Evidence of meeting #12 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.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Nishan Duraiappah  Chief, Peel Regional Police
Bryan Larkin  Chief of Police, Waterloo Regional Police Service and member of the Drug Advisory Committee, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police
Julian Falconer  As an Individual
Lorraine Whitman  President, Native Women's Association of Canada

August 14th, 2020 / 12:40 p.m.

Chief of Police, Waterloo Regional Police Service and member of the Drug Advisory Committee, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

Chief Bryan Larkin

Thank you, MP Michaud. You raise an excellent question.

Clearly, although there is cultural sensitivity, cultural awareness, and equity and inclusion training built into the various systems across our nation, I think we'd all agree that it's simply not enough. When we look at the police training, although it has evolved over the 30 years that both Nishan and I have been policing, we also recognize that society's evolved significantly. Naturally, when we look at training, we try to balance the cost on our ratepayers. Policing in Canada, for the most part, is funded by municipal taxpayers, particularly municipal policing. There are provincial and national responsibilities that are funded separately—that's a much larger discussion.

One recommendation of the CACP is that we establish a national equity, diversity and inclusion tool kit for all police services, for all police colleges, that we could roll out nationally. How we go about funding that is something we would be looking to work on with Public Safety Canada, with the national police service, as well as various provincial bodies that oversee policing—whether that be the solicitor general or public safety. These are phenomenal options.

Also, as I think my colleague alluded to, we must look at our systems through an equity lens. Our encouragement and our recommendation is that the training and/or the work we're doing within policing be reviewed and have community experts, those with lived experience, participate in those processes, with the outcome of a delivery of a national training tool kit. It would vary by different sectors, which would provide a much more enhanced skill set for our recruits.

I will say, anecdotally, and I think—

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Unfortunately, we're going to have to leave it there. Madame Michaud's time has well passed. Again, you'll have to work it into another answer.

Mr. Harris, you have six minutes.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thank you to the presenters today.

First of all, I want to note that we have had you, Chief Duraiappah and Chief Larkin, and two very progressive and excellent witnesses in Chief Peter Sloly of Ottawa and Chief Dale McFee of Edmonton, testify before us. In hearing four chiefs of police and experienced police officers, it seems to me that there is a full recognition of systemic racism. There is an expectation that, as was said here today, we have the best training system in the world. We have the best recruitment. We have ideas as to how to deal with this.

I'm just wondering—

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Excuse me, Jack. Your picture is not coming through. You're a handsome lad and I'm sure that's depriving everyone—

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Oh, I'm sorry to deprive you of the benefit of my visage.

The idea, what I'm trying to convey, is that all of this was true six months ago. This leadership was in place, all of these training programs, etc. However, for the last six months we've witnessed the visible effects of systemic racism in policing in Canada.

Is there something missing from this picture? I know there are some nuances in your responses here today, but if all of this is taken at face value, do we have a problem or do we not? I think it's pretty clear that we do. What I want to know from you folks, if you can help us, is this: Are there things we ought to be recommending as a committee that will actually substantially affect this? It is recognized as a crisis by the public, and I think we need to have something by way of solutions.

Let me ask you, for example, about the training aspect. We do know about, and you've talked about it here, the cultural awareness, the de-escalation, the anti-bias training. All of that, if it were properly executed, would have actually prevented many of the deaths we've seen in the last number of months. Something is missing from this picture.

We have heard, and that this has to be repeated, it's not a one-time thing. Are there national standards, not just tool kits, that ought to be put in place to ensure that use of force is applied properly, and properly across the country, or do we rely on 200 individual police forces to get it right?

12:45 p.m.

Chief, Peel Regional Police

Chief Nishan Duraiappah

Bryan, do you want to wrestle over this one? I'll bet we'd both like to take this one.

Maybe I can answer and save some time for Chief Larkin as well.

The way I've always articulated this is that, yes, we generally say that we are a better policing model than anywhere else. However, the discussion items that we're talking about are a confluence of not just the police sector; they are intersecting points with other sectors as well, such as mental health or crisis, housing, homelessness and addictions, which we can't and don't have control over. The same scenario happens with systemic racism. If it does exist in policing, we have the responsibility, which we've both illustrated, to weed it out. We are on the way to doing it. I think we would all agree, however, that despite our best efforts, we still feel the compounded impact of other systems.

That being said, speaking for myself, we're not all there nationally. We have a great solid foundation, but there is road to travel. I think not all police environments are ready to shift from traditional law enforcement to a pro-public health model. That has very little to do with our substantive training; it's the leadership and philosophy where we have less emphasis on traditional police responses and more reliance on other systems.

With regard to deaths at the hands of an officer or at the interaction points with an officer, without implying whether the officer was justified or not, I think our issue is that we can no longer be responsible at that intersecting point for the failures of a mental health system at the—

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

No, but if I may interrupt, you do have to be responsible where the interaction takes place. The principle that we talked about—the anti-bias need, the de-escalation need, the recognition of that cultural awareness need—has to be present. It appears that it's not present and that's why we have these incidents. Yes, there may well need to be other systems, but we still need standards that are applicable and acceptable across the country.

12:45 p.m.

Chief, Peel Regional Police

Chief Nishan Duraiappah

Absolutely, Mr. Harris. I think in my presentation I illustrated about seven principles with a human rights-centric focus embedded in a policy by the Ontario Human Rights Commission that they issued in 2019. I think all chiefs would say they like the seven principles, but thus far we have not had a chief successfully implement all the recommendations. There is work to be done. I think it would be inaccurate to say that we are in good stead. I think you are hearing from Peter Sloly, Chief McFee, Chief Larkin and me that we are in that consortium of the willing and are saying there's more we can do. I think we can achieve that. I think at this point we are not doing it as a wholesale entity across policing.

There is space there, I think, at a provincial level and at a federal level for some of these practices to be brought together. Chief Larkin referenced them as a tool kit. I think at a municipal level it can be framed out and hand-held and delivered to different chiefs. There is space for us to do it, and I agree 100% that we—

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Unfortunately, we'll have to leave the answer there. Mr. Harris has exhausted his time.

We're now moving to a four-minute round. First up is Mr. Morrison. Then we have Mr. Sikand, Mr. Shipley and Madame Damoff.

Mr. Morrison, you have four minutes, please.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Morrison Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My first question is for Chief Larkin, representing CACP. We've had several witnesses come forward and talk about the lack of data and information sharing, especially dealing with systemic racism, between police departments. I know the CACP has the law enforcement information data standards subcommittee, which is designed to help police forces across Canada share information, yet we just don't seem to be getting there.

I'm wondering if you have a recommendation or can help this committee with regard to how we actually get our police departments across Canada sharing information so that we can analyze what's happening and perhaps have some solutions. For example, do you think the federal government needs to step in and say that all police departments will be part of your LEID subcommittee so that we do share information?

12:50 p.m.

Chief of Police, Waterloo Regional Police Service and member of the Drug Advisory Committee, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

Chief Bryan Larkin

In short, yes. One of our key recommendations is to actually create a nationally run centralized race-based data collection system that records and analyzes race-based data within policing. Last month, in partnership with Stats Canada, we launched a national working group moving toward that. It will require support and it will require investment, but absolutely, Mr. Morrison, that's the future.

One of the challenges we're facing, even to Mr. Harris's point, is that we don't have a full understanding of the actual magnitude of the challenges and we can't actually analyze all the data. The CACP would recommend to this committee that moving toward a national centralized data bank that captures race-based data collection within policing would be a key recommendation and something that should be implemented in Canada.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Morrison Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Perfect. Thank you.

I have one more short question.

We've had a lot of comments from different witnesses on the hiring of police officers in remote communities. Representing the CACP, where you have some of the remote communities' law enforcement people, can you maybe guide us a little bit in the benefits—or maybe not so much the benefits—of hiring local people to police more remote communities?

12:50 p.m.

Chief of Police, Waterloo Regional Police Service and member of the Drug Advisory Committee, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

Chief Bryan Larkin

Certainly, I can speak specifically for the CACP and within Ontario, which has a large northern section of communities. I do want to advocate for investment in indigenous policing. For far too long in our country it's been underfunded, underinvested in and undersupported.

The reality is that the fundamental root of policing is that police officers are citizens of the community they serve. What we're seeing in many different mechanisms is that police officers are no longer living in the community they serve. That attachment, that commitment to the neighbourhoods that they live within, that they serve, where their children grow up, where they've actually come from, is an important piece.

In remote communities, we should be working actively to promote policing as a profession, as an occupation, and providing the skill sets, the training and the education to support those in remote communities who may not have access to post-secondary education without leaving their community. We should be doing everything we possibly can and actually create an investment to ensure that those who live within remote communities can provide policing services.

There are challenges with that, particularly in the role we have in a complex society, but we do believe this committee should look at the ability to support remote communities to hire local people who know the community, who understand the issues and can bring value added. It's very difficult when you transcend into a community to fully understand it.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

We're going to have to leave it there, Mr. Morrison. I'm already running behind, in spite of the fact that we're running a tight clock here.

With that, it is Mr. Sikand for four minutes, please.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question will be for Chief Duraiappah.

We were all pretty happy to see you occupy the role. I know right here on this panel Pam stakes a claim to you because you're from Halton; with Gary, obviously you guys share a similar heritage, being Tamil; and naturally you're just across the street from me, so we're happy to see you occupy the role.

Given a couple of the themes that were talked about, my concern is that, if you have a few bad officers in your ranks who perhaps undermine or don't necessarily acknowledge your authority because of your race or otherwise, maybe because you're just from next door, that really undermines what you're trying to do, which is a lot of good stuff, from what I've heard. Similarly, when officers get away with something that would otherwise be criminal—but because of the uniform they're wearing it isn't—that's not good for society. As I always have to mention, by and large our cops are great. It's always a small percentage that perpetrate things that are negligent. The problem with that is that the small percentage sometimes amounts to 100% of somebody's life.

I'd like your comments on a few of those themes we've been talking about.

12:55 p.m.

Chief, Peel Regional Police

Chief Nishan Duraiappah

Thank you, MP Sikand. I appreciate the comments and the totality of it.

I will first say that what keeps every police leader up at night is the individual actions of their officers. The front-end investment in making sure we hire the best to do the best and build an environment and a culture in which they can act appropriately is what is within our control.

We would all agree that we fully support.... When an individual officer has a misconduct or criminal activity, that is just as upsetting for me as it is for the general public. We have real confidence, and there have been several reports on the independent oversight that's available for officers' actions. One of the problems we're facing here in Ontario is with expediency and transparency in those two processes. For some of them we can dispense discipline, but for some we depend on independent bodies of the province.

In the interim, I think the task at hand for every chief is to move beyond what we've seen as a traditional model, in which we've hired an individual because they looked at the recruiting poster and it looked pretty amazing and then they started their career and spent 25 or 30 years unnurtured. I say “unnurtured” from the standpoint of being invested in, in terms of culture development, leadership and emphasis on systemic paradigms around them that ensure that equity, diversity and inclusion are the lens.

As somebody with lived experience who, as an immigrant, entered policing 25 years ago, I can tell you that it has changed. I've seen it with my own eyes. As a racialized officer wearing a uniform and belonging to the broader Tamil community, I've seen the impact of the institution of policing. It has evolved, and I think our task at hand is to have a way forward, a systemic change road map that includes not just equity, diversity and inclusion, but also culture change, engagement, technology to support it, modernized policing technologies and—I'll keep saying it—a real emphasis on a human rights-centred focus, which has not been inherent thus far.

Those things need to be communicated, and in time we will see the needle shift. That is my commitment to my community, as it is of every chief, I would say, in this province and country.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Sikand.

Colleagues, we've almost run up to the one o'clock barrier. I'm going to propose that we finish with Mr. Shipley and Madame Damoff, and then finish with this particular panel.

With that, Mr. Shipley, you have four minutes.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Doug Shipley Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'll direct this to either chief. Perhaps both would like to weigh in on this. Some police agencies have identified that a full 20% to 30% of the calls for service are mental health calls, often not criminal in nature. I'd like you to comment on this. How is this affecting your services in terms of resources, and what solutions do you have to avoid violent conclusions to a lot of these calls?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Is that for any particular chief?

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Doug Shipley Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

I said either one or both, if they want to, Mr. Chair.

12:55 p.m.

Chief, Peel Regional Police

Chief Nishan Duraiappah

Chief Larkin, I'll take a quick run at this and pass it on to you.

You're absolutely right. I need to clarify that quite often what we see is that mental health calls for service are interwoven with other social disorders or criminal activity, so they are sort of inherent in relation to other dominant calls for service. They represent, for me in a four-year period, a 30% increase. As I mentioned to you, we have 18 mental health apprehensions a day, on average, here in Peel Region.

What we have seen is an increase, and we've talked about the policy changes from the 1990s, which saw a lot of psychiatric facilities close. We've seen the saturation of mental health crisis in the community.

Policing institutions have been, for quite some time, seeking progressive opportunities. We have crisis outreach officers, plainclothes officers with mental health professionals and also uniformed officers with crisis response individuals. This exists pretty much right across the GTA, if not the province, with even pre-charge mental health programming and training with crisis negotiators. There are a variety of initiatives, but what you can see in this whole scenario, Mr. Shipley, is that it's still the police trying to find a way to insert mental health crisis response within our paradigm.

Instead of dispatching an officer to a crisis call, the idea—and I know it's being piloted in other mechanisms—is to look at how, at a previous point of triage, before it even gets to our doorstep, we can get it to the appropriate service, such as a crisis worker in the 911 communications centre, and divert it to an alternate service delivery. As you both know, agencies such as CMHA and our not-for-profits are also asking for more resourcing, since they are underserviced.

Chief Larkin, perhaps you have something to add.

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

You have a little more than a minute.

1 p.m.

Chief of Police, Waterloo Regional Police Service and member of the Drug Advisory Committee, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

Chief Bryan Larkin

Certainly. Thanks, MP Shipley.

We would concur that there's an opportunity for this committee to recommend a larger dialogue and discussion with CMHA and our mental health partners. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has had a long-standing partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, but we can look to a new opportunity and a new framework for how we triage mental health in our communities: How do they come into our 911 system? What role do paramedics and/or mental health agencies play?

There's a whole opportunity for us, similar to the policy that we, the Canadian chiefs, released last month around diverting even simple possession of drugs. We're criminalizing addictions. We're criminalizing homelessness. We're criminalizing many issues that should be diverted elsewhere within a public health-led model.

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Shipley. I appreciate the donation of 30 seconds.

With that, I'm going to ask Madame Damoff for the final four minutes.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you, Chair. I'm going to split my time with my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge Park.

“Chief Nish” has a nice sound to it. I haven't actually had a chance to personally congratulate you, so congrats on your move to Peel.

I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the crisis response team. You had experience with that for a number of years in Halton. I know you're bringing it to Peel. Can you explain the model? I understand it gets funding, both from police as well as provincially from health, to send an officer along with a nurse or a mental health professional to calls. Have you seen success with that? Is that something that could be expanded to the RCMP, for example, and other police services?