Evidence of meeting #10 for Public Safety and National Security in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was systemic.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Christian Leuprecht  Professor, Department of Political Science, Royal Military College of Canada, As an Individual
Michelaine Lahaie  Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Rick Parent  As an Individual
Peter Sloly  Chief of Police, Ottawa Police Service
Tom Stamatakis  President, Canadian Police Association
Dale McFee  Chief of Police, Edmonton Police Service

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I call to order meeting number 10 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

We have two sets of witnesses. We have Christian Leuprecht from the department of political science at RMC, along with Rick Parent. From the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, we have Michelaine Lahaie, who is the chairperson.

With that, I'll ask Christian Leuprecht to lead off.

Professor Leuprecht, you're up for seven minutes.

July 24th, 2020 / 11 a.m.

Dr. Christian Leuprecht Professor, Department of Political Science, Royal Military College of Canada, As an Individual

My thanks to the committee for the invitation.

I will give my presentation in English, but I will answer your questions in both official languages.

I want to begin with a caveat that I recognize that, as a white male tenured professor, I speak to this topic from a privileged position, but as you know, I've written about this issue extensively, both about police governance and the RCMP. My latest book also deals with public security in federal systems.

As background, I don't think there's really any debate when it comes to systemic racism in policing in Canada. Anybody who's read the final report by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada reports and the CRCC's “Report into Workplace Harassment in the RCMP”, the evidence is pretty unequivocal.

The real question is, what does this mean and what are the implications?

You have the long version of the text with you. I shall confine myself to the abbreviated remarks, which focus primarily on the recommendations and the action items.

I'm concerned about the growing gap in civil society between policing...and in terms of police-civilian relations. It's ultimately politicians that, of course, set the framework, conditions and constraints for the delivery of police services. I'm deeply concerned that, without concrete and sustained political action and leadership, the gap between police and civil society relations will continue to grow.

I would also like to point out that my 2017 study on the RCMP contains a 41-page annex, detailing every recommendation made in 15 reports between 2007 and 2017. You will find the annex on the Macdonald-Laurier Institute's website. The point is that we don't lack for studies. We don't lack for analysis or diagnosis of what the challenges are. There's a broad consensus on the way forward. In terms of analysis, I would point out that bureaucracies reproduce themselves, so we have an issue of institutional culture.

The second point is that we need systemic use of force statistics for policing across Canada, including the RCMP. I think the recent discussion has shown that better data is certainly an important part of the conversation in terms of identifying the exact challenges.

We need to professionalize policing. The code of conduct for the RCMP says, “Members treat every person with respect and courtesy and do not engage in discrimination or harassment.” The public, I think, expect the same sort of professionalism from police as they do from others—nurses, engineers, lawyers and physicians—and I think they don't see that. I think they're concerned about that, so having more of a service mentality is an important part of the change here. Part of what we see is police officers having assimilated a bit of a solipsistic mentality, in terms of us versus them, over the course of their careers. There are ways to mitigate that.

The fourth point is that we need to reduce the propensity for violence. At the same time, I would say the violence is not arbitrary. There is a national use of force framework to which the police chiefs, I'm sure, will be able to comment better than I can, and most of the force that we see is in accordance with that framework.

The recommendations are that we need to change the leadership and the management model. People enter the organization and they work their way up through the ranks, and there are very few organizations left like that today in our society. They're usually managed by people who are professional managers: professionals in HR, finance, policy and communications. The RCMP has civilianized these positions, so why not ask them to testify as witnesses before the committee?

Part of the leadership and management challenge is also separating the RCMP in the way that DND and the Canadian Armed Forces are two separate legal entities. While that has not eliminated the presence of harassment and racism, it has provided greater bandwidth within those two organizations in terms of dealing with these issues, and has provided a better balance between the uniformed and the civilian perspective. This is something the RCMP desperately needs, and that all police services in this country desperately need.

We have a challenge in that we need to civilianize the delivery of services, as service delivery has expanded for many police forces. We need to make law enforcement organizations more diverse. The quickest way to do that is to civilianize, because for many of the reasons that you have been discussing, I think minority communities are a bit reticent about joining. We need a better model for public and community safety than simply giving everything to the police. I think police are neither particularly efficient nor effective—

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Excuse me, Professor Leuprecht. I'm being asked by the translators for you to slow down just a bit.

11:05 a.m.

Professor, Department of Political Science, Royal Military College of Canada, As an Individual

Dr. Christian Leuprecht

Sorry, that's my habitual problem in testimony.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Is it a habitual problem? We'll have to give you special training then.

Please continue.

11:05 a.m.

Professor, Department of Political Science, Royal Military College of Canada, As an Individual

Dr. Christian Leuprecht

We need a different service delivery model. We need to return to community policing, increasing.... We have police, RCMP and also many urban services whose members do not live in the communities where they provide service.

NSICOP's 2019 annual report reviewed inclusion and diversity in the security and intelligence community. That included the RCMP. The review looked at why a diverse and inclusive workforce was so important for performance and operational success. It showed that visible minorities were under-represented in the RCMP, including in the senior ranks. The report also documents that resistance to diversity and inclusion was strongest among the RCMP's NCO level, uniformed members who are on the front lines and in middle management.

The committee should invite the RCMP's new civilian senior human resources official to testify as to what the RCMP is doing to address this challenge. If we draw from the ranks for senior management, to some extent we're replicating the challenges.

I document what difference community policing makes, but I think the RCMP needs to become more of a consultant rather than the answer to the challenges that many communities face. As I have said many times before, the RCMP is too big and has too many roles, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to govern.

The RCMP needs to get out of contract policing. We should give the border to the CBSA. We should take criminal intelligence out of the RCMP and generate a separate organization so the RCMP can become a genuinely federal police force focusing on federal priorities, and it can be civilian led. The Australian Federal Police is a good example; it has always been civilian led.

The RCMP needs separate employer status. It needs a different remuneration system. It needs a completely different training regime. It needs a separate career and professional development framework and path for officers. We also need a national 311 next-generation system to divert non-emergency calls from the 911 system.

I will close—

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I'm sorry. You can finish it up, but we have to—

11:05 a.m.

Professor, Department of Political Science, Royal Military College of Canada, As an Individual

Dr. Christian Leuprecht

I will close with my four points on action items.

We need to hold middle management accountable. The CAF demonstrates the effect that can have in terms of curtailing the sorts of challenges we are seeing.

The RCMP needs to release results of discipline hearings to the public. There's a ministerial directive on this. The RCMP has not published an annual report since 2017. Commissioner Lucki, as has been widely reported, has 180 Civilian Review and Complaints Commission reports on her desk dating back to 2016. That backlog simply is not acceptable.

My challenge to you as a committee is this. You have concrete opportunities to do things here and now, and that is Bill C-3, which is currently before Parliament. I detail several challenges that bill currently has. For the sake of time, I will not go through these in detail here, but Bill C-3, with the improvements that I lay out, can effect very clear and concrete change right here, right now.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I am going to have to cut you off right there, here and now. I apologize for that.

We're going to move to our next witness, Michelaine Lahaie.

You have seven minutes, please.

11:10 a.m.

Michelaine Lahaie Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Good morning and thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today on the subject of systemic racism in policing services in Canada.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP is an independent body established by Parliament. The commission makes broad-ranging recommendations regarding policies, procedures and training with the ultimate goal of improving policing and enhancing RCMP accountability. Greater police accountability is achieved through effective oversight, not only for public complaints but also through reviews of systemic issues.

As the Minister of Public Safety recently indicated to this committee, indigenous people, black Canadians and other racialized people experience systemic racism and disparate outcomes within the criminal justice system. That system includes all police forces, including the RCMP.

I must point out that the work of the commission is not immune to the long-term and ongoing effects of systemic racism. For example, it has been reported that there is an overrepresentation of police use of force incidents involving indigenous and racialized people. However, many of these use of force incidents do not result in a public complaint. Why is that the case?

In the commission’s northern British Columbia investigation, which was undertaken as a follow-up to a Human Rights Watch report, we asked members of indigenous communities why they do not make use of the complaints system. We found out that many indigenous people are either unaware of the public complaint process or do not trust it. The process can be excessively bureaucratic and difficult to navigate.

However, the commission has taken some action to improve the accessibility of the public complaints system, including making the public complaint form available in 16 different languages. We most recently worked very closely with the territorial Government of Nunavut to ensure that the complaint form and additional materials on the complaints process were available in Inuktitut.

Even with these strides, the commission still needs to do more to ensure greater accessibility, trust and transparency in the complaints process. Ultimately, my goal is for people to believe that they can file a complaint with the commission and be treated fairly, without fear of reprisal. To achieve that, we need to consult indigenous and racialized communities to identify and break down the systemic barriers that exist within our current system and implement their suggested changes. We must adopt a regime that better serves all communities.

In that regard, the commission, along with the RCMP, was involved in advancing an informal resolution process put forward by indigenous leaders. Such projects are key to combatting systemic racism and restoring public trust.

In terms of the RCMP, I must highlight that the commission’s lens tends to focus on individual allegations of bias, discrimination or racism. We do not get complaints of systemic racism as a rule. It is only when we take a step back and analyze our findings that the systemic nature of racism becomes apparent.

One such area is in the disparity of treatment between Caucasian and indigenous women detained for public intoxication in northern British Columbia, as noted in the commission’s public interest investigation into policing in that area. In a review of occurrence reports involving the policing of public intoxication, the commission noted that there were differences in treatment between indigenous and Caucasian women when it came to detention for public intoxication. Seventy-three per cent of indigenous women were held in cells until sober. In contrast, 54% percent of Caucasian women were held in cells until sober. As well, indigenous women were four times less likely to be taken home, rather than lodged in cells, as compared with Caucasian women.

The commission is also currently working on a systemic review of the RCMP's bias-free policing model. This review is examining the RCMP's bias-free policing policies and training, and assessing the broader application and accountability framework that is in place to ensure that RCMP members adhere to these policies. Accountability and transparency are key to addressing systemic issues and bringing about change.

To that end, I would suggest that there is an opportunity to further enhance the oversight regime with Bill C-3 and would make the following recommendations to strengthen the bill.

First, I recommend statutory timelines for responses to commission reports to codify the schedule established in the CRCC–RCMP MOU. At present, the legislation requires the commissioner to respond as soon as feasible. Responses to commission interim reports now take an average of 17 months. One of the commission's reports has been waiting for a response for over three and a half years. This is unacceptable in any system where accountability is critical.

Second, public education and outreach to indigenous and racialized communities must become statutory requirements. Bill C-3 currently makes public education mandatory for the commission's new oversight mandate for CBSA, but these activities remain optional under the RCMP Act. The only way that the public complaint process works is if people trust the system. The only way to build that trust is through our outreach efforts.

Third, I would like to see both the commissioner and, once Bill C-3 comes into force, the president of the CBSA required to provide an annual report to the commission outlining the status of implementation of the commission's recommendations. This would increase the transparency of the complaint system and reassure Canadians that the RCMP and the CBSA are held to a high standard of public accountability.

Finally, the commission needs to be appropriately resourced to conduct systemic reviews. At present, systemic reviews are conducted when sufficient resources are available. However, as chairperson, I must constantly make the decision between dealing with complaints from the public and conducting systemic reviews.

I do realize, however, that we have our own work to do. We need to dedicate more resources to outreach and public education in indigenous and racialized communities. We must consult and we must listen. We must become more transparent. We recently began to post summaries of public complaint decisions on our website. It is important that the Canadian public be made aware of our work and the recommendations that we make.

The commission must be consulted on any changes to oversight for both the RCMP and changes to Bill C-3. With its 35 years of experience in overseeing our national police force, the CRCC is uniquely qualified to provide insight and recommendations to inform decision-makers on this critical and pressing issue for Canadians. We are at an opportune time to effect change.

Thank you again for inviting me here today. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you.

We now move to our six-minute rounds, led by Mr. Paul-Hus, then followed by Mr. Sikand, Madame Michaud and Mr. Harris.

Monsieur Paul-Hus, welcome back to the committee. You have six minutes.

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My questions are for Ms. Lahaie.

At the end of your testimony, you talked about certain problems, but I'm going to start by asking you how many complaints you receive on average per year. Then, what percentage of the complaints you receive are related to racism?

11:15 a.m.

Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Michelaine Lahaie

Thank you very much, Mr. Paul-Hus.

We receive between 3,000 and 3,500 complaints a year. Usually, we receive between 2,500 and 3,000—

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Sorry, I'm not getting translation, Chair.

11:15 a.m.

Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Michelaine Lahaie

Sorry. I will give my answers in English, then, to allow for the simultaneous translation, because I'm not sure how to change to the French piece.

On average, we receive 3,000 to 3,500 complaints per year. We tend to send about 2,800 of those complaints over to the RCMP.

Over the course of the past five years, we've received 76 complaints that deal with bias, racism or discrimination.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We can say that, out of 2,000 complaints, 76 complaints about racism is a small number.

In your speech, you said that the commission was facing certain problems. You receive the complaints, you process them and you send them to the RCMP, but the RCMP Commissioner is the one who must analyze them and provide a response. You said that it takes up to 17 months to get a response, and that there is often no response at all.

Can things be done to change this situation?

11:20 a.m.

Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Michelaine Lahaie

To clarify, she is required to respond in accordance with the legislation, so she must respond to our reports. She must indicate whether she accepts our recommendations. If she does not accept them, she has to tell us why.

I believe the solution to this issue is to insert statutory timelines within Bill C-3, so that they are required to provide a response within a time that's articulated in the law. We currently have an MOU with the RCMP that articulates those timelines, but they are not statutory.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Okay.

You have made recommendations on the changes that should be made to Bill C-3. Were you consulted during the drafting of this bill? We feel that no one asked for your opinion.

Did the government ask you?

11:20 a.m.

Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Michelaine Lahaie

The commission was not consulted on Bill C-3 when it was drafted.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

So it is safe to say that the problems you are experiencing with the RCMP will also be experienced with the Canada Border Services Agency. You said that the president should report. However, another system is currently being created which, I believe, will face the same problems.

Is that what you are foreseeing?

11:20 a.m.

Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Michelaine Lahaie

It is possible that we will have similar problems with the oversight of the CBSA.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Okay.

On the website, your organization's last public report dates back to 2017. Can you tell us why other reports were not produced during those three years?

11:20 a.m.

Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Michelaine Lahaie

For me, as the chairperson, it comes down to commission resources.

When I came to the commission, we had one public interest investigation that was ongoing. That was the investigation that dealt with the RCMP's investigation into the death of Colten Boushie, which was launched in 2018. That report has now been completed, and it is with the commissioner for response.

We also had a backlog of files, because, in an organization with a relatively small budget, we have to make the decision constantly between dealing with public complaints from Canadians or launching our own larger investigations. I chose to hire additional staff and prioritize the clearance of our backlog, rather than launching additional investigations. I also attributed a large number of internal resources to the Boushie investigation, because it was important that it be completed in a reasonable time. We were able to deliver it to the commissioner early in 2019.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

That is it for Mr. Paul-Hus.

Our incomparable clerk has pointed out to me that your less-than-incomparable chair has made an error. I assumed that Mr. Parent was with Mr. Leuprecht from RMC, when in fact he is a separate witness.

I'm going to go out of order and ask Mr. Parent to make his presentation, and I apologize for what is clearly my reading error.

11:25 a.m.

Dr. Rick Parent As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for the levity at the beginning there. I appreciate that. It eased things off, so it was good.

Just as a quick introduction, my name is Rick Parent. I'm speaking more or less as a police officer. I have been a police officer and have been involved in policing for over 40 years. I go back quite a way, to 1980. From policing I went into the academic world, finishing up as an associate professor at Simon Fraser University's school of criminology. Much like Christian, I've done a lot of research. I continue to research and publish.

I think Canada has a great policing system. We're quick to criticize it. I would argue that Canada has one of the better police services in the world, probably in the top five, if not the top 10. One of our problems is that we tend to compare ourselves with the United States. We tend to use a lot of U.S. data and a lot of U.S. issues when interpreting what our Canadian society and Canadian policing is.

When I look back, I would say there was a shift in policing for the good, to some degree, in the mid-1980s when Canadian policing took on many of the things that this committee is looking at. Whether it is racism, hiring minorities or using polygraphs today, system background checks, vetting racist attitudes before they get into the system, working with the LGBT community or hiring women and visible minorities within the organization, I would argue that Canadian policing has done a lot in the past 25 years to make it one of the top institutions within Canada.

Having said that, yes, you're correct. We know it's not perfect. There's a lot more work that can be done, and I think that's where the committee has a great potential to leverage the changing world.

In the mid-1990s, I saw that policing somewhat got hijacked by a U.S. mandate, here in Vancouver. With the Victoria Police Department, I saw tasers come in 1999. We thought that the best way was to follow our American brothers and sisters and implement what they did in the U.S., because everything in the U.S. was better. I would argue against that. What I've seen over the years is that, more and more, Canadian policing has taken on a culture of use of force. It is focusing on enforcement and has gone away from the service and safety issues that it traditionally had up until the mid-1990s.

I personally have seen a shift in the last 25 years. This is borne out in the research when we look at Mr. Dziekanski and the YVR incident. Policing has become more bureaucratic.

I also agree with many of the things that Christian has brought up. Agencies like the RCMP are too spread out. They're doing too many things and not doing them well, like all of us would be. If anyone tried to do all the things that the RCMP does, and continues to take on, they would only drop balls. That's basically what's happening.

One of the other problems I find is that, in Canada, we lack a central agency in Ottawa to oversee policing. If you are a civilian or an activist, there is no data for Canadian policing. You have to go to one of the 200 departments and try to obtain that data and, as we've heard, it doesn't come very easily even when it's legislated. Again, we tend to look at the United States.

There's a lack of transparency in Canada. There's a lack of Canadian data. There's a lack of civilian involvement. I would argue there should be more of that.

We need to get back to where we were 25 years ago, in the sense of becoming a service that the public phones up like they do the fire department. Even though they don't fight a lot of fires, we know that firemen will take on a lot of tasks to help the public. I think that's where we need to go with Canadian policing: back to the roots that we've traditionally had.

One of the examples I'm quick to bring up is police shootings. In the United States they occur five to six times more frequently than they do in Canada, but most Canadians don't know that. Canadians spend probably 60% of their time watching American news. We can tell you all about Trump. We can tell you all about what's going on in the United States, but we know very little about what goes on in Canada. Again, I blame Canadian policing for that. We need to be more transparent. We need to have better data.

I would argue that we need a central agency in Ottawa that looks at Canadian policing, that looks at, again, as we've heard, oversight. It would be run by civilians to shape policing so that it stays on track and does continue to have the diversity and the good things that are so common to Canadian policing—building trust and building values within our system, relationships with the public—and with a focus on ethics. We sometimes forget about ethics as another aspect. I think if we have ethical policing steering us along with relationships with the public, that's where we're going to go into this positive realm.

We've focused on U.S. policing, and we tend to focus on use of force. Again, this is systematic within police agencies across Canada, and again it's the theme of militarization, more guns, weapons, tactics. We need that, but it shouldn't be the driving force. Service and safety should be the number one factor that police should be hired upon and we should train upon.

I'll stop there.