Police force diversity reflects P.E.I. ethnicity: Mostly white

Police forces on P.E.I. have a tough time attracting visible minorities — but they still reflect the overall ethnic make-up of the Island.

'We try to recruit visible minorities ... It isn't easy to do'

Police officers on P.E.I. are overwhelmingly white, but so are the communities they serve. As police forces across Canada struggle to achieve diversity, P.E.I. achieves a passing grade by default. (Patrick Faller)

Police forces on P.E.I. have a tough time attracting visible minorities — but they still reflect the overall ethnic make-up of the Island.

As police forces in major cities struggle to achieve diversity, on P.E.I. those goals are largely met by default due to the Island's overwhelmingly white population.

"We try to recruit visible minorities," says Edgar MacLeod, executive director of the Atlantic Police Academy in Summerside. "It isn't easy to do."

A national investigation by CBC News reveals police forces in most of the country fail to reflect the ethnic mix of the communities they serve.

CBC News contacted local police forces on P.E.I. to see how the Island measures up when it comes to recruiting minorities.

Charlottetown police have 81 officers and civilian staff. Three officers self-identify as members of a visible minority. By contrast, more than 90 percent of P.E.I.'s population traces its roots to the British Isles. (Brian Higgins)

Police continue recruiting efforts

More than 90 per cent of Islanders claim roots in Scotland, England or Ireland. More than 20 per cent also claim French and Acadian heritage, and about two per cent claim indigenous roots.

Chinese people comprise the largest immigrant community at just over one per cent of the Island population, according to the 2011 National Household Survey

Four of 57 police recruits who will graduate from police academy this year self-identify as visible minorities, according to MacLeod.

He says the academy continues to reach out to visible minorities and Indigenous communities in Maritime Canada, as well as to women. 

'It's hard to keep up'

The Summerside Police Service currently has no officers who self-identify as visible minorities or Indigenous people.

But five of 30 officers are female, which is "about the national average," according to deputy Chief Sinclair Walker. One officer also acts as liaison with the Indigenous community.

It's hard to keep up with P.E.I.'s changing demographics- Gary McGuigan, Charlottetown deputy-chief of police

The Charlottetown Police Service has three officers who identify as visible minorities — one black officer, one Muslim officer and, for the summer only, one Chinese officer who is a police recruit from the Atlantic Police Academy.

Despite the numbers, Charlottetown police say they want to foster better ties with P.E.I.'s immigrant communities for recruiting purposes. 

"It's hard to keep up with P.E.I.'s changing demographics," said deputy Chief Gary McGuigan.

Competition from the oil patch

Information on ethnicity among RCMP members on P.E.I. was not immediately available. A spokesperson said personnel routinely transfer in and out of the province, but the RCMP currently has Indigenous members serving on P.E.I.

Police forces in Maritime Canada find themselves competing for potential employees, just like other industries, according MacLeod.

"It's the oil patch," said MacLeod.

"We compete against high-paying jobs out West, and that's where our young people are going, no matter what their roots are."

Summerside police currently have no visible minorities among their ranks. Five of 30 officers are women, 'about the national average,' says the deputy chief. (CBC)