New RCMP committee focuses on recruitment, engagement of N.L.'s Black community
'It has meant a lot to our Black community to feel valued,' says Lloydetta Quaicoe
The RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador have launched a new initiative to find ways to interest members of the province's Black community in working for the police force.
The Black Engagement Steering Committee, announced Friday is focused on recruitment. The committee will also guide and inform the RCMP on issues and concerns of the Black community in the province and the delivery of police services.
While there is no set target number for new recruits, nationally the RCMP is on a hiring blitz.
"It has meant a lot to our Black community to feel valued, to feel that sense of welcome, recognition and acceptance by the RCMP," said Lloydetta Quaicoe, who co-chairs the committee and is founder and CEO of Sharing Our Cultures Inc., which connects culturally diverse children to foster belonging and acceptance.
"We appreciate that the doors of this building are open to us at any time, and this is where our committee meetings are held."
RCMP N.L.'s commanding officer, Assistant Commissioner Ches Parsons, says a committee focused on removing barriers and improving engagement with the Black community is timely, considering the Black community in this province is growing while the number of Black police officers isn't.
"Mostly right now we're delving into matters around recruitment in terms of how we can do everything possible to eliminate, not simply reduce, but eliminate the systemic barriers which exists in terms of recruitment of members of the Black community," said Parsons.
"Not just as police officers, but also within the ranks, which are considerable, of our civilian member cadre and our public servants. This is extremely important for us."
The committee was formed in consultation with Quaicoe and other members of the Black community. Quaicoe is credited as being the catalyst for change, approaching Parsons about improving the relationship between the force and the Black community.
"We realized there wasn't any representation of the Black community on the RCMP, and that was important because if they were protecting and serving a community of the province, our community is part of that what they serve and protect," Quaicoe said.
"We also wanted to be proactive in a sense that we didn't want to wait until there was something going wrong and then we showed up. We said, 'What can we do to build good positive relationships with the RCMP?' and see how young people in our community could see [themselves] working with the RCMP as a possible endeavour for them, for their careers."
While the announcement was made Friday, the committee was formed earlier in the fall. It now has members from eight countries.
Somkene Mbakwe, who sits on the committee as the president of the Nigerian Canadian Association NL, said he was excited when called upon to join the group, and is elated and encouraged with what has been established in the last few months.
"Creating that relationship goes a long way to help people feel more comfortable, feel more included in the community and also the younger ones have that hope that someday they could be in that uniform," he said.
"I'm very excited about it and communicating this to the Nigerian community, and other Black communities as well, the kind of response we've gotten has been very encouraging."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Cecil Haire