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.