remain ensnared in the historical momentum of the racism and colonial ideologies that framed their creation so long ago. This is evident in the persistent statistics that reveal indigenous people being more frequently questioned and investigated by police, more often subject to violence, sexual exploitation and death at the hands of police, and being starkly overrepresented in the criminal justice system.
In an era of truth and reconciliation, these problems are becoming more acute, rather than getting better. Just as one example, since April 2010, the indigenous population in prisons has grown by nearly 44%, whereas the non-indigenous incarcerated population in Canada has declined by almost 14% over that same period.
Research tells us that the crossroads we're at today provides a fleeting opportunity of significant magnitude. The shock that's in our system at present, due to COVID-19 and global coordinated protests against systemic racism in policing, provides a unique opportunity for change.
I believe we have a responsibility as leaders to ensure public safety and national security that's not only evidence-based, but also framed in reconciliation, equity and diversity. We must ask ourselves, what does the data tell us about where police services succeed and where they fail? What possible pathways lie before us for innovation that can lead to better outcomes for indigenous people across Canada?
In May, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old black and indigenous woman, fell to her death from her 24th-floor apartment when police were responding to a mental health crisis. In June, Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old indigenous mother, was fatally shot by police during a wellness check. A week later, 48-year-old Rodney Levi, an indigenous man with a history of struggles with mental health, was shot and killed by the RCMP in responding to a call about an unwanted guest at a residence.
These three deaths are small pieces in a much larger picture. A study released in June revealed that while indigenous people make up roughly 5% of the population, 38 of the last 100 people killed by police in Canada were indigenous. In the decade spanning 2007 to 2017, indigenous people accounted for more than a third of the people shot to death by RCMP officers.
Mounting evidence is telling a story. It's telling us that police officers are struggling to manage with wellness checks, mental health crises and a variety of other calls and interactions, particularly when indigenous people are involved. Recent studies reveal that typical responses used by police services to address these challenges aren't effective.
In a large study assessing data from over 700 private sector establishments between 1971 and 2002, researchers investigated the impacts of police service initiatives in training, promoting inclusion and establishing institutional responsibility. Of these three strategies, training was found to be the least effective, and while these strategies had some positive impact when deployed together, the research found that systemic racism in policing is driven by a constellation of individual, group, institutional and social elements.
In short, police services may not have the capacity to resolve structural racism themselves. Support from government and community-led organizations will be critical if we're to action the change of seeing better outcomes in this area.
Recent calls to defund police are grounded in the evidence-based recognition that some work currently done by police services can be done more effectively with fewer resources by community-led organizations. For me, it's less about defunding police and more about a thoughtful consideration of how resources might be reallocated to community organizations to take on some of the work related to community safety, mental health response and victims services for indigenous people and racialized communities.
I would like to put three recommendations before you, before I finish today.
First, I recommend that the federal government work with the provinces and territories, municipalities and indigenous communities to reallocate funding and service responsibilities related to mental health and victims services to indigenous organizations. Second, I recommend that some specific funding be allocated to mental health response and victims services for indigenous people. The need is particularly pressing in urban centres like Toronto, where we're seeing massive and rapid growth in our indigenous community. Finally, I recommend that the federal government create an indigenous-led working group to better examine the service needs related to mental health and victims services for rapidly growing urban indigenous communities.
With that, I would like to thank the members of the committee for the opportunity to appear as a witness today. I look forward to answering any questions you might have later on.
I am Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, with the University of Toronto, as we have established.
I'd like to thank the committee, as well, for the opportunity to speak before you today, and Dr. Schiffer for his comments.
In addition to my own research on issues of race and policing, I've worked in operational police policy and, indirectly and directly, with police agencies on matters relating to race, racism and questions of equity. I have interviewed and surveyed members of the general public on their perceptions of and experiences with racism in policing, and conducted similar interviews and research with populations most subject to police attention. I have also spent a considerable amount of time conducting research with and working with racialized officers on the issues they face in the policing world. My comments today reflect not only my academic research but also these professional and practical experiences.
I think it's important in the context of the discussion we're having today to talk about some definitional issues. We're talking about systemic racism here. I think it's wise to think about differences among structural, systemic and institutional racism, each of which is relevant in the Canadian context.
From my perspective, when I'm thinking about issues of systemic racism in policing, I think more about structural racism, which describes a system in which policies, institutional practices, cultural representations and other norms work in varied and often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial inequality. The key part here is that structural racism acknowledges the role that our history and culture have played in creating a social system that privileges whiteness over non-whiteness. Rather than looking at individual institutional practices, structural racism understands racism as being embedded in the fabric of our social, economic and political systems.
Institutional racism refers to institutional policies and practices that, intentionally or not, produce outcomes that constantly favour or disadvantage certain groups over others.
We see structural racism play out in policing when we consider why certain racial groups come into contact with the police more frequently than others, just by virtue of who they are and where they live. Racism in various sectors of our society influences the nature of police work, of course. Most members of our society would expect a heightened police presence in areas where crime is higher. If black and indigenous people suffer racial discrimination in the employment and education sectors, thus increasing levels of poverty and the likelihood that they live in disadvantaged neighbourhoods with higher levels of crime and violence, it follows that these people will have greater exposure to the police, and by extension, police stop and search practices, arrest, use of force, etc.
We see structural racism, for example, play out when we look at arrests for minor drug offences. Evidence from Canada and other jurisdictions suggests that members of different racial groups use drugs at relatively similar rates, yet we see stark racial differences in drug possession arrests. While some of these differences can likely be attributed to officer behaviour and institutional policies and practices, the heightened police presence in the lives of black and indigenous people also plays an important role. So much remedy here lies outside the realm of policing.
It's my belief that the government should follow the call of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to first decriminalize, and then later legalize and regulate other substances. This would take away the need for the police to address these minor issues.
From my perspective, an example of institutional racism in policing would include the privileging of enforcement-oriented forms of policing over community policing efforts in performance reviews and consideration for promotion. If officers are evaluated on the number of arrests they make, rather than on the extent to which they build strong ties with communities, then officers will be inclined to make arrests, warranted or not, rather than engaging in other activities that may serve to engender public safety. Efforts to increase arrests are likely to involve going after low-hanging fruit, often minor infractions in higher-crime neighbourhoods. Again, racial differences in housing patterns and the greater presence of certain racial groups among those experiencing poverty, combined with the presence of racial stereotypes in our society, will converge to produce racially disparate outcomes.
Now of course there is overlap between structural-systemic racism and institutional racism, and I have no doubt that in the two or three minutes I have been speaking, I've confused some of you. I'm happy to follow up later.
I think it's important to acknowledge that a significant proportion of Canadians believe that racism is a feature of Canadian policing. My colleague Scot Wortley and I have just finished the third in a series of studies examining racial differences in perceptions of the police in the greater Toronto area. We find that between 60% and 80% of black, white and Asian people in the greater Toronto area feel there is discrimination in policing. I know that similar studies have been conducted across the country with similar, although perhaps not quite as extreme, results.
My own work demonstrates that these negative perceptions stem from both personal and vicarious experiences. My own work demonstrates that black people, more than white people, felt they had been mistreated by the police during their last encounter, that the police were disrespectful and that their interactions lacked what we would call procedural justice.
We have evidence on differences in terms of treatment after the stops as well. Research conducted recently by my colleague Kanika Samuels-Wortley from Carleton University shows differences in police discretion, and in particular, the extent to which young racialized people are offered diversion programs. We note that diversion is offered to white youth to a greater extent than it is to black and to indigenous youth.
I won't go into police use of force in great depth, because that has been covered, but we know, similar to the indigenous situation, that, for example in Toronto, black people are not only much more likely to be the recipients of police use of force, but they're also subject to greater force. For example, in shootings, there are many more shots fired by the police than when the individual is white and the threshold for using that force is lower.
I would suggest, or I'd argue, that we need a national database that captures police use of force incidents. We do not know the full extent to which the police are using force at the moment, because this data is not systematically collected by our policing agencies, and thus not made available to the government, to policy-makers and to researchers like me.
It's important that we look at the experiences of racialized officers themselves. Many police services across the country have made great efforts to increase the diversity of their workforce, and I mean diversity in terms of what all their officers look like, but unfortunately, my own research tells me that racialized officers do not feel that they are taken into the police subculture and brought into the police brotherhood. I use the term “brotherhood” there purposely. They're overlooked for task and area assignments, and too often passed over for promotion.
A full examination of the extent to which individual, institutional, and systemic or structural racism impacts upon Canadian policing is not possible without access to racially desegregated police data. This data must extend beyond key indicators, such as stops and searches, and arrests, to include information about the outcome of police activity.
We need information about hit rates from stops, and the number of charges that are dropped by the Crown. We need information on the experiences of racialized officers. I commend the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and Statistics Canada for announcing that they will be collecting race-based policing data, but that must be comprehensive data. If it is just cursory data, the data collected will very easily be used to further stigmatize already stigmatized groups and could lead to the creation of further marginalizing policies.
Thank you to the committee for the invite. I'd also like to thank and acknowledge the clerk and his office for all the work going into setting this up. I appreciate it.
I am a member of the Beaver Lake First Nation in Treaty 6 territory, and I want to acknowledge that I'm on that territory. I was reminded yesterday by a priest and an elder that while I'm on Zoom meetings, I should acknowledge that I'm in the Creator's space, so I'll do that.
I'm the president of the National Associations Active in Criminal Justice and, as of Monday, the former chair of the Family Violence Death Review Committee in Alberta. I have experience working in Australia implementing some of the recommendations from the Wood inquiry. The RCMP actually assisted the Government of Australia in that inquiry. I was heavily involved in community engagement while I worked for the Premier of New South Wales. I'm also, at present, the facilitator for dialogue with the Alberta chiefs. Last week we had a meeting with our provincial justice minister and four federal ministers, including and another member of Parliament, Pam.
I'm going to speak from all of that experience on a number of different topics, and I'll try to be as brief as I can. Rather than read my notes, I'm going to highlight some key things.
The first thing I'd like to talk about is the use of force. As I've been involved in many investigations and reviews of complaints against the police that have come through my office, I'd like to speak about the Criminal Code. Section 25 of the code allows law enforcement to use force in the course of their duty, and section 26 makes it a crime for police to use excessive force. However, the definition of what is a reasonable use of force is very vague. Because of that, provincial police forces and municipal police forces have their own legal frameworks, so there's no consistency across the country. That creates a challenge.
We need to review the various definitions of “reasonable use of force” and create a federal standard that's incorporated not just in the Criminal Code but in the national police act. A clear definition is important for understanding what the use of force is. A standard needs to be created with input from civilians, women, first nations, Inuit, Métis and many other minorities across this country. That input is very important.
The video of Chief Allan Adam being taken down is a good example of how the police can review recordings and determine that reasonable force was used. According to their standard, reasonable force was used in his case, while most Albertans and Canadians decried that use of force as excessive. The definition of “reasonable” needs to resonate with police and civilians.
The review of incidents should be done from the perspective of an independent process. Municipal, provincial and federal police services need a more independent body that reviews complaints and that reports to municipal, provincial and federal governments. Historically and currently, the work of the police complaints commission for the RCMP has not made a substantive change in the way indigenous people experience police services nationally. The commission needs to be more inclusive, more accessible and more transparent, with the ability to impose sanctions in some cases.
Reviews also need to be accessible. The current processes are complicated and difficult to navigate for many Canadians. All Canadians need to be able to understand and access the process for complaints. Their complaints need to be taken and addressed in respectful ways.
Reviews should also allow for meaningful and engaged indigenous participation in the entire independent review process. This means including indigenous leadership on the team or commission, indigenous expertise in decision-making positions and hiring indigenous investigators.
The review body needs to be composed of indigenous, non-indigenous and other minorities that have a broad expertise, along with other Canadians in policing and social justice. For transparency, the independent review process needs to be detailed and be made available to Canadians with few exceptions. These exceptions need more clarity.
There need to be clear consequences. The consequences of excessive use of force, racism and abuse of power need to be meaningful and transparent to the public. Investigative bodies must be able to recommend sanctions in some cases and have the authority to impose these sanctions.
From a first nations police point of view—and I'm going to speak about my interaction with the chiefs and federal and provincial ministers and recent follow-up with the chiefs—there needs to be a more equitable and consistent funding for self-administered first nation police services. These services must be recognized as essential services, as are other police forces, in federal and provincial legislation.
Inherent to this funding is the negotiation of an agreement with first nations that recognizes the right of first nations to police their communities or to negotiate the delivery of police services by the RCMP or in some cases by provincial authorities.
Further, the chiefs in Alberta region have requested direct negotiations and involvement in the development of any policies, legislation around first nation policing or criminal justice reform.
I'd like to just make a reference to the Siksika Nation. On that nation there are approximately 8,000 people. The hamlet next to Siksika has a population of just over 200 people. The police detachment is located in that hamlet of 200 people. They have 20 officers.
Those 20 officers provide police services—very little by way of police services, but police services, nonetheless—to Siksika First Nation. The question of everybody in that whole region is, why isn't that detachment on the reserve and serving the biggest population of the whole region? That's just one example of many challenges around policing from outside the community.
Yes, I'd be happy to. Thank you.
A few years ago, I did lead the Office of Indigenization at the Justice Institute of British Columbia, which is responsible for training every municipal police officer in the province of British Columbia. During my time there, I did have the opportunity to support the development of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation community safety officer program. That program has received a lot of media attention and has been really positively received in the community. I'm not only seeing a sharp reduction in the calls for police officers. It's also building positive relationships and attending to a lot of the cultural stuff that I've been talking about.
Those officers are not police officers. They're community safety officers. However, when we were building the curriculum for that program, we asked, “What are the needs in this community?” and said, “Well, we know that this community is struggling with mental health challenges. We know that this needs to be de-escalated through a particular means.” When I think about the 7,000 unique individuals who we support ever year in the city of Toronto at Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, I know that many of them have had very negative impacts with policing.
I referred to a study in my testimonial earlier. It was a study that was done out of the States, but it really showed that about $8 billion is spent every year in the States on police training, and that training has not been shown to change behaviour in officers. Training in itself is something that does not work unless it's deployed with a number of other structural changes.
We've been working on a pilot at Native Child, in collaboration with the community and partners here, to look at what it would be like to have safety officers who are specialized in victim services and mental health be first responders to be able to work with and de-escalate some of the situations that often go wrong with police. We do know that police will need to be involved some of the time, but I do think that we could take a number of these cases off the hands of the Toronto Police Service. What that does, as well, is free up officers for more critical tasks that they often struggle to find time to address.
I think it's supporting police officers to really focus on the things they do well, while also making room for community-led solutions that we know lead to better results.
I think there's an important distinction between perhaps institutional racism and then definitely structural racism. We can put systemic with structural, but there are various forms of inequality present in our society, as I said at the outset, that lead to policing outcomes and that produce racially disparate outcomes in policing.
As I said, discrimination in education and employment creates an environment in which the police, even if they're acting impartially or in an unbiased manner, are likely to produce outcomes with a racially differential impact. Given that the police are state agents, I think that needs to be considered in the context of the work that you're doing.
Is it fair that, just because of where I live or my experiences with poverty, I am more likely to be criminalized for doing something that my peers, who are more privileged, are not criminalized for doing?
I think you should look at and examine institutional policies and practices within policing that also produce racially disparate outcomes, which, again, may on the surface seem race-neutral, like the practice of street checks, for example. Then, importantly, as I mentioned at the outset, there are policies that use various things like street checks or even arrests as a performance measure and some of the risk assessment tools or the way in which release decisions are made when we consider whether or not an individual has a fixed address.
There are various institutional practices within policing that produce racially disparate outcomes, and various phenomena in our society that the police have to address, which also produce racially disparate outcomes. I think that both need to be examined in the context of the work that you're doing, because, if we just focus on what the police are doing themselves, without considering what's happening in the society in which they work, we are still going to have high rates of use of force and violence inflicted upon black and indigenous people. They are a product of institutional practices, but they are also a product of societal practices.
This is why Dr. Schiffer was talking about de-tasking: the more we can remove the presence of police from the lives of marginalized people in instances they don't need to be there, the less likely we are to have these negative outcomes.
I want to echo Mr. Vidal's point that we have an impressive group of witnesses, and not only on this panel; that's been all day. It's good that we were able to hear about your experience and hear your knowledge.
Professor Akwasi Bempah, you gave a detailed description of the difference between structural racism, systemic racism and institutional racism. I think I get it, after listening carefully.
One of the problems we have as politicians, in talking to a variety of people, including police officers, retired police officers and RCMP officers, is that they feel that, when we're talking about systemic racism, they're being accused of being racist. Being called racist in our society, of course, is a very negative thing. Is there a simple way of getting through to the people who feel they're under threat and are being called out, just in general, and saying to them what needs to be said to have them understand that they could be part of the solution or be stuck with being part of the problem?
That is an excellent question, and I would like to hear from some of the other speakers on this.
My sense is that we wouldn't necessarily be able to take a model that's been developed in any one nation. We would have to pick pieces of practice from specific policing agencies, for example. We heard about the example of community support officers, basically, that [Technical difficulty—Editor] on the west coast, but that have also been implemented in the United Kingdom and the United States and have shown great promise and a reduction in the use of force. Actually, when unarmed, semi-uniformed individuals are doing patrols, it still has a similar deterrent effect, so that's a good practice.
The Las Vegas police department, for example, instituted a policy several years ago mandating officers to the extent that they could: if they engaged in a pursuit, they would not engage in use of force, because we know that if their sympathetic nervous system was up and their adrenaline was rushing, they would be more likely to use more force. Their officers also undergo a hundred hours of de-escalation training.
There are models and there are best practices, but as I've said, there's no one national jurisdiction that I would say we could borrow from. What we need to do is find the best practices from individual jurisdictions.
Thank you, Chair. I believe that Gary Anandasangaree is going to be the next speaker.
Once again, I want to let everyone know that it has been truly compelling testimony from all of our witnesses. Thank you for being here and for your testimony.
Professor Owusu-Bempah, I want to talk to you a bit more about the race-based data. We know that race-based data collection within policing could be extremely helpful for improving public accountability and for informing police policies and practices, such as the use of force.
Recently, StatsCan said that we'll now begin to collect data on victims of racism and victims of crime and also on people accused of crime. In my riding of Brampton West, I proudly represent one of the most diverse communities in the country, the largest racialized community in the country, and I've certainly heard about the importance of collecting race-based data. I'd like you to perhaps touch a bit more on why that's so significant.
Could you also talk a bit more about any of the considerations in how we collect that data and how it is used, and certainly any concerns about privacy or ensuring that it is not used to further tarnish the community or to reinforce any racist stereotypes? You alluded to that earlier. If you can perhaps shed some light on how to balance that, that would be really helpful for the community, and also on perhaps what more needs to be done within the RCMP in terms of race-based data collection.
Thank you for the question.
On the whole, I see the benefits of race-based data collection in allowing us, first and foremost, to develop a more comprehensive picture of how members of different racial groups experience policing. The data could be useful for identifying racial disparities in policing outcomes. That doesn't necessarily mean discrimination. As I've said, there are a variety of factors within our society that increase the likelihood that members of certain racial groups are going to come into contact with the police and perhaps engage in crime.
It could also be useful to identify areas of discrimination, as I've said, such as issues related to contact with the child welfare system. Studies from B.C. show that children who come into contact with child welfare are more likely to come into contact with the justice system than they are to graduate from high school. We can start to connect the experiences through social institutions, so that rather than simply looking at policing as a problem area, we can look at solutions before we get to the area of policing.
We can also identify potential discrimination, as I've said, in policing outcomes. Some of what we've seen is with respect to stops as well as arrests. It seems that the threshold for initiating stops with African Americans in the United States, for example, is lower, as is the threshold for effecting an arrest. When we look at what we would call the “hit rates” or the success rates for finding contraband, weapons or drugs, they're lower with black individuals than they are with white individuals, because the police are, again, using a lower threshold. That's where we can look at practices, and likewise with arrests.
If we see, for example, that for every 10 white people arrested, eight of those cases go to trial, versus two for black people, and that the Crown decides to drop the charges in six of those cases of black people, then we might start to look at whether those charges should have been laid in the first place, if the Crown deems there not to have been enough evidence. These are the types of things we can start to do.
As I said, it needs to be comprehensive so we're not just looking at the rates of stop and search. How do we—
Well, I think there are a couple of things. In Alberta, I've seen some real change where municipalities, first nations and Métis settlements have engaged in some real conversations about community safety and rural crime, and partnering on some service delivery issues around mental health and addiction. I've seen changes occurring that we haven't seen in a long time. This has primarily been driven by the Canadian Federation of Municipalities over the last couple of years.
On the municipal level, we have some real challenges. I'll use Edmonton as an example. We have trained 1,400 city police officers on historical and intergenerational trauma. We've seen some real changes occur. Just yesterday, we had the senior deputies at my office for a discussion about carding. We have seen changes in community engagement with the police at the municipal level.
The problem we have, really, is when we have incidents of abuse by police officers. There was another one yesterday in Edmonton. It tears apart all the building that occurs. Our speakers earlier spoke about this. We think that engaging the community on other levels is very important, such as addressing mental health together and not having officers respond to these things.
As past chair of the family violence death review committee, I saw a lot of these challenges. When we had family violence experts intervene, we had fewer charges, fewer arrests and fewer accusations of abuse, as well. We've actually seen reductions in deaths where there's better intervention outside of the police. That's important to recognize.
The other thing is that we had an RCMP cadet program that was initiated by a couple of RCMP officers with the largest first nations in Canada, the Hobbema first nations, which include four bands. That program has been expanded in smaller centres, and now is being looked at as an urban strategy where we engage minorities in working with police officers on this cadet strategy. That's real community engagement.