Ottawa

Police forces don't reflect Ottawa-Gatineau's minority population, stats show

The proportion of visible minorities in the national capital region's two largest police forces fall short of representing the percentage of minorities in the general population, according to data provided by those forces.

Only 15 per cent of Ottawa police officers are visible minorities

A woman speaks to Ottawa police officers during a February 2020 rally in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink Pipeline. Statistics from Ottawa's police force show the number of minority officers they employ falls short of matching the reality of the city's population. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The proportion of visible minorities in the national capital region's two largest police forces fall short of representing the percentage of minorities in the general population, according to data provided by those forces.

While visible minorities made up 26.3 per cent of Ottawa's population according to 2016 census data, only 13.5 per cent of all police personnel — and 15 per cent of uniformed officers — can claim that status, according to 2017 data from the Ottawa Police Service (OPS).

An OPS spokesperson said the force could only provide CBC News with data from 2017.

On the other side of the Ottawa River, visible minorities make up 13.5 per cent of the Gatineau, Que., population — but only 1.2 per cent of the Gatineau Police Service (SPVG). 

The cities on both sides of the river are hoping recent efforts to recruit will begin to change the dynamic, including an OPS drive to recruit almost 150 new hires in 2020.

A report to the Ottawa Police Services Board in January said there are more than 200 job applicants with a "strong representation of various identified groups, including racialized and female candidates." 

César Ndéma-Moussa, a member of the OPS Community Equity Council — a community liaison group — said while he's happy to see the new hiring policy in place, that alone may not solve the service's problem: an enduring culture of systemic racism within the force.

"The simple fact of hiring diversity does not mean an improvement to the police itself," said Ndéma-Moussa.

"Are we really having the real conversations to make us uncomfortable and [addressing] the elephant in the room? Or are we simply painting an image of inclusion and progress by putting black men and black women in uniform?"

SPVG police Chief Luc Beaudoin said the biggest stumbling block in Quebec comes when forces recruit through the Quebec National Police Academy based in Nicolet, Que., where only seven per cent of graduates have non-white backgrounds.

Beaudoin said he'll be trying to enhance recruitment by holding meetings with members of the black community in the Outaouais to build more interest.

Some are hailing new Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly, seen here in November 2019, as a possible model for minority youths in the region to follow. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Darlène Lozis, a community advocate, said while that's an important first step, "we still have a long way to go." 

In the decade since 2006, Gatineau's black population has doubled, mostly through immigration, and Lozis said that means the service needs to become more inclusive. 

Lozis said she believes that the appointment last year of Peter Sloly as chief of the OPS — the first black chief in the force's history — will have an impact.

Seeing someone from her community in a key position, she said, can set a good example for young people.

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