Quebec's police academy doesn't have "a lot of influence" over whether visible minorities apply to become officers, says a spokesman for the academy.

Pierre Saint-Antoine, director of communications of École nationale de police du Québec in Nicolet, said racial minorities made up five per cent of its student population in 2015, despite attempts to "recruit people from all diversities and communities in Quebec."

"We don't have a lot of influence on the people that apply here," Saint-Antoine said, adding that Nicolet has a program in place, in conjunction with the Quebec government, to encourage more diversity among applicants.

Saint-Antoine's comments come after numbers compiled by CBC News show that Quebec police forces are lagging in their hiring of visible minorities.

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For instance, the Sûreté du Québec serves more than 2.5 million people, however, fewer than one per cent of its officers are not Caucasian.

Community activists have said a lack of diversity among police leads to strained relationships with racial minorities.

But getting more people to apply is no easy task, says Paul Chablo, the head of John Abbott's police technology program.

Before going to Nicolet, prospective police officers must first complete a three-year CEGEP program, and Chablo said many people from minority backgrounds don't apply.

Out of roughly 250 students at John Abbott, 49 define themselves as having an "ethnic background" and only seven are visible minorities.

'They have to adjust their techniques'

Chablo, who is also the former director of communications for the Montreal police, points to a multitude of factors — including lacklustre recruiting efforts and poor relationships with some ethnic communities — to explain the lack of diversity among applicants.

He said Quebec police need to a better job of reaching out to prospective employees to encourage them to apply to CEGEP programs in the first place.

"I think they have to adjust their techniques," he said in an interview.

"The police forces are saying they have officers from different backgrounds — well, bring them with you when you're doing your recruiting. Why are you not using these people as valuable tools to connect?"

But, Chablo added, there are deeper issues at play.

"We have kids from different ethnic backgrounds that are in the department, and the comments I get from them every time we talk about this is that, a lot of the time, their parents don't want them to do this line of work," Chablo said in an interview.

"Sometimes in other countries the police are corrupt with a whole different style of policing than what you see in Canada."

The Sûreté du Québec declined an interview request and Montreal police did not return a request for comment.


Real Talk on Race is CBC Montreal's special series exploring personal conversations and experiences around race in the city.

With files from Sarah Leavitt