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Members of the RCMP march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 6, 2018.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

A strong majority of Canadians believe the RCMP has a problem with systemic racism, but they are divided on whether they have confidence that the force can fix it, according to a new poll conducted by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail.

The poll, which asked Canadians about their views on systemic racism in the national police force, found that four in 10 Canadians, or 40 per cent, believe the RCMP has a problem and have confidence they can fix it.

Additionally, 35 per cent of Canadians believe the RCMP has a problem with systemic racism but do not have confidence they can fix it.

Another 14 per cent said the force does not have systemic racism, and 12 per cent were unsure.

The issue has been a matter of public scrutiny after recent police shootings that resulted in death, and an incident in which an Inuk man was hit with the door of an officer’s vehicle in Nunavut.

Last month, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki acknowledged the existence of systemic racism in her organization. She had previously questioned its application to the force in several interviews, including with The Globe and Mail. However, critics including some Indigenous leaders, have asked what the force is doing to address it.

Nanos Research says it conducted a hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,049 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between June 28 and July 2.

The firm says the sample included landlines and cellphones across Canada, and that the margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

It found residents of the Prairies more likely to say the RCMP does not have a problem with systemic racism, at 23 per cent, compared with people in Atlantic Canada at 11 per cent, Ontario at 12 per cent and Quebec at 9 per cent. Men were also more likely to say this, at 19 per cent, compared with 8 per cent of women.

The poll did not provide a specific definition of systemic racism.

Senator Murray Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Canada’s residential-school legacy, has said people frequently misunderstand the term and believe it means everyone in a system is racist. He said the term applies when a system itself is based or founded upon beliefs and philosophies that “force even the non-racists to act in a racist way.”

The Nanos poll also found Canadians were divided over the idea of “defunding the police” such as by reducing the budget of their local force and investing the money in other city services.

One in two Canadians, or 30 per cent, oppose or somewhat oppose (20 per cent) such action, while just under one in two support (21 per cent) or somewhat support this (25 per cent). Four per cent were unsure.

Residents of B.C., at 28-per-cent support, and Ontario, at 26-per-cent support, were more likely to support this than residents of Quebec, at 12 per cent.

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