MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Yet more indication of the RCMP’s challenges with no easy or quick solutions:

It’s time for Canada to have a “reckoning” about the RCMP, says the chair of a House of Commons committee that studied systemic racism in policing.

John McKay, a Toronto Liberal MP and chair of the House public safety committee, said the Mounties are a globally known Canadian icon, but it’s time to acknowledge the RCMP’s “quasi-military” existence is not working for all Canadians.

“There is a season and a time for a reckoning for every country and its institutions,” McKay said at a news conference Thursday.

“This in my judgment is a time for Canada to have a reckoning with itself and with its premier institutions.”

The public safety committee began the study of systemic racism in policing in June 2020, after weeks of protests in Canada and the United States following the murder of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

Floyd’s death also turned a spotlight on racism and police in Canada. Jack Harris, the NDP public safety critic, moved a motion to study systemic racism in policing on June 23, 2020, and the committee agreed. The report was issued Thursday, based on 19 meetings, testimony from 53 witnesses and more than a dozen written briefs.

The report says MPs on the committee can conclude only that “systemic racism in policing in Canada is a real and pressing problem to be urgently addressed.”

But the MPs also admit that this report is just the latest in a long list of studies and reviews that concluded the same thing, none of which led to much change.

Harris said Thursday “it is more clear than ever before that the RCMP needs transformational change” but is worried because he says the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “has a history of failing to act on reports.”

“The time is now to take serious and concrete action. The RCMP needs to move away from the paramilitary colonial model to a police service model with strong civilian oversight.”

The committee also calls for mandatory data collection on excessive use of force, better training on de-escalation and responding to people in a mental health crisis, more diversity in police forces and oversight bodies, and better funding for Indigenous police forces, including in urban areas with large Indigenous populations.

The MPs also want better parameters for when force is permitted to be used by police, and “serious consequences” for RCMP officers who use force excessively.

The Conservatives, in a supplementary report, urged more work on that front, saying it is not clear from the witnesses whether the problem is in guidelines for use of force, or a lack of training and enforcement regarding those guidelines.

The committee has requested that the government provide a “comprehensive response” to the report.

Moya Teklu, executive director and general counsel at the Black Legal Action Centre in Toronto, said the “most promising” recommendations in the report are decriminalizing simple possession of drugs, offering pardons to people previously convicted of simple possession, and ensuring police discretion to offer alternatives to the courts be used equitably for Black and other racialized youths.

She is less enthusiastic about the impact of more training and oversight for the RCMP, saying there isn’t much evidence they’ll help.

“Demilitarization is an important step,” she said. “But only if it also means spending less money on policing.”

Teklu said the report’s findings are not new for Black and Indigenous communities.

“An acknowledgment of the existence and reality of systemic racism at different levels of government is important,” she said. “A reduction in the Black and Indigenous prison populations, and a reduction in the number of Black and Indigenous people that are stopped, questioned, surveilled, arrested, beaten and murdered by police is more important. That is the real change we want to see.”

Quebec Liberal MP Greg Fergus, who chairs the Parliamentary Black caucus and participated in the committee’s study, agreed the existence of systemic racism is not a revelation.

But he said the committee has done valuable work in listening and responding to multiple witnesses who were able to speak about the issue in depth.

“What’s also new is that there’s a road map now, because of this report, this unanimous report of parliamentarians from all walks of life,” he said. They have laid out a very clear process forward to make the changes, “not only in the RCMP but in police services across the country which can be inspired by this.”

“That’s what’s new. That’s what’s important. That’s what’s necessary.”

Source: MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Thirty years ago, he became the first Mountie to wear a turban. Here’s why he still worries about hate ‘in the shadows’

Good reminder of Canada coming to terms with a more open society and identities, even as the RCMP continues to face challenges in recruitment of women and visible minorities (Indigenous peoples are above their population share and labour market availability):

During a visit to Calgary in late 2019, Baltej Dhillon couldn’t resist paying a visit to Shoulder to Shoulder Militaria & Collectibles after his son-in-law told him what he’d spotted inside.

Behind a glass display case were a bunch of pins that had been produced three decades earlier, when Dhillon was caught up in a fierce national debate over whether the RCMP should allow Sikh officers — like him — to wear turbans on duty.

One pin showed an image of a turban-wearing Mountie with a cross through it and the label: “Keep the RCMP Canadian.”

Another pin showed a turban-wearing Mountie riding a camel. It was labelled: “Canada’s New Musical Ride.”

Stunned to see these “symbols of hate” still in circulation, Dhillon snatched up about $50 worth of the pins. When he went to pay for them, he says, he could sense a tinge of embarrassment from the store’s merchant.

“I am grateful to live in a country where expression is part of our freedom,” he told the Star.

“Propagating hate, however, is not.”

This month marks the 30th anniversary of when Dhillon graduated from the RCMP training academy and made history as the first Mountie to be permitted to wear a turban while on the job. Through a 2021 lens, some will find it jarring to think that such a simple thing could be a source of controversy, but the uniform policy change sparked heated discussion over the meaning of Canadian identity, as well as petitions and court challenges seeking to preserve traditional elements of the Mounties’ garb, such as the Stetson hat.

While Dhillon, of Surrey, B.C., says there’s no question attitudes have evolved over the past three decades, there remains much that has not. The Star discovered as much, recently, when it spoke to some of the people who fought against his right to wear the turban while in uniform three decades ago.

For his part, Dhillon said the continued circulation of the pins, the relatively recent debate over whether people should be allowed to wear face coverings during citizenship ceremonies and Quebec’s ban on government workers wearing religious symbols all show there’s still a lot of work to be done in “finding kindness and compassion in how we interact with each other.”

“We need to continue to be vigilant because that hatred is just in the shadows.”

In 1988, Dhillon was in his early 20s and figuring out what he wanted to do with his life.

His part-time work as an RCMP jail guard led him to apply to become a Mountie. He passed the initial application process but didn’t proceed further because he wasn’t willing to conform with the RCMP’s uniform policy, which required him to remove his turban, something he’d been wearing since he was 12.

“I’m not able to do that and cannot do that because of my commitment to my way of life and my articles of faith,” he says he told his recruiter.

Having been born and raised in Malaysia, where it was commonplace to see Sikh officers in law enforcement and armed forces, Dhillon says he had no inkling of the “great national debate” about to unfold.

In spring 1989, then-RCMP commissioner Norm Inkster recommended to the federal government a change in dress regulations to allow Mounties to wear turbans as part of their uniforms.

It sparked an outcry.

Three Calgary sisters from an RCMP family — Kay Mansbridge, Dot Miles and Gen Kantelberg — launched a petition calling for the preservation of the “distinctive heritage and tradition of the RCMP.”

“I don’t think we can give up our heritage just to pacify one religious group,” Mansbridge told the Calgary Herald at the time, adding that “chaos” would result when other minority groups demanded the right to wear their cultural garb.

The sisters insisted their petition — which gathered more than 200,000 signatures — was not fuelled by racism.

“I have friends who are East Indian,” Mansbridge told the Ottawa Citizen. “I even looked after their children.”

Meanwhile, some business owners saw potential to make money out of the controversy.

Herman Bittner of Langdon, Alta., produced a calendar containing a portrait of himself wearing a red serge, a turban and dark makeup on his face. He is identified as “Sgt. Kamell Dung” alongside the caption: “Is this Canadian, or does this make you Sikh?”

“I’m doing a job the politicians should be doing — they’re supposed to be representing the views of the majority,” he told The Canadian Press.

Two Calgary business owners — Bill Hipson and Peter Kouda — reportedly started mass producing pins that also mocked turban-wearing Mounties.

One of Kouda’s pins ended up in the collection of the Galt Museum & Archives in Lethbridge. According to the museum’s website, it depicts a Caucasian man surrounded by three visible minorities with the caption: “Who is the minority in Canada?”

As the controversy grew and respectful debate turned hateful, Dhillon said he could no longer remain the “quiet candidate.”

“I quickly realized there was a lot of ignorance and a lot of misinformation around the Sikh faith, the Sikh way of life, and there weren’t many spokespersons within the community that were able to speak to the issue from my perspective. So I took it upon myself to make myself available at that time.”

The debate found its way into the halls of Parliament in Ottawa.

“The RCMP cannot be frozen in time,” NDP MP Jim Karpoff told the House of Commons at the time. “Canada is an evolving multi-ethnic community and the RCMP should fully represent this.”

As part of the same debate, Louise Feltham, a Progressive Conservative MP from Alberta, asked: “If you make an exception for one group of people, where do you stop?”

“Today’s uniform depicts neutrality, impartiality, tradition, history and heritage. ”

But in March 1990, the government under Brian Mulroney announced it was moving forward with the dress code changes and an application form was created for Sikh officers wishing to be exempted from the standard headdress.

Dhillon graduated from the RCMP training academy in May 1991 and began working at the RCMP detachment in Quesnel, B.C.

Community reception at the time was mixed. When he walked into some bars to do sobriety checks, he was greeted as a hero. In others, he was greeted with boos.

“I would take it in stride,” he said. “I would take a bow, wave at them and make my way out. What more can you do?”

Dhillon says his staff sergeant greeted him icily on his first day on the job but when he retired a couple of years later, “He looks at me and says, ‘You’re like a son to me.’”

Meanwhile, a group of retired Mounties from Lethbridge — John Grant, Kenneth Riley and Howard Davis — along with Kay Mansbridge, filed a lawsuit seeking an order prohibiting the RCMP from allowing the wearing of religious symbols and a declaration that the commissioner’s actions were unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs, according to court records, asserted that when a religious symbol is allowed to be part of the RCMP uniform, the appearance of impartiality is undermined.

Outside the courtroom, the plaintiffs used far looser language.

“When they come over here why do they have to change it and make it the same way it is in their homeland?” Grant, one of the plaintiffs told Southam News. “Anybody that looks at it any differently in my opinion should get the hell out of Canada because they’re not good Canadians.”

The defendants argued the change in uniform policy was designed to remove a barrier to the employment of Sikhs in the RCMP and to reflect the multicultural nature of Canada.

In 1994, the Federal Court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding there was no evidence anyone had been deprived of their liberty or security by RCMP members wearing turbans, or had experienced a reasonable apprehension of bias.

The decision was upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal. The plaintiffs took the case to Canada’s highest court, which declined to hear it.

Laura Morlock, a lecturer at Ryerson University, spoke extensively with Dhillon for her PhD dissertation on religious diversity and dress at the University of Waterloo.

It’s interesting that when Dhillon started his RCMP career, he was accused of “threatening Canadian identity,” Morlock said. Now, when you do a Google image search of “Canadian multiculturalism,” Dhillon is among the results.

“Dhillon went from being an icon of threat to Canadian identity to becoming an icon of Canadian identity. ”

After taking part in high-profile investigations such as the Air India bombing and the serial killings of Robert Pickton and developing expertise as a polygraph examiner and interviewer, Dhillon retired from the force in 2019 and took on a new role as a staff sergeant with B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, overseeing a program that aims to reduce gun violence.

Prior to his departure, the RCMP relaxed some of its uniform and dress policies, allowing members to wear their hair in a bun, ponytail or braid, to grow out their beards and to display tattoos. They also removed the requirement that members have to seek exemptions to wear faith-based headdresses, including turbans and hijabs, a move welcomed by Dhillon.

“When you give someone an exemption, in essence what you’re saying is you’re not exactly the same as everybody else,” he said.

Another thing he has been heartened by is the number of people who come up to him during his public-speaking engagements who say they were once opposed to the uniform accommodation but have since changed their minds.

“That’s the hope — that there’s opportunity for people to grow,” he said.

Dhillon says he believes there are now a few dozen RCMP members who wear turbans across the country.

Many of the people who led the campaign opposing the RCMP’s uniform change have since passed away. The Star did, however, reach some of their surviving family members.

Mansbridge’s son, John, said the “sentiments of 30 years ago don’t necessarily match with some of the thoughts of today.”

“Some of the points that were being made back then may still be relevant, but they’re drowned out by louder voices. I don’t think any of us want to be part of that, quite frankly.”

“The courts spoke,” he added, “and I think that’s probably the end of the issue for all of us.”

Riley’s daughter, Diana, said she still feels “proud” of her father for taking a stand for something he believed in.

“The only thing I myself remember and still to this day feel very proud of is that Dad believed in something and he believed in it strong enough to take the government to court,” she said.

Her father and the others weren’t opposed to having a diverse force, she said.

“Inclusivity wasn’t the problem. It was flashing the superior garb.”

Hipson, one of the makers of the offensive pins, said he had no regrets about his actions, calling it a “fun time” and an exercise in free speech.

“That was a big highlight for me. I was doing quite well with the pins. When this controversy came, it just opened up another one. I kind of enjoyed it.”

Hipson chuckled as he recalled some of his pin designs.

“Most people were laughing at it. I guess some people took it serious.”

Asked if his position on Mounties wearing turbans had changed in 30 years, he said it hadn’t.

“I still don’t think they should get preferential treatment.”

Reid Moseley, owner of the Calgary collectibles store that Dhillon visited, said he was proud of his collection of “politically incorrect” pins.

“My business is a collectors’ paradise, so I have been told by many of my customers. It represents the true history of our country, through the exhibit and sale of physical reminders of where our country came from.”

It is “sad” that such ignorance persists, Dhillon said when informed of the comments.

“To veil the hateful pins with the thought that they somehow represent the true history of our country is irresponsible,” he said.

“They were symbols of hate in 1990 and they remain that today.”

And to suggest that the debate over the right to wear turbans in the RCMP was a “fun time” is demeaning.

Such sentiment, he said, belongs to someone who hasn’t grasped what it means to be Canadian.

Source: Thirty years ago, he became the first Mountie to wear a turban. Here’s why he still worries about hate ‘in the shadows’

RCMP looks to redraft its entrance exam as it pushes for a more diverse police service

Of note. An appropriate review to assess the validity of criteria and the impact on recruitment. My earlier tweet generated some negative commentary from former RCMP members:

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is looking to scrub its entrance exam of cultural biases and “outdated criteria” as it tries to confront what’s been called its “toxic culture” and the problem of systemic racism in the ranks.

The RCMP posted a tender this week looking for a contractor to provide pre-screening exams for applicants. It’s part of the RCMP’s modernization plan, known as Vision 150, which also includes changes to the criteria for becoming an RCMP officer.

“A thorough review of these processes has determined that despite significant changes made to the processes and tools over the past decade, systemic challenges remain,” says the tender.

“Most notably, a gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) review of the current RCMP exams concluded that even when prospective applicants possess both the interest and qualifications, there is evidence that the exams themselves may create barriers to a diverse applicant pool. Outdated criteria, lacking strong supporting evidence, may result in high-potential candidates being unable, or unwilling, to apply.”

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has been signalling that changes are coming to the recruitment process. She told a House of Commons committee late last year that the force needs to better reflect the communities it serves.

“We’re looking at our organization as a whole, and we’re looking at those systems and those processes, those policies and procedures that will eliminate systemic racism,” she said in November.

“We are going to be testing for those types of behaviours that could negatively impact their interactions.”

RCMP faces a decline in applicants

The move to redraft the exam comes as the RCMP struggles with a staffing crunch — particularly when it comes to attracting candidates of colour.

As of April 1, 2020 (the most recent period for which statistics are available), just under 12 per cent of the RCMP’s 20,000 rank-and-file members identified as visible minority, according to figures posted online late last week. That figure hasn’t changed dramatically over the past few years and remained lower than the general rate in the workforce nationwide.

Source: RCMP looks to redraft its entrance exam as it pushes for a more diverse police service

‘Glaring gap’ in addressing anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism in RCMP’s new ‘cultural humility’ course, experts say

While I respect all of the experts cited, and find some needed suggestions for improvements, most of these experts have an understandable activist orientation and the Star could have made more of an effort to broaden the range of experts consulted. Their critique of the overall “fluffiness” is, of course, valid but this is typical of so many government documents….:

A mandatory online training course called “Cultural Awareness and Humility” that was rolled out last fall for all RCMP members and touted by the commissioner as an example of the force’s efforts to modernize misses the mark on many levels, according to experts who have reviewed the program for the Star.

One glaring gap, they say, is the lack of content addressing institutionalized racism, particularly anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism. Instead, the training emphasizes only implicit biases and reforming individual attitudes and behaviours.

Some noted that a section on the RCMP’s role in colonization was given short shrift — just three paragraphs.

One expert said a section dealing with how to avoid stereotyping in communications was so simplified it reminded her of course materials her nine-year-old daughter gets in school. Other sections, the experts said, contained outdated or confusing terminology.

“This does not increase accountability. A participant is simply given a certificate without needing to demonstrate any real change,” said Kanika Samuels-Wortley, a professor at Carleton University’s Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“We’ve got to ask, with all the calls for police reform and concerns over negative encounters with the police, can sitting in front of a computer, that involves no human interaction, produce change?”

In a statement to the Star, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said she was disappointed to hear the criticism, noting that the course is just one component of the force’s cultural learning strategy and was “not designed to single-handedly address systemic issues in the organization.”

“We consulted widely during the development of this training. I strongly believe that anything we can do to increase cultural awareness, sensitivity and humility is a benefit to the organization, and to the communities we serve.”

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval added that a separate training course dealing with systemic racism, anti-racism and discrimination is in development “to address employees’ competency gaps in their ability to appropriately interact with racialized colleagues and the diverse communities the RCMP serves.”

“It will build the foundation for a common understanding of terminology, historical impacts, as well as disparities and inequities resulting from racism. Finally, it will introduce meaningful best practices for supporting people who have suffered as a result of racism. This includes being empathetic, recognizing the importance of learning about the needs of others and creating a culture of allyship.” 

Canada’s national police force has been under intense scrutiny over its internal culture and its policing of Indigenous Peoples and Black Canadians. Last year, Lucki drew criticism and calls for her resignation after saying in an interview that she struggled over the definition of systemic racism and its existence in her police force only to change course days later, acknowledging that “systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included.”

The commissioner later told the Star she had listened and learned and that she had a plan to change the RCMP’s culture.

As part of that plan, she touted the cultural humility course.

How the program was made

The RCMP said the course was developed over a period of several months after consulting internally with its vulnerable-persons unit and gender-based violence working group and externally with an advisory council of elders and federal departments.

The Star paid $50 to access the training on an online repository for law-enforcement courses.

Its stated objectives include getting people to recognize how their personal beliefs and attitudes affect their daily interactions and perceptions; to respect differences in social and cultural norms in society; and to find ways to work with people from diverse backgrounds. Being open-minded and non-judgmental is a consistent theme.

The training, which consists of six modules and takes two to three hours to complete, is mostly text-based and laden with terminology, such as prejudice, bias, classism, ethnic stereotyping, microaggressions and intergenerational trauma, and their definitions.

The training includes interactive components, such as video clips of a residential school survivor and her grandson and a section in which officers are asked how they would respond to scenarios in which co-workers displayed racist or discriminatory behaviour.

Who assessed the course for the Star

To analyze the RCMP program, the Star turned to several people with backgrounds in issues of race, identity and criminal justice.

They were:

  • Kanika Samuels-Wortley, a professor at Carleton University’s Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice;
  • Carl Everton James, a York University professor of education and that school’s senior adviser on equity and representation;
  • Mylene Jaccoud, a criminology professor at the University of Montreal, specializing in restorative justice and criminalization of Indigenous people; and
  • Shiri Pasternak, a criminology professor at Ryerson University specializing in settler colonialism.

What they saw

Right from the beginning, the program hits a flawed note, said Pasternak, pointing to a line in the preamble that states: “Systemic racism is a term that is now being commonly used and it is a reflection of a society’s failure to prioritize everyone’s needs.”

“No, systemic racism is about structures of oppression, it’s not a failure of society,” Pasternak said. (Later in the training, a page does define systemic racism as “the policies and practices of organizations, which directly or indirectly operate to sustain the advantages of certain ‘social races.’”)

The preamble goes on to say: “The RCMP has always worked to create safe communities. We have always worked to protect people’s Charterrights. Now we are being asked to recognize that not every member of Canadian society feels supported.”

Pasternak called that language harmful gaslighting, noting the RCMP’s role in forcibly removing children from their homes to attend residential schools and documented failures related to investigations into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The first module of the training emphasizes the importance of respecting diversity, embracing a range of cultures and avoiding making assumptions based on first impressions.

Samuels-Wortley said this section bombards the participant with uncommon terminology. For instance, a chart outlines different responses to diversity, from “acceptance of diversity” to a “rejection of diversity.”

“It would have been simpler to just say ‘racism,’” she said.

“It is as though the training material goes out of the way to be gentle and not use terminology that could offend.”

Far too simple

In a module devoted to communication, participants are told to be aware of stereotyping in their language.

For instance, participants are told: “Don’t use words, images, and situations suggesting members of a racial group are the same: e.g. ‘Don’t expect Jo to be on time. Everyone from that culture is always late.’”

The training also urges avoidance of racial identifiers. “‘Ms. Woo, an attentive client,’ is preferable to, ‘Ms. Woo, an attentive Asian Canadian client.’ ”

Participants are told they are “not expected to know everything about all different cultures and groups of people.”

“Cultural humility sets an expectation to learn as much as you can, particularly about key groups of people you typically work with. When you don’t know, ask. It is important to be observant, respectful, and adapt your own behaviours where reasonable and possible.”

This entire section, Samuels-Wortley said, is very general and “does little to address the complexities of communication with peoples from different racial groups.”

Pasternak agreed.

“My daughter is nine years old and just did a similar unit in her class,” she said. “The module reviews in general are pitched extremely low, not pedagogically designed — from what I can tell — for any particular critical thinking.”

Significant Indigenous issues left unaddressed

One page in the course summarizes Canadian laws and RCMP policies dealing with culture and diversity, such as the Canadian Human Rights Act and the RCMP’s bias-free policing policy.

But Pasternak wrote in an email the page would have benefited by having a primer on Aboriginal jurisprudence.

“One of the problems when police enforce, e.g. injunctions, is that they seem to have no knowledge or understanding about Aboriginal rights. They see land defenders as lawless agitators, but have no context for the legal rights Indigenous people hold,” she said.

One of the six modules is devoted to “cultural awareness in Indigenous communities.”

It describes the uniqueness of Indigenous languages and their contributions to the “rich linguistic mosaic of Canada,” as well as the importance of Indigenous art, culture and heritage.

“Taking in the rich history of Indigenous art is a great way to celebrate the multi-layered cultural tapestry of the many diverse communities of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis,” participants are told.

It is within this section that the RCMP’s role in colonization is summarized in three paragraphs. Participants are told this may be a contributing factor to the “fear that some communities may have toward police.”

A page on the vulnerability of Indigenous women and girls is also summed up in three paragraphs. Participants are provided a link to an “essential” source of reading material: the final report of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

For such important and necessary topics, Samuels-Wortley said, the coverage is “embarrassing.”

Pasternak agreed, saying parts of this section contained “the most generalized pablum.”

“What on earth is the point of this page?” she asked, referring to the page on arts, culture and heritage. “To say native art is good?”

The page on the RCMP’s role in colonization frames the harm and violence only in the past, “when it goes right up until the current moment,” she added.

‘Constructing the other’

Given that we live in an ethnoculturally diverse nation, participants are told there will be times when officers encounter language barriers. Data is cited showing the number of people in Canada who report being an immigrant or permanent resident has climbed to 22 per cent and could reach 30 per cent by 2036.

James said he was troubled that the discussion around diversity seemed to be framed only in terms of immigrant cultural backgrounds.

“What about the people who have been here two or three generations?” he asked.

“We have to move away from constructing the other.”

He also homed in on a page that broke down definitions for the terms “ethnic group,” “ethnic minority” and “ethnic stereotyping.”

“Ethnic minority” is defined in the course as a group within a community that has different national or cultural traditions from the main population.

James said he would revise this. Look at South Africa, he said. The majority were Black but they were the minority because they were not part of the political power structure.

Calling out racism

The final module of the training consists of a variety of everyday scenarios in which a co-worker demonstrates problematic behaviour. Participants are asked how they would respond.

In one scenario, a colleague is overheard speaking on the phone with a citizen who smells smoke in the neighbourhood and is concerned it’s marijuana.

“You and your colleague know that the community centre hosts traditional blessing ceremonies/purification rites known as smudging that are performed by some Indigenous groups and are the real cause of the smoke and the smell that is being reported. As you listen to your colleague on the phone, he explains to the citizen, ‘Yes, they are burning sage. You know, it’s that stuff you put in spaghetti sauce. But, they are using it for smudging.’”

Participants are advised that should they face such a scenario, they should tell their co-worker he has “minimized the importance of the ceremony.”

“You can provide him with information about the significance of smudging and that in many First Nations or Métis communities, this ceremony can be tied to healing, cleansing and blessing.”

But Samuels-Wortley questions how likely it is that officers will confront fellow officers like this, noting it has been established there is a “culture of silence” within policing wherein officers do not feel protected, if they raise concerns.


The training program has “good intent,” but likely “few impacts,” said Jaccoud.

She said the training reminded her of cultural awareness training programs used in the 1980s to try to address overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the corrections system.

“You will never resolve structural problems with cultural programs,” she said.

Pasternak agreed it is not enough to treat this as a cultural competency issue.

“My overall take is that there isn’t any possibility that this course could make any positive difference in the policing of Indigenous people,” she said.

What is the ultimate objective of this training, Samuels-Wortley asked. 

“If it is to address concerns over police use of force, discretionary police arrests, to increase trust in the police among members of Black, Indigenous or racialized communities, this training does little to address any of these issues.”

The experts said the training program’s focus on individual ideas, attitudes and behaviours and raising self-awareness ignores how an institution’s culture can influence individuals within that institution.

“What about the institution of the RCMP — the structure on which it’s built and how much that structure probably also needs to go through the necessary changes in order to understand and incorporate the diversity of the people to be served?” asked James.

“That needs to be unpacked.”

James says there is merit to the training, but he’s curious what is done after the training is over to reinforce what was learned.

“I think there’s some worth to it, it provides information. But what do you do beyond this? What additional engagement do they have? What conversations do they have?” he said.

Duval, the RCMP spokesperson, said the force believes its cultural humility course is an important part of “advancing reconciliation and issues of systemic racism.”

Besides developing a separate anti-racism course, she said, the force is also preparing a timeline that outlines the historical relationship between the force and Indigenous people, training for front-line officers in restorative justice as a way to eliminate the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in custody, and courses focusing on “newcomers, immigrants and refugees.”


RCMP Quietly Releases Race-Based Data Showing Number Of Black Employees

Now that this data is available, good to see it becoming requested. One suggestion for requesters, whether parliamentarians, journalists, academics or others: ask for data for all visible minority groups in order to have needed context for each visible minority group, as knowing whether Black public servants are over or under-represented compared to not visible minority can either overstate or understate representation issues:

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) quietly released employment statistics showing 1.5 per cent of regular members in officer roles identify themselves as Black.

The data was disclosed in a document tabled in the House of Commons last week in response to a written question submitted by NDP MP Jack Harris in October.

Harris sits on the House’s public safety committee currently studying systemic racism in policing in Canada. In an order paper question, he asked the RCMP to provide demographic details about employees and asked for statistics about staff who self-identify as Indigenous, Black or “another visible minority.”

According to the document, of the permanent, regular RCMP members, 1.6 per cent described themselves as being of “mixed origin” as of Oct. 27, 2020. Slightly more employees who self-identified as Black hold non-police officer roles.

There are two categories of non-officer roles: civilian members and public service employees. Though both are considered public service workers, the distinction between them is determined by the conditions of their employment.

Civilian members, such as psychologists and 9-1-1 dispatchers, are hired under the RCMP Act, while public service workers are hired under the Public Service Employment Act.

Approximately 19,000 police officers are employed by the RCMP, according to the national police force. As of last year, just over 3,400 people were employed as civilian employees and nearly 7,700 people as public service employees.

Among public service employees, slightly more people (1.8 per cent) identified themselves as Black. One per cent of respondents self-described as “mixed origin.”

Among civilian members, the number is lower. Less than one per cent (0.9 per cent) of civilian members self-identified as Black, and 1.2 per cent as “mixed origin.”

The disaggregated data gives new insight into the RCMP’s demographics.

Source: RCMP Quietly Releases Race-Based Data Showing Number Of Black Employees

RCMP’s diversity hiring remains stagnant, new figures show

Ongoing challenge:

The head of the RCMP has promised to “double down” on efforts to boost diversity among its officers — but newly available statistics show those efforts haven’t borne fruit over the past decade.

The recently released diversity statistics come as the national police force grapples with a fierce debate over systemic racism in the ranks and claims that it policies racialized Canadians differently.

As of April 1, 2020, just under 12 per cent of the RCMP’s 20,000 rank-and-file members identify as visible minority, according to figures posted online late last week. That figure hasn’t changed dramatically over the past few years and remained lower than the general rate in the workforcenationwide.

Source: RCMP’s diversity hiring remains stagnant, new figures show

The RCMP’s atrocious response to racism in Alberta

Good commentary by Gary Mason:

A couple weeks ago, a group marching under the banner of the Black and Indigenous Alliance Alberta organized a demonstration in Ponoka, Alta. But it didn’t go so well: People drove by and called the protesters names, accusing them of belonging to “antifa.” Some reportedly told them to go back to where they came from. And then, the group alleges that a truck intentionally swerved into them, striking a protester. He was taken to hospital with an injury to his eye and later released.

When they reported the alleged hit-and-run, an RCMP spokesperson said that police didn’t have the video footage needed to investigate.

A few days later, on Sept. 14, alliance members, including the man who was allegedly struck by the truck, held a news conference at the RCMP detachment to alert media to what happened. As they tried to begin, a small group of counterprotesters began shouting the alliance members down. One of the men brought a megaphone to drown out anything the group was saying to reporters. They also hurled vicious epithets at the alliance members who were there.

It was an ugly scene. But it got uglier.

Rachelle Elsiufi, a reporter with CityNews Edmonton, asked the head of the Ponoka detachment, Sergeant Chris Smiley, why nothing was done to deter those who arrived to disrupt the news conference. “Are you suggesting one side’s voice is more important than the others? Because it’s not,” he replied.“So we let everybody say what they need to say as peacefully as they can and that’s how this country works.” According to Ms. Elsiufi, two men “with connections to hate groups in Alberta” were standing beside her, and “celebrated” the officer’s response.

But as disconcerting as that moment was, things would get even worse.

The following weekend, the alliance decided to hold a demonstration in a park in Red Deer, Alta. Soon after they arrived to begin their rally, so did a convoy of trucks carrying a group of men that appeared to be looking for trouble. Again, many were identified by reporters as wearing the symbols of hate groups such as the Soldiers of Odin.

It didn’t take long for things to turn violent. The men walked up to the alliance demonstrators, many of whom were people of colour, and screamed into their faces, telling them to go home. Video from the scene shows a couple of clear assaults on alliance demonstrators, one of whom was punched in the face. Footage later shows three RCMP officers standing off to the side monitoring the situation.

Initially, the RCMP said there would be no investigation into what happened at the park. When video from the scene went viral on social media, the RCMP changed its tune, saying it would open a criminal investigation into two alleged assaults. The police defended their initial decision, saying the violence happened before their officers had arrived.

It sure looks like the RCMP has a problem here. The fact that people with racist ties can disrupt a peaceful news conference and be defended by police is outrageous. No one’s voice is more important than another’s? Are you kidding me? When one of those voices is that of a bigot and white supremacist, it is not as important as someone peacefully advocating against racism.

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, who is Black, seemed genuinely upset by what happened in Red Deer. But I don’t think it’s enough to simply say it’s “unacceptable” and that it should never happen. He needs to have a conversation with senior officials in the RCMP about the type of people it has representing the force in the province and whether or not they are part of the problem here.

It sure sounds like they are.

It shouldn’t take long for the RCMP to lay criminal charges in the Red Deer incident. The people responsible for the assaults are clearly visible in the footage. But beyond that, the RCMP has to do a far better job of ensuring the safety of people who are demonstrating for a cause that police know will upset some who will then come looking for trouble.

The idea of a convoy of trucks arriving and disgorging a group of angry white men with menace in their eyes brings back terrifying images of the American South in the 1950s.

I realize police have a difficult job. But trust in the RCMP is undermined when some among them exhibit behaviour that makes us question whose side they’re on.

PM’s ‘Tiger Team’ meant to address diversity, inclusion in Canada’s national intelligence and security community hasn’t met since 2018

Of note. Yet another initiative without apparent follow-up.

Although somewhat dated, this overall picture is unlikely to have changed significantly (in process of requesting updated reports for the CF (non-civilian), RCMP (non-civilian), CSIS and CSE as not covered in the TBS report):

The federal government still has “much work to be done” on addressing diversity and inclusion issues within its intelligence and security apparatus, according to a recent parliamentary committee report, with one leading intelligence expert suggesting more senior leadership within the Privy Council Office with “power and clout” is needed to oversee the problem—and questioning why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s launch of the “Tiger Team” in 2017 meant to address diversity and inclusion issues hasn’t met since July 2018.

In their lengthy 2019 annual report, which was tabled in Parliament only a few days before the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown began in March, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, composed of 11 MPs and Senators and chaired by Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Ont.), focused considerable attention on the issue of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community.

The review was conducted for several reasons, according to the report, most importantly because “challenges to increasing diversity and inclusion persist in the security and intelligence community even after decades of legislation, multiple reports and repeated calls for change.”

“These issues are particularly important for organizations responsible for protecting the national security of Canada and the rights and freedoms of Canadians.”

The report also notes that the “Tiger Team” established in 2017, created “with the stated aim of ‘exploring, advancing and implementing joint efforts to learn from one another and share best practices to enhance diversity and inclusion within and across [their] organizations through a variety of activities and initiatives,’” has not met since July 2018.

In January 2017, The leaders of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Border Services Agency, CSIS, Canadian Security Establishment, Department of National Defense and the RCMP established the Tiger Team.

National security expert Wesley Wark, a professor at the University of Ottawa, told The Hill Times that the initiative to create a Tiger Team was a product of a push by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) in late 2016, and ultimately resulted from a meeting Mr. Trudeau requested with the heads of agencies in the security and intelligence community as well as with the Privy Council Office.

“Sadly, the tigers seem ultimately to have gone to sleep,” according to Prof. Wark’s April 2020 working paper addressing the NSICOP’s findings. “It is time, perhaps, for the prime minister to crack the whip again.”

“This kind of Tiger Team concept moved into the lane of deliverology, in the sense that it was overseen by the deputy secretary to the cabinet, but I’m not sure that was the original idea—that’s just where it ended up in terms of maintaining some momentum and producing reports for a period of time,” according to Prof. Wark.

When it comes to the specifics of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community, it was “probably a mistake to move it into that lane or allow it to be moved into that lane,” said Prof. Wark.

“If an initiative of this kind was going to be sustained and picked up by all the different elements of the security and intelligence community, it needed to be overseen by senior leadership in the PCO [outside] of the deliverology mechanism,” said Prof. Wark. “In other words, it should have been taken up as a priority by the national and security and intelligence advisor, and it’s that senior officer in PCO who would have the power and clout to really make sure that something significant happened in this way.”

“I don’t understand why the national security and intelligence adviser himself did not take this up, and the committee of parliamentarians notes that although it doesn’t attach any explicit criticism to this, the whole Tiger Team effort obviously just faded away all together after a period of time,” said Prof. Wark.

The deputy secretary to the cabinet resides within the PCO, underneath the Clerk, and the national security and intelligence advisor is a very senior deputy minister position that ranks almost as an equivalent position to the clerk of the Privy Council, according to Prof. Wark.

According to PCO spokesperson Pierre-Alain Bujold, the work of the Tiger Team is ongoing, and currently chaired by the Department of National Defense (DND).

“The Government of Canada appreciates the work undertaken by [NSICOP],” according to Mr. Bujold, [and] sees diversity and inclusion as an important means to making its national security and intelligence community even more effective in protecting Canadians,” according to Mr. Bujold in an emailed statement to The Hill Times.

“We have been working for a number of years to improve diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community. This is critical, not just in terms of better representing Canadian communities, but in making security and intelligence agencies more effective at doing their job.”

‘Diversity is particularly important inside security and intelligence organizations’

Mr. McGuinty, the committee’s chair, was not available for an interview, but in an emailed statement to The Hill Times, the executive director of the committee, Rennie Marcoux, wrote that although the report did not make any findings or recommendations as to the national security and intelligence adviser’s role within the Tiger Team, the committee recognizes the merit of the community approach to address diversity and inclusion issues—and that its recommendations reinforce the value of the coordinated effort.

“The security and intelligence community is best placed to determine which individual or office is best suited to lead or direct this work,” according to Ms. Marcoux.

In its conclusions, the report notes that “building diverse and inclusive workforces is essential to the effectiveness of the security and intelligence community.”

When asked to expand, Ms. Marcoux noted that in addition to the “well-documented” benefits of a diverse workplace and inclusive workforce across a large body of research, as well as the committee’s belief that Canada’s public service should reflect the population it serves, “a more diverse workforce ensures that organizations are benefitting from the broad range of perspectives and talent that Canada has to offer.”

“Finally, the committee notes that diversity is particularly important inside security and intelligence organizations because it allows them to leverage language skills, community contacts and cultural competencies, and protects against groupthink mindsets that permeate more homogeneous organizations,” according to Ms. Marcoux.

Tim McSorley, national coordinator with the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, told The Hill Times that “there needs to be a level of accountability and transparency in terms of what the words on paper mean.”

“I think a big question is that we see, year-after-year, whether it’s three-year plans or five-year plans or in line with Treasury Board recommendations, it seems like there’s a plan and then the next plan seems to repeat very similar issues around the importance of lowering barriers [around] increasing diversity and inclusion within these organizations,” said Mr. McSorley. “While it does seem that the numbers have gotten slightly better over the last 10 or 11 years, it doesn’t seem like anything new is coming out, it seems that it remains the same question each time a new plan is put together.”

“So what are they doing on the ground to actually change and to increase diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community,” said Mr. McSorley. “Who is accountable if they don’t meet those goals, and what kind of consequences are there?”

When asked about the Tiger Team, Mr. McSorley said that looking at some of the critiques within the report, the fact that it was concentrated solely of members from HR departments was part of the problem.

According to the report, the committee noted several shortcomings with this initiative, including the lack of specific objectives for diversity and inclusion as well as the development of a performance measurement framework to assess the success of its initiatives.

“The representatives from each organization were all from human resources departments and organizations did not seek out members of employment equity groups for membership or participation on the Tiger Team,” according to the report. “[Throughout] its discussions, the Tiger Team focused on short-term initiatives without considering systemic challenges raised in various organization-specific studies or class-action lawsuits (the CAF and the RCMP), such as workplace culture and discrimination.”

‘Things won’t change on their own’

The Abella Commission, which led to the creation of the Employment Equity Act, unfolded in 1984, said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the equality program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“The first Employment Equity Act was in 1986. The current [act] is 25 years old, and that act calls for serious accountability measures, serious long-term and short-term goal setting, serious monitoring and reviews for organization accountability,” said Ms. Aviv.

“So we always need to be optimistic and hopeful and try to move things forward, but we’ve also been working on these issues for a very long time,” said Ms. Aviv. “There are clear obligations there, obligations that, according to this report, have simply not been met.”

Ms. Aviv said she believes that there is a notion that things are getting better, they get better on their own, and that patience is required to change organizational culture.

“But if you actually look at the trajectory and the amount of time that’s passed, and the amount of harm that’s been done to people in these organizations, and the ill-effect it’s having on the effectiveness of the organizations themselves, then you understand that things won’t change on their own,” said Ms. Aviv.

According to RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin, the RCMP has implemented a number of initiatives to increase the ratio of women, visible minorities, and Indigenous people within their ranks, with objectives to include 30 per cent women, 20 per cent of people from visible minority groups, and 10 per cent Indigenous people.

“We intend to reach these goals through a targeted approach to recruiting, using advertising and marketing to position the RCMP as the employer of choice to people who may not have considered a career in policing,” according to Ms. Fortin. “The RCMP is committed to inclusiveness and diversity of all types within the organization. We believe that the more diverse we are when it comes to gender, ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation, the better we are able to serve all Canadians.”

According to DND spokesperson Major T.A. Smyth, “DND and the CAF place unprecedented emphasis on ensuring diversity and gender equality in military human resource management as part of efforts to strengthen the operational force and to position DND and the CAF as inclusive organizations. Diversity is viewed as a source of strength and flexibility to build the capacity of the CAF and the civilian workforce.”

“DND and the CAF are working with other government departments as a community and considering the findings and recommendations of this report to inform future decision making,” according to Mr. Smyth. “Various experiences, knowledge, and skillsets contribute to our operational effectiveness. By increasing the representativeness of our Forces and our civilian personnel to reflect Canadian society, diversity enables DND and CAF to be forward-looking, resilient, and relevant.”


The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians made the following recommendations in it’s 2019 Annual Report, released in March 2020:

1. The committee conduct a retrospective review in three to five years to assess the security and intelligence community’s progress in achieving and implementing its diversity goals and inclusion initiatives.

2. The security and intelligence community adopt a consistent and transparent approach to planning and monitoring of employment equity and diversity goals, and conduct regular reviews of their employment policies and practices.

3. The security and intelligence community improve the robustness of its data collection and analysis, including GBA+ assessments of internal staffing and promotion policies and clustering analyses of the workforce.

4. The security and intelligence community develop a common performance measurement framework, and strengthen accountability for diversity and inclusion through meaningful and measurable performance indicators for executives and managers across all organizations.

Source: PM’s ‘Tiger Team’ meant to address diversity, inclusion in Canada’s national intelligence and security community hasn’t met since 2018

RCMP failing to diversify its workforce, new statistics show

Nothing new here as the RCMP (along with the Canadian Forces) has long struggled to improve representation of visible minorities and women (need to update above chart but doubt that overall picture has changed much):

A drive to make the RCMP’s workforce more diverse stalled last year as the Mounties struggled to become fully representative of the communities they police, newly available statistics show.

The national police force’s report on employment equity for 2018-19 says the diversity of the RCMP’s overall workforce had “not changed by any significant measure” from the previous year.

The proportion of women, visible minorities and people with disabilities also remained lower than the rates found in the general Canadian workforce, while the proportion of Indigenous employees was a notable exception.

“Diversity has traditionally been a challenge for police forces in Canada, and the RCMP is no exception,” says the report, recently tabled in Parliament.

The killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by police in Minnesota has set off a global wave of calls for law-enforcement agencies to fundamentally address entrenched racism and the oppression of minorities.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has acknowledged her police force can improve. But she initially stopped short of endorsing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assessment that the force, like all Canadian institutions, exhibits systemic racism.

On Friday, Lucki expressed regret for not doing so.

“During some recent interviews, I shared that I struggled with the definition of systemic racism, while trying to highlight the great work done by the overwhelming majority of our employees,” she said in a statement.

“I did acknowledge that we, like others, have racism in our organization, but I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP. I should have.

“As many have said, I do know that systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included. Throughout our history and today, we have not always treated racialized and Indigenous people fairly.”

Trudeau said Friday that Lucki had already made strides within the RCMP but added that more needs to be done quickly across the country to ensure police officers, including Mounties, can better serve Canadians.

“There are some deep changes we need to make in our institutions, and we need to work with people who want to make those changes, who want to be part of the solution — and I know Commissioner Lucki is one of those,” Trudeau said.

The report says that on April 1, 2019, representation rates among regular RCMP members, as opposed to civilian employees, were 21.8 per cent for women, 11.5 per cent for visible minorities, 7.5 per cent for Indigenous people and 1.6 per cent for people with disabilities.

The numbers are fairly consistent with 2018 data for all police forces in Canada, the report notes.

“These results are not reflective of modern trends being observed in the Canadian population, and signal that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to attracting, selecting, developing and retaining diverse employees is not the most effective way of achieving diversity in the workforce,” the report says.

“The RCMP must continue to strive to increase the diversity of its workforce by removing barriers which inhibit attracting new employees who will bring a greater diversity of identities, backgrounds, experiences and expertise.”

Asked for comment on the report, the RCMP said that while year-over-year changes in diversity statistics will vary, the proportion of visible minorities among police officers has been increasing steadily for decades.

The RCMP’s modernization plan, spearheaded by Lucki, has identified a more representative employee base as critical to the force’s future.

“Delivering culturally relevant community policing solutions requires an in-depth understanding of the challenges people experience while accessing justice,” the equity report says.

“Making progress in this area requires meaningful dialogue with community leaders, enabled by a diverse workforce able to overcome differences and capable of building lasting relationships.”

The RCMP has tried to address employment-equity shortcomings through initiatives including an internal advisory council, fostering a better understanding of Indigenous traditions, and making the force’s uniform and grooming requirements more sensitive to the needs of different faith groups.

The force says it is also trying to attract candidates from different backgrounds through career fairs and a review of its application process to remove possible barriers. It has also developed a strategy to increase diversity at the executive levels in response to a recent audit.

Understanding common barriers such as privilege, bias, harassment and the glass ceiling is not difficult, the report says.

“Oftentimes, the real challenge is acknowledging that equity and inclusion-related issues must be addressed. This may mean accepting different approaches to conducting operations, which can lead to short- and long-term success.”

The report recommends a focus on identifying the “success factors” that contribute to a Mountie’s advancement to the highest officer ranks.

Reaching the executive level requires access to the right opportunities, networks and training, endorsement from other senior leaders, language skills and a balance between personal obligations and the increased demands of executive leadership, it says.

However, members of the underrepresented groups “are likely to face additional challenges” in this respect.

These factors point to a need to identify leadership potential early, so the organization is well-positioned to help promising members advance, the report says.

Source:  RCMP failing to diversify its workforce, new statistics show

As he readies for new role, 1st Mountie to wear turban reflects on RCMP career

Thoughtful reflections of a trailblazer:

Baltej Dhillon has kept a scrapbook during his nearly three-decade career with the RCMP.

There are photos of him standing proudly in the red serge in the early 1990s, the iconic Stetson hat replaced by a tan turban. There are newspaper clippings — both positive and negative. And there’s a schoolyard poem, filled with nearly every ignorant stereotype about Sikhs one could imagine.

“I’ll dress up in my coat of red / And wear my laundry on my head,” part of the poem reads. “It’s much better, they’ll decide / If we ride camels in the musical ride.”

It was written by a child and shared around the schoolyard, but it’s a dark reminder of some of the attitudes the trailblazing officer has faced over the years.

This week, Dhillon, 53, retired from the RCMP after a career that saw him rise to the rank of inspector, as he took part in high-profile cases, including the investigations into serial killer Robert Pickton and the Air India bombing.

“When I first got involved in the Air India task force, I wasn’t trusted. I wasn’t included in some of the meetings,” said Dhillon. “I was told that it was because there was concern that I might compromise the file.”

That mistrust is something Dhillon experienced before he ever donned the red tunic.

Born in Malaysia, a teenage Dhillion and his family moved to British Columbia in 1983. After high school, he studied criminology and initially wanted to be a lawyer. But he sought to become a Mountie after volunteering with the RCMP as a translator for Asian immigrants.

Dhillon formally applied to the force in 1988 and passed all the entrance requirements. But at the time, the RCMP dress code banned both turbans and beards — key components of his Sikh faith.

A CBC News story from 1989 shows a spandex-clad Dhillon exercising, as he waits for the regulations to change, allowing him to serve with a uniform that doesn’t clash with his religion.

A petition calling for the exclusion of turbans in the RCMP circulated at the time, with thousands of signatures. A Calgary businessman had pins made that clearly express opposition to turbaned Mounties.

In 1989, Baltej Dhillon, 23, had passed the tests required to begin training as an RCMP officer, but his refusal to stop wearing a turban, an article of faith for Sikh men, kept him on the sidelines. 1:54

But the young prospect had supporters, including mentors and the RCMP commissioner, and the regulations were ultimately changed to allow Mounties to serve with a beard and turban.

“The RCMP commissioner came face to face with the Charter of Rights [and Freedoms] in Canada, which clearly states that one cannot be discriminated for practising their faith,” said Dhillon.

When he went for training in Regina, Dhillon said other members of his troop were cordial. But the first time he entered the mess hall, the room fell completely silent.

“When I walked in, there were 1,200 eyes looking at me … it was very intimidating,” he recalled.

The young constable’s first assignment was in Quesnel, B.C., where he was greeted with a large plywood sign that said, “Welcome to Quesnel, Turbocop.” Dhillon decided to assume it was a welcoming message.

But he soon learned that his partner had told other officers that he wouldn’t back Dhillon up, because he was wearing a turban.

“All you’ve got is your partner, and if your partner’s saying, ‘I’m not backing you up,’ well, there goes your lifeline,” said Dhillon, adding that his staff sergeant soon took care of the situation.

For seven years, Dhillon was the only Mountie to wear a turban, until another Sikh man was posted in Burnaby, B.C., in the late 1990s.

“It was incredible … I certainly picked up the phone right away and shared with him my excitement and glee of seeing him in the ranks,” he said.

While Dhillon is leaving the RCMP, he’s not leaving law enforcement. He’s beginning a new role with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia, an integrated police agency focused on gang activity.

As he looks back on his career as a Mountie, Dhillon chooses to focus on the service he provided for the communities where he worked — not the death threats he received in the mail from across the country.

Diversity is now more visible in the RCMP and, according to Dhillon, the racism isn’t as prevalent — either inside the force or in the broader community. But it certainly hasn’t disappeared.

“Racism exists in our country,” Dhillon said. “It takes a toll on all of us.… It takes energy away from being better Canadians, being better citizens, being better neighbours and working toward something more for our children and our future.”

Source: As he readies for new role, 1st Mountie to wear turban reflects on RCMP career