With the racial injustices happening in Canada and around the world being discussed more than ever, institutions like the RCMP have been under fire and are accused of systemic racism.
During a press release on June 10, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki addressed the idea of systemic racism existing within the RCMP, to which she said she’s “struggling” with the definition of it.
“We live in a society where inequities persist, and police are part of that society, so we have a responsibility to promote inclusion and make sure we don’t have that racism,” Lucki said.
“To say that systemically we have racism, I think systemically there’s racism in most organizations and I don’t think the RCMP is immune to that”.
Reporters from the media pressed her for more answers regarding the existence of systemic racism in police institutions, but her answers were seen as “tone-deaf” and “out of touch” by anti-hate groups like Canadians United Against Hate.
In a statement from Fareed Khan, the founder of the anti-hate group, the comments made by Lucki was seen as “denying the lived reality of racist abuse by police towards Indigenous, Black and racialized Canadians”.
“Politicians at all levels had better take the bull by the horns and listen to what Canadians across the country are calling for concerning police encounters with racialized Canadians”.
Later that day, Lucki said that “systemic racism refers to the meaning that racism is entrenched in our policies and procedures, I would say that we don’t have systemic racism” when speaking to the Globe and Mail.
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the remarks made by Lucki, arguing that police agencies across Canada like the RCMP have problems with systemic racism.
“Systemic racism is an issue right across the country, in all our institutions, including in all our police forces, including in the RCMP. That’s what systemic racism is,” Trudeau told the media this morning.
“In many cases, it’s not deliberate, it’s not intentional, it’s not aggressive, individual acts of racism, although those exist. It is recognizing that the systems we have built over the past generations have not always treated people of racialized backgrounds, of Indigenous backgrounds, fairly through the very construction of the systems that exist”.
Trudeau then went on to say that many Canadians now are understanding and recognizing the struggles racialized and Indigenous people have “known for a long time and that the racism they are experiencing “is not part of the lived reality of a significant majority of Canadians”.
“Recognizing that is difficult,” Trudeau said about the racism occurring in the country. “We need to make sure we are moving forward in meaningful ways, and that’s also going to be difficult… I think we’ve seen that institutions and organizations and even different parts of the country are struggling with this very issue”.
Despite the comments made by Lucki, Trudeau is expressing confidence in the RCMP Commissioner, as he says that from working closely with her over the years, he has trust in her to lead the reforms for the RCMP.
Allegations and opinions on the RCMP
That opinion is not shared by all however, as some have come out and spoken about their experiences with the RCMP.
The Green Party’s leader Elizabeth May has called the RCMP a “racist institution” when asked about the situation during a news conference this morning.
She referenced the fact that during the Kinder Morgan pipeline protest in 2018, her arrest was done “nicely” because she is white.
Last weekend, Aleen Adam, Chief of the Athabascan Chipewyan First Nation Group in Alberta, alleged that he was beaten by RCMP officers when he was stopped for driving with an expired licence plate in Fort McMurray. The arrest that took place is now under review due to said allegations.
Earlier this week, Lucki was asked about a case regarding an RCMP officer in Nunavut caught on camera using his truck’s door to knock a man over before arresting him. That video has caused outrage, and as a result, the incident is now under review as well.
When addressing the arrest made, Lucki said “it does not look like a reasonable response”.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller was asked about what he thinks about the commissioner’s comments, but he has said that he will not pass judgement and wait to see what she does next.
“I will not judge the commissioner on a series of interviews that she made yesterday. I’ll judge on promises she made to Indigenous peoples when it comes to my portfolio,” Miller said.
“We must acknowledge that there is institutional racism in Canada. The RCMP is not immune, nor is any organization, and that reexamination requires a tremendous amount of education and self-awareness, frankly”.
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