Systemic Racism in Policing in Canada

An article by Naveen Ahmed

In June 2021, the House of Commons and its Committees made its 43rd Parliament  proceedings available to the greater public. The focus of the report was on public safety and  national security. Presenting a report to the House on a subject matter usually contains a synopsis  of the testimony heard by many witnesses, the recommendations made by the committee, as well  as the reasons for those recommendations (McKay, 2021). The witnesses are those who represent  community organizations advocating on behalf of racialized people, and members and leaders of  Canadian police services (McKay, 2021). The Standing Committee report specifically discussed  racism in policing in Canada (McKay, 2021). 

Discrimination and injustice against members of the public are inherent in the police  system present today. Systemic racism, also known as institutional racism, refers to the ways that  white superiority is embedded in the policies of an organization (UBC, 2021). This results in a  social system that advantages white people and disadvantages Black, Indigenous, people of  colour (BIPOC) (UBC, 2021). Police officers hold a powerful role in Canadian society, as they  are entrusted with enforcing the law, protecting community from harm, and keeping peace.  Concerns about systemic racism within the institution of policing has been brought to light by  police services themselves, along with many Canadian communities (McKay, 2021). Systemic  racism is established from our colonial past, it is embedded in our legislation and sustained in  our institutional practices (Sloly, 2021). 

The term is both a social and legal concept which suggests a particular type of racism that occurs within social systems (Sloly, 2021). Many  witnesses were called forth for the proceedings, of which one individual was a law enforcement  consultant and former member of the RCMP, Alain Babineau (McKay, 2021). Alain gave a detailed explanation of systemic racism, saying, “systemic racism is when the system itself is based upon and founded upon racist beliefs and philosophies and thinking and has put in place  policies and practices that literally force even the non-racists to act in a racist way” (McKay,  2021). Many police officers may honourably, diligently, and professionally serve their  communities; however, it does not minimize the fact that systemic racism is still apparent in  policing in Canada.  

The nature of modern policing must be reimagined in Canada as the trait of these realities  is a refusal to accept it. In the last few years, there have been calls to justice and lack of  accountability, such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the shooting death  of Chantel Moore in her home in New Brunswick, the shooting death of Ejaz Choudry in Ontario  who suffered from schizophrenia, the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, the death of  Solieman Faqiri in prison in Lindsay, Ontario. These are just to name a few people who have  died when police have become involved. The notion of police being there to serve and protect  the people does not often apply to Indigenous, Black, or other racialized minorities in Canada.  

Many recommendations were made at the committee meeting on ways to combat  systemic racism in police services. The Government of Canada should increase its accountability  and transparency of the police services was of the greatest importance among the witnesses and  testimonies heard by the committee (McKay, 2021). Police services need to be accountable for  and to all members of the communities they serve (McKay, 2021). Internal accountability was  also mentioned, as it helps police maintain public trust. Not only how police officers provide  services to the public, but also how they act with fellow officers says a lot about accountability  (McKay, 2021). 

Another recommendation is that the Government of Canada create a National  Police College to provide preparation, training, and education necessary for modern,  professional, and bias-free policing, which allows for officers to receive specific cultural competency training developed with the racialized communities they intend to serve (McKay,  2021). The Government of Canada should encourage the use of persons specialized in victim  services and mental health who would be available with first responders in de-escalating high-profile situations, ensuring that there is no implicit bias and gender-based violence (McKay,  2021). In terms of funding, it was recommended that the Government of Canada increase its  funding to ensure that restorative justice programs are effective and available to Indigenous,  Black, and other racialized people throughout the community (McKay, 2021). 

The House of Commons Standing Committee concluded that a transformative national  effort and reframing of the police services is required to ensure that all Indigenous, Black, and  other racialized individuals in Canada are not subject to discrimination and injustice (McKay,  2021). The Committee was told that accountability, oversight, and transparency are critical to restore trust with racialized communities subject to systemic racism. However, as many  witnesses mentioned throughout the report, there have been previous studies undertaken and  reports authored that have already addressed aspects of systemic racism in Canadian policing,  but many of the issues identified and recommendations made previously have resulted in little  change. Therefore, it is important that the House of Common work diligently alongside  racialized communities and police services to dismantle structural racism within our society. 


McKay, H. (2021). SYSTEMIC RACISM IN POLICING IN CANADA: Report of the Standing  Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Retrieved 10  November 2021, from p06/securp06-e.pdf. 

Sloly, C. (2021). Systemic Racism in Policing in Canada. Retrieved 11 November  2021, from 

UBC. (2021). Systemic racism: What it looks like in Canada and how to fight it?  Retrieved 10 November 2021, from looks-like-in-canada-and-how-to-fight-it/.

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