Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chair.
I want to first acknowledge that it's a pleasure and a privilege to speak here with Peter and Tom, representing our organizations.
I represent 1,900 sworn officers and approximately 900 civilians. I've been involved in the justice system for over 30 years as a sworn police officer and a deputy minister in government, co-chair of the federal-provincial deputy ministers committee and co-chair of CCJS with StatsCan for over four years.
I am a proud member of the Métis community and have worked to change the way we police for the last 12 years. To complement Chief Sloly's remarks, I'm going to move from his suggestions and ideas around cultural change, which I support, and focus on operational changes to policing and the real crux of this matter, which is systemic change in policing and systemic change across the human service system that puts people in the need of the services at the centre of the needed change.
This is not the first time this issue of systemic racism in policing has been a focus of discussion. The fact that we are gathered here again demonstrates that we must move beyond conversation into meaningful change that focuses on implementation and not more study. The facts are irrefutable. Systemic racism is real and exists within all social institutions in Canada. This might make people feel uncomfortable, and that's okay. I'm hopeful the committee will take away, from the panels held yesterday and again today, the realization that we can no longer look at systemic racism in policing as an isolated issue.
As Justice Sinclair has commented, we need to move past the idea that being part of a systemically racist system means that you are racist. As Chief Sloly also indicated, that is not necessarily the case. Systemic racism is seen across the broad system of all social structures and institutions. There are many examples of this. We don't have to look very far. Residential schools, still struggling in classrooms....
The COVID-19 pandemic has a disproportionate impact on black, indigenous and other racialized communities in Canada. Simply to put social conditions in context: where people live determines such things as access to quality health care, which itself can protect or expose to certain illnesses and disease. This, too, is systemic racism. Indigenous and other racialized communities overrepresent in the child welfare system. I could go on.
Despite the evidence, we still can't seem to agree that systemic racism exists in this country. Even in policing, we have leaders who cannot see the impact of systemic racism even though our history is marked by the role of policing in enforcing the Indian Act and discriminatory laws around the treatment LGBTQ2S+ people, among others.
I have been fortunate to speak on these matters of reform around the world for probably the last 12 years. This is a time for leadership and courage demonstrated through commitment to change. This is not just a political matter. As chief, I know there is more work to be done within our organization and the broader environment that we operate in. Nonetheless, I am encouraged knowing that I lead a team of dedicated front-line officers, the overwhelming majority whom, while having no part in building the institution of policing or writing the rules, put on a uniform every day, each one committed to protecting and serving all citizens with compassion and professionalism.
It is as much for them as for those we serve that we must hold individuals who hold racist or inappropriate views accountable, and we must commit to that. However, that by itself does not change the structure of a system that, like other institutional structures and systems in this country, perpetuate racial inequality. What began as a protest against police brutality has evolved into a broader conversation on community safety and well-being linked to broader social and economic issues in disparity.
As a good friend of mine, Sheldon Kennedy, put it, “To know better is to do better.” So now what?
Let's start with police operations. The change starts with leadership. Where should leadership put its focus to give us the best results? I'd like to focus on three key areas, though there are many others.
First, recruiting needs to show diversity in not just race, gender or sexual orientation or gender identity but also in diversity of thinking and lived experience. Diverse recruiting changes culture and should never be taken lightly. It's a primary driver of change. So too is taking a close look at promotional and retention processes.
Second is responding to calls, our bread and butter, as Tom and Peter said. There are two things that drive our calls for service: social issues related to mental health, addictions, poverty and homelessness, which account for 80% to 92% of all calls for service; and then, on the other side, addressing the serious offenders who are responsible for over 50% of recontact within the system. They must be responded to in different ways. A failure to do so can actually artificially increase crime rates, impact policing and community relations, and impact police legitimacy.
Third, we need to address harassment, equity, diversity and inclusion so that they remain a priority for every police leader. To demonstrate our commitment in this area, EPS has moved this responsibility under the office of the chief of police.
Finally, moving forward, we need to look at operational and organizational policies and procedures through a new lens. This includes partnerships and dialogue with community members, community agencies, academia and other subject matter expertise to ensure that our policies and procedures are grounded in evidence and supported by research. This means that we can do more of what works and get out of what doesn't.
These are just some of the things that we are doing at EPS, but there are several others. Across Canada, cities and communities have developed strategies to address poverty, homelessness, housing, addictions and mental health.
In creating these funds, we have to ask questions. Who are we helping? Are there different people in these strategies or are most of them the same? We all know the answer is that it's mostly the same people. How much money is being spent on the social safety net in our cities? Is it coordinated? How can we improve our information sharing and pool our respective expertise to support coordination? How many death inquests will it take to be bold in making these changes? How do we measure success? Is it by how many people are taken into the system or how many we get out of the system? Are there minimum standards? We know the answer to that.
As I mentioned, 80% to 92% of all calls to EPS are related to these key social issues, so a coordinated strategy that incorporates both law enforcement and public health solutions makes sense. Could that be the new structure? Are the social determinants of health not the same as the social determinants of justice?
By pulling together the areas that drive the work, rather than basing the structure on historical silos, we can begin to address systemic racism. While EPS is an organization of change, we recognize that these efforts alone, at best, will not have an impact on any singular police agency. It's time to put the collective expertise together in an effort to truly address systemic racism in a way that is intended to effect real and meaningful change within criminal justice, health care, child welfare, educational institutions and not-for-profits, working together for joint outcomes to get people out of the system. Policing will always be a vital public service. First contact will generally be held by police, and we obviously have to get it right.
We are in a time right now with the perfect storm to create change. The only way this change is going to be done is through partnership, data-led local solutions and collective outcomes. It's time that we all look in the mirror, try for this change and be relentless in doing it. It doesn't need everybody, but it needs a consortium of the willing to start the movement and gain the momentum that we truly need in this country to move from a conversation to meaningful action.