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Federal diversity minister says conversations about race and policing need to happen
OTTAWA -- Federal Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger says that the conversations around race, defunding police, and the fears that Black people and other people of colour feel around law enforcement need to happen, but at this point the government is offering no indication they think that defunding is the solution.
“We recognize that there are people from coast to coast to coast that are having their voices heard and asking for the necessary reforms. And right now we need to be listening, and we need to be hearing people's lived experiences. We cannot dismiss them,” Chagger said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period when asked her position on defunding police.
“There is a reality that there are certain segments of our population that are scared of their interactions when it comes to people who provide public safety within our communities. And these conversations need to take place,” Chagger said.
Rising out of the ongoing anti-racism protests happening in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, there are a growing number of voices calling for some taxpayer funding for to be reallocated from law enforcement budgets into mental health and community services.
Chagger said she views it as her responsibility to work across portfolios with her public safety and justice colleagues to have those discussions and collect more information.
“Racism exists in Canada, there is discrimination within our institutions within our hiring practices, and we have a lot of work to do,” she said. “We need to make sure that there is unconscious bias training. Racism is learned, and it's important that those behaviours be unlearned so that we can do a better job and have better outcomes.”
Chagger said it’s “not good enough to be better than another country.”
In a separate panel discussion on Sunday’s episode, Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Sandy Hudson said defunding is one solution, and an alternative could be more resources for emergency mental health services.
“I don't want to see more of us dying, I want the police to stop killing us. And I think the best way forward in terms of doing that is to provide our safety and security services in another way,” Hudson said.
CTV News public safety analyst and former Ontario Provincial Police chief Chris Lewis said he doesn’t want the public to “have the perception that policing is rife with racism across this country.”
“It's happening in pockets, it's happening more in some municipalities than others, certainly within maybe some OPP detachments there’s more than others … But this country isn’t perpetuated by racism in policing. Some systems need to be fixed, we need to do better, we need to continually positive change, but I just don't think it's fair to categorize policing in this country as being systemically racist,” Lewis said.
Facing questions about systemic racism and changes to policing last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he planned to speak with his cabinet and RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. When asked whether the federal government would play a role in implementing some level of national standards for local police forces such as wearing body cameras, Trudeau said he was looking at “a range of options.”
“As we know, there has been gradual progress over the years, but it hasn't been enough. And today, and in the coming days, we will continue to look at ways of moving forward significantly to ensure that we reduce systemic discrimination in this country and that all Canadians, Indigenous and racialized Canadians and others, feel safe in this country, in their country,” Trudeau said on Friday.