Canada urged to open its eyes to systemic racism in wake of police violence


After a string of violent incidents involving police officers, activists and ordinary people across Canada have joined the global chorus calling for a reckoning with racism, policing, inequality and the long reach of history.

In recent weeks, a black woman fell to her death after police were called to her flat in Toronto; an Indigenous woman was shot dead by an officer in New Brunswick while he was carrying out a “wellness check”; and footage emerged showing Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in Alberta forcing a First Nations chief to the ground and punching him in the head. On Friday evening, an Indigenous man was shot dead by the RCMP in New Brunswick.

But amid the growing anger, a number of prominent Canadians – premiers, columnists and the head of the RCMP – have cast doubt on the idea that racism is entrenched in the country’s institutions.

“Thank God we’re different than the United States and we don’t have the systemic, deep roots they’ve had for years,” said the Ontario premier, Doug Ford, a view echoed by neighbouring the Quebec premier, François Legault.

The RCMP commissioner, Brenda Lucki, told the Globe and Mail on Wednesday: “I think that if systemic racism is meaning that racism is entrenched in our policies and procedures, I would say that we don’t have systemic racism.” On Friday, Lucki clarified her position in a statement. “I did acknowledge that we, like others, have racism in our organization, but I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP. I should have.” Hours later, Rodney Levi of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation was shot dead by RCMP officers.