Asked about systemic racism in RCMP, Lucki discusses different heights of officers
OTTAWA -- RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki was put in the parliamentary hot seat on Tuesday when MPs repeatedly pressed her for answers over systemic racism in the RCMP — and she struggled to come up with an example, at one point referencing the disparity in officers' heights.
"Yes, there's absolutely systemic racism," Lucki said. "I can give you a couple of examples that we've found over the years."
She went on to give an example involving the RCMP's physical abilities requirement evaluation.
"It's an obstacle course, in there there's a six foot mat that you have to do a broad jump, and when we put the lens on it and reviewed that physical requirements test, evidence told us that the average person can broad jump their height," Lucki explained.
"So, of course, how many six foot people do we hire? And there are people in all different cultures that may not be six feet, including, there's not a lot of women that are six feet tall, that would not be able to get through that exam, that type of test."
Liberal MP Greg Fergus replied to Lucki that this sounded like systemic discrimination, but he was "trying to think of systemic racism."
Lucki mentioned an RCMP aptitude test and the force's recruiting process, but she did not expand on the explanation or offer a clear example of systemic racism. She then quickly pivoted to passing the question along to Gail Johnson, chief of the human resources office for the RCMP.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair's office issued a statement in support of Lucki on Wednesday, following her comments at the committee.
"We have confidence that the Commissioner can bring about meaningful change to our policing services that Canadians deserve. We will continue to work towards re-establishing trust between our officers and the communities that they serve," the statement read.
Nearly two weeks ago, Lucki told CTV National News Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme said she was "struggling with" the definition of systemic racism after hearing "about five or six definitions" of the concept.
Since then, Lucki has acknowledged the existence of systemic racism in the force — something she doubled down on in the committee meeting last night.
Her comments come as a spotlight has been shining on the RCMP in recent weeks. Protests and calls to action emerged in Canada and around the globe after the police-involved killing of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes.
Since the initial outcry over Floyd's death, Canadians' quickly shifted the discussion into one of our own issues with systemic racism — during which time RCMP dash-cam footage emerged of the violent arrest of Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
The video, which is 12 minutes long, shows Adam walking between his car and a police cruiser and shouting profanities. A Mountie then charges at Adam, tackling him to the ground and punching him in the head. The RCMP initially found that the officer’s actions were reasonable, though Alberta's police watchdog is now investigating the incident.
Around the same time that dash cam footage emerged, police in New Brunswick shot and killed two Indigenous people within nine days of one another. Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman living in New Brunswick, was killed by police during a wellness check on June 4. Nine days later, Rodney Levi was also shot and killed in an unrelated interaction.
A nursing student in B.C. has also recently alleged that she was physically injured and left emotionally scarred following an encounter with the RCMP during a wellness check earlier this year.
Alberta RCMP Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki came under fire in June when he said he didn't believe there was systemic racism in policing in Canada, a comment he — like Lucki — later walked back.
When the two eventually acknowledged the existence of systemic racism in the RCMP, Adam's legal counsel, Brian Beresh, initially welcomed the change in tone — but after Lucki's Tuesday remarks, he expressed concerns about her ability to address systemic racism.
"I was shocked to hear the response, given that she had prepared for this appearance before the committee. I was raised that if you don't understand the problem, you will never find the solution. I’m afraid that she is not equipped for this position, there’s no training that will change someone at her age," Beresh told CTV's Power Play on Wednesday.
"I think we have to look at someone new, and maybe an entire new policing system."
Adam also reacted to her comments, noting that "justice will prevail."
"If she finds that she has to go, and she feels that it’s right that she has to go," Adam said.
Speaking to the committee on Tuesday night, Lucki apologized for not recognizing the systemic racism in the RCMP sooner.
"I was struggling with the definition at that point because at the point I had heard many different ones and when I put it to policing, I was looking at it through a different lens than what I had seen," Lucki said.
"But I would never say that there is no systemic racism and for that, I apologize."
With files from CTV News’ Graham Slaughter, Meredith MacLeod and Nicole Bogart.