Evidence of meeting #7 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 communities.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Brenda Lucki  Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Gail Johnson  Chief Human Resources Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kamal Khera Liberal Brampton West, ON

Thanks, Minister.

I want to shift gears in terms of some of the training. Can you provide us with an overview of what training or education a recruit would undergo to learn about the lived experiences of racialized Canadians? Is this training mandatory? Can you walk us through the whole training experience?

Also what training is available for those who are already established RCMP officers?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

I'm going to begin by saying I think it's important to make sure you're recruiting people who come from diverse communities, who have the lived experience of the people they're going to serve and protect. I think that's critically important, and so an inclusive recruitment and hiring policy is very important. It goes beyond that, of course, because you want that diversity reflected throughout that entire organization; I think that's a very good place to start. At the very least, we want to make sure that we're recruiting police officers who are open and willing to learn about other cultures and other peoples, because I think that commitment to continuous learning is also very important.

The commissioner was the commanding officer at Depot and knows perhaps more than anyone I can mention would know what is done there, so I'll turn to her.

5:45 p.m.

Commr Brenda Lucki

I did mention, first of all, the blanket exercise that we brought in; when I was the commanding officer, I attended the first one with the cadets. An elder comes in and leads that session. We have a specific room that was there before, an indigenous reflection room for members, as well as prayer rooms at Depot and various other spots for reflection of all cultures.

We have cultural awareness training; it's an extensive online training that is mandatory for every employee of the RCMP. We just introduced culture and humility, which is a new course.

When members goes out to their divisions, each province has its own one-week indigenous perceptions course specific to the province. Obviously, a course in Nunavut would be much different from a course in Manitoba. They bring in people who have lived experience with the residential school or the sixties scoop or any of the lived experiences. Every module...when we talk about, for instance, domestic violence, we have somebody who has had a lived experience present that. In the LGBTQ module, we have people who have that lived experience. We always try to get people from the community in those modules, to reflect and understand the impact, so that when members go out and deal with those people they have a better understanding of the impact of their actions on the history of what that person has lived through. It's really important.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

We're going to have to unfortunately leave that answer there, Ms. Khera.

Mrs. Vecchio, five minutes.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you very much.

Thank you, for coming today Minister Blair and Commissioner, it's wonderful to have you.

I am looking at some things that are recurring. There's currently a $600-million class action lawsuit against the RCMP specifically regarding indigenous people in the north. Can you share a little bit about that and share with me how many other lawsuits there have been and whether they mostly have been settled out of court? Do you have some information on that so that we can look at that?

5:50 p.m.

Commr Brenda Lucki

I don't have that information in front of me. That particular lawsuit is very new in the sense that I don't even believe it's been certified yet.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Minister Blair, are you familiar with the lawsuit?

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

No, I'm not familiar with that one. Until it's certified...and quite frankly, we don't normally comment on something that's before the courts until it's resolved, but we track them very carefully of course. We don't wait until the outcome of those lawsuits to do our best to respond. For example, during the murdered and missing indigenous women inquiry, the RCMP implemented a number of different training initiatives while that inquiry was ongoing in an effort to respond quickly.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you very much.

Minister, we know you were the police chief for 10 years in Canada's largest city. During that time, what were some of the steps that you took to address racism and to eliminate systemic racism in the Toronto Police Service?

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

On the very first day I was appointed police chief, I was asked whether racial profiling exists, and I acknowledged that it did. Apparently I was the first in the country to do that. I honestly believe that if you don't acknowledge its existence, how can you do anything about it?

We immediately undertook.... For example, I wanted to create a diverse police service—Toronto is the most diverse city in the world—and so I put in a policy that half of all the people we would recruit into the police service would be from diverse communities and/or female. We never once went below 54%. We initiated extensive anti-bias training programs, diversity training programs in a number of areas. We looked at all the positions in our organization that led to promotion and people ascending to leadership positions in the organization, and we made sure that diverse people within our organization had full access to those training opportunities, those experiences that would enable them to be successful in our promotion systems. When I left the Toronto Police Service after 10 years, half of my command was diverse and half of my command was female.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Fantastic.

Would you say, with the diversity you had on the Toronto Police Service, that you found racism was eliminated or reduced? What do you think your actual results were during your time?

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Karen, I would acknowledge, first of all, that we recruit from the human race, and racism and bias are human failings. I would not presume to tell you that we eliminated it, but we created a very strong culture within the Toronto Police Service of respect for the diversity of our city and of inclusiveness.

We created very strong examples of leadership within the community. We worked tirelessly in diverse communities. We did a lot of outreach, as I mentioned earlier. We had consultative committees with all of the diverse communities, which helped us with recruiting, helped us with our policies and helped us with our training.

I think we made significant progress. I would never suggest to you the job was done.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Have you seen that it has gotten worse? If we compare 2020 to 2010, what are some of the changes you have seen in one of the greatest and most diverse cities in Canada, and around the world?

June 23rd, 2020 / 5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

We have seen the emergence of a far more diverse leadership within policing, not just in Toronto, by the way, but across the country. I think that's reflected in many ways. We've seen a significantly increased and changing role of women in policing, for example, but also of people who have lived in diverse communities.

In my experience, when I put people around my command table who knew what it was like to be an immigrant, who knew what it was like to live with disparity, and I asked them for their feedback on important decisions that we had to make about policing the city of Toronto, the benefit of that diversity of perspectives enabled us to provide much better services to people of diversity.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

You mentioned as well that you had 17 different individuals who you worked with as part of your policy-building.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

It wasn't individuals. It was representatives of different community and cultural groups within the city.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Mr. Iacono, you have five minutes.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, your mandate letter emphasizes that one of your priorities is to ensure that all law enforcement and security agency employees have access to training on unconscious bias and cultural competency.

Can you tell us the status of the unconscious bias training?

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

There are programs that are available in policing and within the public service, but I will acknowledge to you that there is a great deal more work to be done to make sure that training is accessible to all of our employees.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Minister, systemic racism needs to be addressed, not only in the RCMP itself, but also in its operations and in our communities across the country. In this system, an enormous gap exists between the actors on each side. It seems that no communication or mediation is able to fill the gap. At this point we need bold changes.

How do you plan to reboot the system in a parallel way at the RCMP level, and also at the community level, to fill in the gaps and thus have a more harmonious environment?

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

First of all, I try not to be too discouraged, because I've seen some extraordinary examples right across this country. I've been speaking to indigenous leaders and people in communities right across the country who have shared with me extraordinary stories of the relationship between them and the police officers who serve them.

I was speaking to the national chief the other day. We were talking about policing, and he shared with me that three of his brothers serve in the RCMP. I was speaking to one of the regional chiefs in the Northwest Territories who talked to me about special constables, community safety officers and the extraordinary relationship that was built between the RCMP and people in his community. There are some extraordinary examples in the Yukon and in places right across Canada.

I think we need to build upon that extraordinary work and the relationships that have been built. That's not to suggest for a moment that the situation does not require a lot of work or that it's perfect, but there's a great deal to be encouraged by, because we have good people working in good communities and they are doing some extraordinary work. We need to make sure that they're properly supported, and that's not just supported by money, people, resources and equipment. We're talking about having strong governance structures and strong systems of accountability and transparency.

There's nothing more important in the relationship between the police and the people they serve than trust. To be trusted, one has to be trustworthy, and trustworthiness has a number of really important elements, which include accountability and transparency. People need to demonstrate their commitment to service and to protecting the people they're sworn to serve.

There are some great examples of that, and there are some places where we need to improve.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Do we have a plan of action to take these examples that you are referring to and to reprogram the system and influence better interaction between the RCMP and the communities? You mentioned earlier that programs of diversion and inclusion already exist. Are they appropriate? Are they up to date? Do they take into consideration what Canada is today with its different cultural communities, requests and expectations?

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

I can say absolutely and unequivocally that some of them are great, but they're not good enough; there's more work to be done. We all acknowledge that there's a great deal more to be done.

We're working very hard on some things within my ministry. I've already reached out to indigenous leadership across the country. We've had a number of very important and, I think, positive discussions about creating a new legislative framework for indigenous policing across the country to make it an essential service. It's not something we're going to develop just here in Ottawa and impose upon those communities across the country. It's going to be co-produced.

We're working with indigenous leadership, and we are also having important conversations with those communities that have had some very strong histories and examples of good policing in their communities, to build on those examples but also to make sure that we address a history that is not as positive in other places so that we earn back the trust that is necessary to police those communities.

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Iacono.

Normally I would end it here, but there are still two and a half minutes for the Bloc and two and a half minutes for the NDP, which I would ask that they pursue. Then we'll suspend for one minute in order to allow the minister to leave and then we'll continue.

With that, go ahead Madam Michaud.