Thank you, Mr. Chair.
With me is Dennis Daley, assistant commissioner with contract and indigenous policing. On the screen is Gail Johnson, our fairly new—eight months, probably—chief human resources officer.
Thank you for the invitation to speak on these critical issues.
I would like to acknowledge that I am speaking on unceded Algonquin territory.
The last several weeks have been extremely difficult for Canadians, for indigenous, black and racialized communities, as well as for police. This has sparked an important conversation across the country. I have been listening. The calls for action have been heard. My opening remarks will outline RCMP modernization efforts in the wake of these recent events.
When I was appointed commissioner two years ago, I said, “I plan to challenge assumptions, seek explanations and better understand the reasons how we operate. This means that no stone will be left unturned.”
The past two weeks have given the RCMP an unprecedented opportunity to advance change and step up our actions.
We have strengthened our resolve to advance change and step up our actions to serve, protect and reflect all communities; achieve reconciliation with indigenous and racialized communities; and bolster relationships built on recognition of rights, respect, mutual trust, co-operation and partnership. We are not a perfect organization but we will continue to learn, grow and evolve.
As I expressed directly to my members in a video message several days ago, it's painful to hear; nevertheless, a constructive dialogue is important if we are to strengthen the trust of Canadians. There's also a deep pain in Canada's indigenous, black and racialized communities, including those in the RCMP, who have suffered the inequities of systemic racism. I would like to affirm here, before Parliament, that I am so very proud to lead the 30,000 employees of the RCMP who continue to have my deep appreciation for what they do every single day, serving Canadians with dedication and professionalism. They do this out of an intense sense of fairness and a desire to protect the vulnerable in every corner of Canada and around the world.
Let me say that we are committed to seeking out and eliminating all forms of racism and discrimination in our organization. I have listened to RCMP employees and their families who are demoralized by the anti-police narrative that is painting everyone unfairly with the same brush, but acknowledging that systemic racism is present in the force does not equate to employees being racist. It is about how an organization creates and maintains racial inequality, often caused by sometimes subtle and unintentional biases in police policies, practices and process that either privilege or disadvantage different groups of people.
I have heard from and reached out to many people, listening, learning and reflecting on how these discussions translate into strengthening my organization. I have spoken with indigenous leaders, including Senator Murray Sinclair, who spoke to me about taking a closer look at our recruitment and our training. I also spoke to MMIWG Commissioner Marion Buller, who spoke to me about our ongoing commitment to work with and learn from communities, which will help us make real progress. I listened to indigenous employees, both current and retired, who reminded me of the importance of our roots in community policing and the importance of our connection to the people we serve.
Now the RCMP can strengthen this trust and counter systemic racism.
I want to talk to you about what we have done to date.
I was given a clear mandate to modernize and transform our culture. In just over two years, we have made significant progress. I have received input both internally and externally from my national council of diversity and inclusion, my indigenous advisory committee and community leaders, particularly those in black and indigenous communities. I have established a new indigenous lived experience advisory group, comprised of current and former indigenous RCMP employees.
We are putting a diversity and inclusion lens on our policies, programs, recruiting, training and practices to better understand some of the unintended barriers that exist, and to work to correct them.
Character-based leadership is being integrated into our recruitment, our training and our promotion process. We have added more learning about indigenous history for cadets and incorporated indigenous traditions into our RCMP traditions in a number of ways, including supporting indigenous employees' wearing of traditional items like the eagle feather and the Métis sash when donning our red serge. We have updated national programs, including strengthened cultural awareness training and training in unconscious bias and trauma-informed approaches. We have enhanced the RCMP's participation in restorative justice initiatives across the country.
In terms of doing more to address systemic racism going forward, we are reprioritizing and enhancing our action plan to make changes at all levels, from recruitment to training to reporting and accountability. We really need to double down on hiring a more diverse membership, as we would like greater diversity to reflect the communities we serve. We are working to ensure that no unintended bias exists in our recruiting or training that could inadvertently and inappropriately impact some segments of our society.
We are revisiting our relocation practices and looking at place-based recruitment so that officers remain in the communities where ties and roots are already established.
We also have continued examining our policing models and are really looking at solutions with the communities we serve that are community focused and community driven. The RCMP was built on community policing, and we respond to an average of two million calls for service each year. Fewer than 1% of those calls involve use of force. Over 99% of incidents are resolved with our presence, our communication and de-escalation, and not the use of force. For those few incidents where force is used, our training and our protocols provide clear direction on using a minimum amount of force. We rely on de-escalation and crisis intervention when necessary.
When it comes to holding employees to account, we have extensive operational policies designed to ensure transparency, accountability and openness. Policing is a profession that has a broad range of accountability mechanisms. There is oversight in the courts, as well as independent inquiries, commissions, inquests and reviews. We are completely dedicated to making this great organization better than what it was when we started.
My team and myself are determined to get this work done, and we are making progress, but modernization is an ongoing process.
Our goal for the RCMP is to be the most respected and the most trusted police service in the world, grounded in solid relationships with all Canadians, and particularly with our indigenous, black and racialized communities. We need to broaden the space for these difficult discussions and build on the ones already under way. It is an opportunity for real change and leadership, and we are committed to doing just that.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.
I look forward to your discussions and dialogue.