By Agence France-Presse
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that systemic racism exists in all Canadian institutions including the federal police, after the nation’s top cop balked at the notion.
“Systemic racism is an issue right across the country, in all of our institutions, including in all of our police forces, including in the RCMP,” Trudeau said.
“As prime minister, it is difficult for me to recognize that my government, which tries to be progressive and open and to defend minorities, is guilty of systemic discrimination,” he added.
The prime minister’s comments contradicted those of Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Brenda Lucki, appointed by Trudeau in 2018, who in interviews with several Canadian media outlets on Wednesday said she was “struggling” with the definition.
“If systemic racism is meaning that racism is entrenched in our policies and procedures, I would say that we don’t have systemic racism,” Lucki told the daily Globe and Mail newspaper.
She acknowledged, however, that there is “unconscious bias” among some officers and vowed to hold accountable any who do not follow the force’s core principles, including compassion and respect for the rights of all people.
Thousands of Canadians in recent days marched in solidarity with US protesters against racism and police brutality, following the death in custody of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.
Trudeau himself took a knee, a popular protest gesture, last Friday at a demonstration outside his office in Ottawa.
Canadians, he said Thursday, must recognize that their institutions “have not always treated people of racialized backgrounds, of Indigenous backgrounds, fairly.”
“There are people who highlight that it’s painting all our institutions with a negative brush and it’s not being proud of the Canada that we built and that our ancestors built,” he said. “Nonsense.”
“As much as we admire and support the RCMP, we know we need to do better.”