Montreal police force still falls short on diversity, anti-racism activist says

Despite efforts to diversify, Montreal's police force remains overwhelmingly white, according to its latest annual report.

Only 7% of officers are visible minorities, 2015 annual report shows

Montreal's police force has a (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Despite efforts to diversify, Montreal's police force remains overwhelmingly white, according to its latest annual report. 

Only 324 officers out of 4,586 in the police force are visible minorities, making up seven per cent of the total, the 2015 report says.

That's slightly up from five years ago, in 2011, when a total of 291 of 4,502 officers were minorities, for a total of 6.5 per cent.

Overall, visible minorities make up 32 per cent of the city's population, according to Statistics Canada.

The lack of diversity is even more striking among female officers. Only 56 of Montreal police's 1,459 female officers are minorities. 

"Obviously, we need to do more," said Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, a Montreal-based civil rights organization.

The numbers are part of a larger problem seen across the province.

The Sûreté du Québec in particular stands out. Fewer than one per cent of its officers are not Caucasian.

Click on the year to see how many visible minority officers are in the Montreal police force compared to non-minority officers.

On mobile? Go here to view the interactive graphic.

Demystifying police work

Ingrid Cataldo, a recruiting officer from Montreal police, is tasked with making the city's force more diverse. She said it's a "priority" for the force. 

"For a number of years, police have been working hard to recruit from cultural communities," she said in an interview.

Cataldo said her goal is to "break down stereotypes" and "demystify police work."

Among some cultural communities, there's a perception that police can't be trusted, she said.

"We have to work hard and communicate with families so that parents understand why their children want to work with the police," she said.

"In some countries when you see a police officer you cross the street. Here that's not the case."

Cataldo said she regularly visits CEGEPs, community centres and the École nationale de police du Québec in Nicolet as part of her outreach.

'Perception of trust'

Niemi, who has long been tracking diversity in the city's police force, said the problem goes beyond recruitment by Montreal police.

He stressed that addressing the problem should be a priority. Diversity is key for a frontline service like police, he said.

"The more the police department reflects the population it serves, the better it is in terms of understanding, in terms of relations, and also gaining that perception of trust on the part of the public, and I think that's a key thing," Niemi said. 

Niemi said there's one area where there's been progress: the number of high-ranking officers from a minority background has climbed slightly, from three to nearly five per cent.

"We're talking about the ability of minority officers to climb through the corporate ladder," he said. 

"That's also important because we're talking about mobility and the rise to management positions."

Infographic by: Sarah Leavitt


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