Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland arrives for a news conference on Parliament Hill amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland arrives for a news conference on Parliament Hill amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Freeland says police must acknowledge racism, advocates call for action

Simply recognizing systemic racism exists is not sufficient for a federal minister anymore, advocates say

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says all federal agencies, including police, must understand that systemic racism is a problem, but advocates say they want more than the minister’s acknowledgment that there is a problem.

“It’s paying lip service,” said Dieulita Datus, the co-organizer of an anti-racism group in central Alberta.

“We are beyond simply understanding. We are beyond simply having conversations. What we need now is change — systematic change.”

Freeland’s comment came in response to media questions Wednesday about the commanding officer of the Alberta RCMP saying there is no systemic racism in Canadian policing.

“It is very important for all federal government institutions, including the police, to operate from an understanding that systemic racism is a problem for us here in Canada, to not be complacent about that, and we have to work together against it,” she said.

Freeland added that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair had spoken to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki about acknowledging racism.

“We know that a really big challenge for our government and for all of us is, first of all, of course, to acknowledge that this systemic racism exists and to take concrete action to work against it and, ultimately, to dismantle it,” Freeland said.

Later Wednesday, in an story published in The Globe and Mail, Lucki disputed that there’s systemic racism in the force and that the problem is unconscious bias of a minority of officers who fail to follow RCMP values.

“I really struggle with the term ‘systemic racism,’” Lucki was quoted as saying. “I think that if systemic racism is meaning that racism is entrenched in our policies and procedures, I would say that we don’t have systemic racism.”

On Monday, Alberta Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said Canada is different than the United States, in response to a question about the wave of protests around the world following the death of a George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis last month.

“I don’t believe that racism is systemic through Canadian policing. I don’t believe it’s systemic through policing in Alberta,” Zablocki told reporters in Edmonton.

But he did say that racism is “prevalent” in all aspects of society, including in police services.

READ MORE: History of systemic racism between RCMP and First Nations must be addressed: B.C. chief

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld weighed in Wednesday, saying that he had thought there was no systemic racism within his department until he talked to Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

“Two weeks ago, I might have told you, ‘No.’ And I thought that was the case,” Neufeld said.

“I think when we listened downtown, when we were hearing the community talk about situations they’ve experienced, it does make you stop and think.”

Datus, who co-founded Ubuntu — Mobilizing Central Alberta in Red Deer, Alta. with Sadia Khan, said Zablocki’s comment is naive and shows a lack of dialogue with communities of colour.

Khan, however, added that Freeland’s response also shows a lack insight about what demonstrators are asking for: real action on racism.

Simply recognizing systemic racism exists is not sufficient for a federal minister anymore, said El Jones, a community activist in Halifax.

“If (Freeland) wants to deal with racism, she could deal with migrant work conditions. If she wants to deal with racism, she could talk about federal prisons. She has the power to do all those things,” Jones said.

She added that many reports and inquiries could have been acted on prior to recent demonstrations. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called for policing reforms, including teaching officers about the “history of police in the oppression and genocide of Indigenous People.”

READ MORE: Canadian non-profit creates fund to streamline donations to Black-based charities

Jones said people are not going to the streets to see politicians take a knee or recognize issues that Black and Indigenous people have always experienced. They want a promise and action.

“What does it mean to acknowledge racism exists?” she asked.

“The only reason it means something is if you are then prepared to do something about it.”

— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg, with files from Bill Graveland in Calgary

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaPoliceracismRCMP

Just Posted

Craft Culture Events hosts its first of four summer markets at Prospera Place in Kelowna (Craft Culture Events/Contributed).
Kelowna’s Prospera Place summer market a success

Craft Culture Events hosts its first of four summer markets and vendors were ‘excited’ to be back

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

(Dave Ogilvie/Contributed)
UPDATE: West Kelowna fire crews rescue injured mountain biker

The injury took place at the top of Smith Creek Road

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Most Read