Mr. Speaker, while we have heard in previous interventions lots of people sharing their displeasure and some of the challenges they face at committee, I am rising to support Bill C-20 at second reading.
Bill C-20 would replace the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and establish a stand-alone commission, the public complaints and review commission, for both the RCMP and the CBSA. As we know, the CBSA is the only major law enforcement agency in Canada without an independent review mechanism for the bulk of its activity.
There has been a major gap that has not been addressed, despite calls from the NDP dating back to Harper. It is our hope that Bill C-20 will provide accountability, increase the public trust at the border and provide an independent dispute mechanism that may be used by CBSA officials as well.
We heard comments about how, when things get to committee, bills sometimes have material departures from their initial spirit. I happen to believe that committee is precisely the place where both the opposition and the government get a chance to reflect on feedback from committee and perhaps improve upon bills to shore up some of the gaps that might have been identified.
I want to speak specifically to the good work of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. In the 43rd Parliament, it had a report entitled “Systemic Racism in Policing in Canada”. For this report, which was adopted by the committee, both government and opposition members came together. I believe there were 19 meetings within the study with over 53 witnesses. There was testimony from subject matter experts, and there was a very detailed report of perhaps 42 recommendations on how to tackle systemic racism in policing in Canada.
However, when the government has the opportunity to take the good work of Parliament, and, as an extension, the citizenry of this country, it still presents bills that are wholly inadequate to address the very topics raised in previous Parliaments and that continue to be a problem here today.
While Bill C-20 has the potential to provide these importance changes in civilian oversight to both the RCMP and the CBSA, it falls short. It falls short of meeting several of the important recommendations from the report, namely indigenous oversight, including indigenous investigators and decision-makers, and the appointment of Black and racialized Canadians.
For those who might not be familiar with these processes, I would like to expand on what it is like to have personal interactions with police, be it the RCMP, the OPP, local policing or the CBSA, anybody who has power and control over anyone's inherent rights and feelings of belonging in their own communities.
I have had these experiences in my own city as a city councillor. I have been stopped and questioned by local police simply for existing in my neighbourhood and waiting for a bus. When we were engaging in these discussions around systemic racism within policing, as a former city councillor, I would tell residents that when they have an issue, it is so important that they lodge a formal complaint.
The reason is that if there are no formal complaints, there is no quantitative data that would show problematic trends of structural and institutional racism within policing. I filed a Police Services Act complaint given my very problematic interaction with Constable Andrew Pfeifer at that time because that was what was made available to me.
I wish I had known then what I know now, which is that our civilian oversight of policing is completely culturally incompetent and devoid of any type of context that would account for the various lived experiences of people outside of the culture of policing.
In fact, we have always had this culture of policing policing, where we have former cops appointed to boards to investigate former cops, and then we have quasi-judicial tribunals, kangaroo courts, set up to either absolve them or, if it is politically convenient in the moment, to teach them a lesson.
I can tell members that, as a political leader within my community, I had senior members of our local police service, on their way out, tell me explicitly that they were about to teach me a lesson. From the outset, within the first five minutes of my experience at a Police Services Act hearing, as a Canadian of African descent, as a city councillor, as somebody who had been accorded power and privilege, it was made apparent within the first five minutes that the hearing officer, a former deputy from the Peel Region, Terence Kelly, was unwilling to and incapable of hearing any aspects related to anti-Blackness within policing.
It was a textbook case of racial profiling, and he said within the first five minutes that he would not hear the case. In legal terms, it is what is called a “reasonable presumption of bias”, which jaundiced the entire process. The case ended up in the courts for over two years, with over a week of hearings, in which I, as the complainant, became the target of the investigation.
It was a completely humiliating and dehumanizing experience, one that if other people in that same experience asked me if they should go through that, I would say “absolutely not”. I would tell them to save themselves, to get the best civil lawyers they can and to sue, because that is the only language the police understand. That is the only place where one can get on a full footing for proper disclosure, because as we have heard, in all levels of police review, they just refuse to co-operate.
We had subject matter experts provide, over the course of 19 hearings and 53 witnesses, including Robyn Maynard, a brilliant mind on what structural and institutional racism looks like, on what anti-Blackness looks like. They provided their testimony, as did former RCMP officers like Alain Babineau, who understands it from both the inside and the practical street application, both from what discipline looks like and from what anti-Blackness looks like out in communities. We had learned professors like Akwasi Owusu-Bempah break down all the ways in which systemic, institutional and structural racism occur.
The recommendations are clear, the recommendations that have been obviously omitted by the current government, which had the opportunity to address these issues.
We have a Liberal government that likes to speak the language of identity politics without any commitment to justice. The Liberals will go out at Black Lives Matter. They will take a knee and will say all the right things, but when it comes down to actually providing legislation that all members of Parliament in that committee supported, the government refused.
Namely, it refused to ensure that the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission of the RCMP allow for meaningful and engaged indigenous participation and to hold the RCMP accountable for wrongful, negligent, reckless or discriminatory behaviour toward indigenous people. There are videotapes of the RCMP brutalizing indigenous people across this country time and again.
When is it going to be enough for the current government to finally take a position, listen to the reports and implement these things?
The fourth recommendation is that the government appoint indigenous, Black and other racialized people, and residents of northern communities, to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, and for them to have investigation and leadership positions within that organization. I am sorry, but when Officer Terrence Kelly takes on my case and says within the first three minutes that he is unwilling and unable to listen to any parameters of race, that is negligent, it is discriminatory and it only further serves to uphold the institutional, structural and systemic racism within policing.
In my closing remarks, I call on the current government to do better by people in this country, to listen to the work of the House when it comes together in a non-partisan way to address these issues, and to cease bringing back these empty and shallow bills that are devoid of any of the things that they purport to be standing for within our communities, and, with specificity, to listen to the voices of Black, indigenous and racialized people within this country.