SECU Committee Report
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Systemic Racism in Policing in Canada
Supplementary Report of the New Democratic Party
New Democrats fully support the recommendations contained in this report and reiterate that the elimination of systemic racism and discrimination against Indigenous peoples by police and the justice system should be considered as a key and fundamental precondition of reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. We also see the elimination of systemic racism and discrimination against Black and racialized people in Canada in our police and justice system as a fundamental and essential requirement of Canada’s commitment to human rights and equality. We recognize that systemic racism has so permeated the policing, justice, and corrections systems in Canada that transformational change must not only take place in policy and practice but also in the cultures of these institutions.
This study and report follow many substantive reports that have made significant recommendations concerning systemic racism in policing in Canada. The report reiterates much of what has been said before and offers additional recommendations. However, the transformational change that is needed can only happen with the full and sustained support of the Prime Minister of Canada, Minister of Public Safety, and the entire Government. Urgent, meaningful, and radical action is needed to address systemic racism in Canada’s policing, justice, and corrections systems.
We offer the following additional comments and recommendations to supplement the report and to further the goal of eliminating systemic racism in areas where stronger action is required.
We believe that recommendation 25, that the government offer criminal record pardons for the simple possession of cannabis, will not be sufficient to end systemic discrimination in relation to historical charges for simple possession of cannabis. It is well documented that Black and Indigenous people in Canada have been disproportionately burdened with criminal records for possessing small quantities of cannabis, which can have devastating impacts on an individual’s access to employment and housing, and a lasting impact on their futures. These communities also disproportionately lack access to the legal and administrative requirements to obtain relief, by way of a pardon or otherwise.
The current regime introduced by the previous government provides for record suspensions and not pardons. So far, the administrative burden put on Canadians has resulted in only 395 record suspensions for the possession of small quantities of cannabis since it was made legal in October 2018. The Government of Canada should introduce measures to immediately and automatically expunge all such criminal records of convictions and findings of guilt. The government must also ensure that related records are removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) Database, which would ensure that they are truly expunged and not available to police services and others with access to the CPIC database.
Recommendation 8 calls for the RCMP to transition away from a paramilitary force into a civilian police service model. This includes moving away from the chain of command hierarchy that reinforces systemic racism and what the Bastarache Report referred to as “a toxic culture” that tolerates discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, and race, creating a workplace culture characterized by misogyny, homophobia, racism and interpersonal violence, including sexual violence.
The RCMP Academy in Regina (Depot) is the training ground for this paramilitary culture and structure and has a long history of inculcating a military mindset and culture into new recruits. As part of the transformative work that needs to take place, the RCMP training model and the paramilitary culture of the RCMP must receive a complete overhaul. This should include the closing of Depot and replacing it with a National Police College concept with new leadership and an expanded mandate as described in the Report. This college would ideally set a new national standard for bias-free professional police training, which would include cultural competency and de-escalation training and be open and accessible to diverse participants and other police services. This may or may not require relocating to a new facility.
The Report makes several recommendations regarding Indigenous policing. Recommendation 9 calls for consultation and negotiation with Indigenous communities to develop appropriate specialized training rooted in cultural knowledge and history to support the development of Indigenous policing. Should it be the wish of Indigenous leadership and communities that a separate Indigenous police college be established parallel to the National Police College referenced above, the Government of Canada should support such endeavor.
For many Black, Indigenous and racialized people in Canada, the police embody the systemic racism that permeates the justice system and are seen as a threat. Yet across the country, many police services insist that a police officer must be the first one to enter a unit when responding to a mental health crisis or request for a wellness check, even when a mental health worker is available and there is no known safety threat. This often further escalates the situation and has resulted in numerous fatalities, severe injuries, and trauma. Mental health professionals must be empowered to be first responders whenever possible, while still being appropriately supported by police.
 Hon. Michel Bastarache, Broken Dreams, Broken Lives: The Devastating Effects of Sexual Harassment of Women in the RCMP. 11 Nov. 2020.