Thank you, Chair.
I start by acknowledging my role as a settler on the region of Peel, which is part of the treaty lands territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit.
Once again, to committee members and the chair, I'm thankful for the invitation to participate in the discussion on systemic racism in policing.
As you have said, my name is Nishan Duraiappah. I am a Sri Lankan-born Tamil immigrant to Canada. I have 25 years of policing experience and am the present chief of Peel Regional Police service, which is responsible for policing a population of 1.4 million. The region of Peel contains the highest percentage of visible minorities within the greater Toronto area. It includes the cities of Brampton and Mississauga, and it is responsible for policing Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Systemic racism exists and has been deeply entrenched in all of our public institutions since 1867. Systemic racism continually affects service delivery to the communities we serve, as well as the daily experience of police members, sworn and civilian, when they are on the job and when they are at home.
As a member of the board of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, OACP, I'm honoured to be part of a group of police professionals who focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as a human rights framework for policing models here.
Across this world our Canadian officers and civilians are equipped, supported, trained and governed, which includes oversight, at a standard that makes them the best policing model and the best individuals in policing globally. As police leaders, though, we must go beyond these verbal affirmations. I, along with a consortium of the willing, am making bold and meaningful changes. We understand that the willingness to step out and implement changes to drive out systemic racism, without fear of failure, is required and expected. Therefore, in Peel Regional Police I have committed to a shift from traditional law enforcement to a pro-public health model rooted in human rights.
I'm adopting and implementing the following principles under a systemic change framework. I've initiated a systems review of all our directives and policies under a diversity, equity and inclusion lens. I'm developing leadership, both formal and informal, with police members, so they are ready to challenge racism in its various forms, critically and courageously, wherever they come across it.
Peel Regional Police is acquiring technical capability as well as establishing the groundwork to start race-based data collection, which I understand will be spoken to by Chief Larkin. I'll be standing up systems to help identify discriminatory practices where they may exist, and implementing a series of protocols to dismantle them. I'll also be committing to a reporting cycle to my governance entity, which is the Peel Regional Police services board, to ensure full transparency and accountability in our operations.
I'm initiating a multi-year plan for diversity, equity and inclusion, which will run parallel to the service's legislated strategic plan, which runs 2020-23. As well, Peel Regional Police has just launched internal support networks for all of its own members, including racialized individuals, sworn and civilian members.
We know that accountability and monitoring are key factors, and therefore my police services engage in discussing, reviewing and updating our existing systems of community consultations, to make sure they are more inclusive and more connected with the community voices on the ground, alongside the community partners and stakeholders in this region.
These are the key system-level activities within policing. As a police leader, I acknowledge that these are within my control to change. As I've said to you, an emphasis on a pro-public health model needs to occur in policing across all human services. In my own region I have seen how gaps in systems result in tragic outcomes, which my officers, as the 24-7 go-to response, have to face.
The Peel Regional Police service and our regional municipality, as well as many others, have committed to significant investments in community safety and well-being. This planning framework allows collaboration with community stakeholders to create a multi-sector planning model that proactively assesses needs and risks, and addresses them in tandem with community supports prior to emergency or police involvement. To accomplish that, the police service requires a shift of leadership to other public institutions, including health, education, social services and the not-for-profit sector.
In addition, innovation and technology are key platforms to achieve and enhance upstream community safety, let alone to support data collection and analysis. Enhanced accountability through a better understanding of where, how and why racial and other disparities exist is critical.
Ultimately, this is an interim solution, because an overall human services systems redesign is required to address the confluence of mental health, addictions, housing, homelessness and older adult isolation, as examples. In all of these areas, systemic racism and inequity exists.
I, along with other police leaders, have committed to eliminating systemic racism in our backyards. However, if all institutions do not address systemic racism within their systems, our efforts to dismantle it will be significantly hindered. This is because systemic racism exists both within and across systems. The only way to meaningfully begin to address systemic racism is to adopt a co-ordinated national approach, with real communication and leadership across multiple systems to guide impactful work.
We, at the Peel Regional Police, stand with the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police when it says, “Communities expect real change from us as police professionals. They expect us to be part of delivering justice.” We know there is no justice when systems are biased or racist. We simply must speak to each other honestly about all these hard truths.
In the words of Angela Davis, “In a racist society, it’s not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist”.