RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki faced criticism from all three major federal political parties and some Indigenous leaders on Wednesday over her understanding of systemic racism within the force and what needs to be done to address it.
After equivocating earlier this month on the existence of systemic racism in the RCMP, Commissioner Lucki is facing questions about her reference to a physical aptitude test that requires a six-foot-long broad jump as an example of the issue inside her force. She made the comment while testifying on Tuesday before the House of Commons public safety committee during a study of systemic racism in policing.
Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree said on Wednesday that Commissioner Lucki’s appearance was not a convincing display of leadership on systemic racism.
“The sense of urgency was missing in her testimony,” he said. “And there was still some lingering doubts about how deeply she understands systemic racism.”
Mr. Anandasangaree added that the violent arrest in March of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam is a clear example of the RCMP’s failure to adapt to offer accountability for its actions.
“Had the media not [reported the story], then this would have been brushed under the carpet,” he said. “Someone was assaulted … and nobody among the officers who were there highlighted that as an issue, nobody in the leadership took responsibility for it up the chain of command in Alberta, until it came to light.”
Charges dropped against First Nations Chief Allan Adam after violent arrest
Mr. Anandasangaree said there seems to be a sense in the RCMP that systemic racism affects hiring and training, but not interactions with the public.
“The greater urgency right now is whether the average Indigenous person feels safe in encountering the RCMP. And if not, why not?” he said.
The Conservatives said the government of Justin Trudeau has not done enough against systemic racism since coming to power in 2015.
“Clearly systemic racism in the RCMP is an ongoing issue that must be addressed,” Conservative MP Tim Uppal said. “I am disappointed that the Commissioner was not more clear about how this issue affects the force.”
NDP MP Charlie Angus said he was not reassured about whether Commissioner Lucki understands the urgency of addressing systemic racism within her force.
“It is not about changing the obstacle course for new recruits,” he said. “It is about dealing with very elevated levels of violence faced by Indigenous peoples at the hands of the RCMP and being able to explain that and explain how you’re going to demilitarize or de-escalate. I did not get that sense from her.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, whose organization represents 49 of Ontario’s First Nation communities, said Public Safety Minister Bill Blair needs to fire Commissioner Lucki, adding her comments to the Commons committee were “nonsense.”
“If she can’t identify systemic racism within the RCMP, then she can’t lead it,” he said, adding she has had ample time to learn about it, including after she spoke to the national public inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
He said that if Mr. Blair does not remove the Commissioner, it would amount to a signal that the concerns of the Indigenous community are not taken seriously.
“It would mean that the lives of the Indigenous people of this country are not valued.”
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said on Wednesday during a video news conference that he was disappointed by Commissioner Lucki’s comments to the committee. But he said it is not up to him to determine whether she should stay.
The National Chief is expected to meet with the Prime Minister in the coming days to discuss issues that include racism in Canada.
“We are going to have to work with whoever is there as the Commissioner of the RCMP to fix the system that’s broken,” he said. “Let’s start working together.”
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