People protest to defund the police in front of Toronto Police Service headquarters, in Toronto, Thursday, July 16, 2020. They didn’t always agree on what to do, but scores of concerned citizens penned letters urging the federal Liberals to address police mistreatment of Black and Indigenous people as the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota helped spark indignation about injustices in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

People protest to defund the police in front of Toronto Police Service headquarters, in Toronto, Thursday, July 16, 2020. They didn’t always agree on what to do, but scores of concerned citizens penned letters urging the federal Liberals to address police mistreatment of Black and Indigenous people as the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota helped spark indignation about injustices in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Trudeau Liberals got earful on police racism from concerned public, emails reveal

A letter writer urged the prime minister to take concrete steps to reform Canadian policing

They didn’t always agree on what to do, but scores of concerned citizens penned letters urging the federal Liberals to address police mistreatment of Black and Indigenous people as the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota helped spark indignation about injustices in Canada.

Hundreds of pages of correspondence disclosed through the Access to Information Act reveal deep mistrust of the RCMP and other police services, along with plenty of suggestions on how to make things better.

Many of the emails, from May 25 to July 1 of last year, were addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, though they all wound up in the inbox of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the cabinet member responsible for the Mounties and the federal prison and border agencies.

In most cases the senders’ names were removed, out of respect for privacy, before release under the access law.

“The people should know they are safe in the presence of the law,” said a message from Toronto. “Right now, many do not.”

A Verdun, Que., writer said that as a white male he had never experienced racial or gender discrimination, so he could not truly understand the pain and rage of people of colour. “But I feel their pain and will not remain silent.”

Added another letter: “Although we might need the police in some specific instances, the unrestrained force that they regularly use against Black and Indigenous people is appalling and completely unacceptable in a country like Canada.”

At an anti-racism rally in Ottawa last June, Trudeau put one knee to the ground, his head bowed, as others also took a knee around him. The demonstration was one of several events in Canada following days of rallies against racism and police brutality in numerous American cities prompted by Floyd’s death at the hands of police.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki initially stopped short last June of endorsing Trudeau’s assessment that the national police force, like all Canadian institutions, exhibits systemic racism.

In a sudden reversal soon after, Lucki spoke with regret for not having done so.

A writer from Powell River, B.C., told Trudeau in mid-June it was time for Lucki to go.

“Enough is enough! The replacement of the current commissioner will send notice to our police and all our nation’s people that this laissez-faire hedging and outright denial will not stand.”

A New Brunswick correspondent advised the prime minister that demanding Lucki’s resignation would not rid the RCMP of racism, and instead recommended improved recruitment and training of Mounties. “Selecting better suited candidates would go a long way in rectifying the situation.”

The Mounties should be completely removed from Indigenous communities, a writer from Amherst, N.S., said after seeing a video of the RCMP violently arresting Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam in Alberta.

“I have read before that the Indigenous people have grown to distrust the RCMP and I now see why.”

A letter from Calgary urged Blair late last July to take drastic action by diverting funds from police forces to “those measures that actually address the root of crime,” such as education, mental-health services, housing and social work.

“There are countless examples of police brutality in Canadian history, and without acknowledging this fact and actively working to change it, there will continue to be,” the message says.

An email from B.C. rejected the notion of reducing police budgets, calling instead for better training of officers in arrest methods.

Another letter writer urged the prime minister to take concrete steps as soon as possible to reform Canadian policing to eliminate racial bias.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t done enough yet to save the lives and preserve the well-being of Black and Indigenous Canadians,” the letter says.

“I don’t know what the solutions are, but I encourage you to listen to the people who do.”

The House of Commons public safety committee is preparing to release a report on systemic racism in policing.

In last fall’s throne speech, the Liberal government promised legislation and money to address systemic inequities in all phases of the criminal justice system.

It pledged action on issues ranging from sentencing and rehabilitation to improved civilian oversight of the RCMP and standards on police use of force.

The planned measures also include modern training for police and other law-enforcement agencies, as well as broader RCMP reforms that emphasize a shift toward community-led policing.

In addition, the Liberals promised to speed up work on a legislative framework for First Nations policing as an essential service, seen as crucial to ensuring safety in Indigenous communities.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Justin TrudeauLiberalsracism

Just Posted

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

A young couple walks through the Othello Tunnels just outside of Hope. (Jessica Peters/Black Press)
Hope’s Othello Tunnels fully open to the public

Geological testing proved the area safe enough to open for the first time in more than a year

FILE
70 per cent of people aged 12 and older in Agassiz-Harrison have been vaccinated

More than 80 per cent of adults aged 50 and older have been vaccinated, as of June 10

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

Agassiz Agricultural Hall hosts COVID-19 vaccination clinics every Wednesday. District officials reported more than 300 doses are administered per week. (Adam Louis/Observer)
Walk-in COVID vaccine clinic scheduled for Wednesday

Walk-in appointments available while supplies last from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Ocean debris is shown on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C. on April, 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Most Read