FILE – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh rises during a meeting of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Jagmeet Singh removed from Commons after calling BQ MP racist over blocked RCMP motion

Singh had asked the Commons to recognize there is systemic racism in the RCMP

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called a Bloc Quebecois MP racist Wednesday after a New Democrat motion on RCMP discrimination failed to receive unanimous consent from the House of Commons.

Singh refused to apologize for the words directed at Bloc member Alain Therrien. That prompted the Speaker to order Singh to leave the House for the rest of the day.

Singh had asked the Commons to recognize there is systemic racism in the RCMP and to call on the government to review the force’s budget, ensure the Mounties are truly accountable and do a full review of the RCMP’s use of force.

There was at least one objection that blocked the move, though it was unclear who said no.

Bloc MP Claude DeBellefeuille came to Therrien’s defence, saying the NDP was treating her colleague as “a racist person, which is unacceptable in the House of Commons.

The Speaker asked Singh to apologize but he refused.

“It’s true, I called him a racist, and I believe that’s so,” Singh said.

The parliamentary dustup followed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s acknowledgment Wednesday that existing systems have failed to adequately address concerns about police behaviour, including in the Mounties.

Asked about the fact it often takes years for the RCMP to act on recommendations from the force’s civilian watchdog, Trudeau said: “We are going to move much quicker on responding to these things, on making changes to our institutions, to really go after systemic discrimination.”

The Green party’s Elizabeth May wants a full inquiry into the RCMP, saying the national police force’s culture of unaccountability must be put under a microscope.

May, the party’s parliamentary leader, rhymed off a list of questions Wednesday morning about RCMP conduct, from deadly confrontations with Indigenous people to slow responses to formal recommendations.

READ MORE: Amid anti-racism protests, Trudeau promises to push police body cameras with premiers

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

But May told a media briefing the force acts as if it’s above the law in a way that goes beyond any one incident or report.

“The RCMP clearly sees itself as unaccountable,” she said. “One or two tweaking measures around the margins won’t make the difference.”

At his own briefing Wednesday, hours before the sitting in the Commons, Singh also urged more transparency and accountability from the RCMP and other forces.

In particular, Singh said there needs to be improved scrutiny of public complaints about incidents involving police.

“We found that throughout Canada this is an ongoing concern, that the investigations are not conducted in a way where people are left feeling satisfied that it was thorough and that it was independent.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Lillian Dyck called for RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to resign for failing to understand systemic racism.

Lucki recently stopped short of acknowledging there is entrenched racism in the RCMP, only to agree days later it does exist.

May suggested the RCMP’s problems cannot be remedied by a simple change at the top.

“I don’t want to pin it on any one person because I think it’s cultural.”

She said Lucki could take positive steps now by acting on recommendations from long-standing reports about the policing of Indigenous Peoples.

—With a report from Lee Berthiaume

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press


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