Quebec's population may be increasingly racially diverse — but that's not reflected in the provincial police force nor in municipal police forces surrounding Montreal.

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Numbers compiled by CBC show that police forces in the greater Montreal region are lagging dramatically in their hiring of visible minorities.

The Sûreté du Québec stands out: The provincial police force serves more than 2.5 million people, however, fewer than one per cent of its officers are not Caucasian.

Between 2007 and March 2015, the SQ hired 735 new police officers. 

Remarkably, only five of those hires were from what it calls "cultural communities"— groups that have different national or cultural traditions from the main population.

Risk to police credibility

An expert on employment equity, Concordia University political scientist Maria Peluso, said the lack of diversity in Quebec's police forces risks undermining the credibility of officers.

"In any public office or public institution, it's important they reflect the diversity of the population that they serve," Peluso said.

"That adds a great deal of respect and credibility from the very population that you are there to serve and protect."

Mahad

Mahad Al Mustaqim spent much of his youth in and out of jail as a member of a street gang. (CBC)

Mahad Al Mustaqim is a community activist who works with at-risk youth. He is a former street gang member.

"Today, we still have racial profiling," he said.

"I think if we had more visible minority officers, it would help [youth] to feel more safe, protected ... At the end of the day, more visible minority officers will help the community."

This pie chart represents all police officers hired by the Sûreté du Québec between 2007 and March 2015:

pie chart SQ hires

Laval, Longueuil forces also behind 

Statistics for regional police forces surrounding Montreal also show that recruitment from visible-minority communities has not been a priority.

In Laval, visible minorities make up 21 per cent of the total population but just three per cent of the police force.

"Minority candidates are very welcome, but they have the same treatment as a non-minority candidate," said the Laval force's assistant director, France Liboiron.

Other municipalities, including Longueuil and Châteauguay, have equally low numbers.

Peluso says it can be a vicious circle.

"With regards to visible minorities or any group that's been a victim of discrimination, they are not likely going to gravitate to those areas they feel are not welcoming," she said.

Province responds

Quebec's Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux says the province needs to do better.

"We have to work together to make sure that our public service in general and police service in particular are a [reflection] of the diversity of our society," he said, in response to CBC's report.

"In the past, we've made some efforts and we will continue making some efforts." 

Coiteux said the province is "progressing" but "perhaps not at the speed that we'd like."

SQ, SPVM slow to respond to requests

CBC compiled data on the hiring of visible minorities based on access-to-information requests to several police forces, including the Sûreté du Québec and the Montreal police service (SPVM), as well as the police forces in Laval, LongueuilChâteauguaySaint-EustacheRousillonDeux-MontagnesThérèse-De-BlainvilleTerrebonne and Repentigny.

The SPVM data is not yet included in CBC's findings, as its statistics are still in the mail.

The SQ has not provided any information, and CBC has compiled its statistics based on a recent report on the force by the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the SQ's annual reports.

The Terrebonne police force has replied, saying it does not keep statistics on the racial background of its employees. CBC is appealing that response, asking for more information.


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


Compare the hiring practices of police forces when it comes to visible minorities: 

On mobile? Go here to view the interactive graphic.

Research by: Anna Sosnowski

Graphics by: Molly Kohli

Interactive by: Sarah Leavitt