Black RCMP officers say they endured racism 'on a regular basis'

Current and former black RCMP officers say they commonly experienced racist treatment from their colleagues and are calling for Canada's national police force to improve its treatment of visible minorities.

Retired officer says he heard N-word often; RCMP calls allegations 'deeply troubling'

Alain Babineau was an RCMP officer for 27 years and now works for the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations. He says racism was prevalent during his time on the national police force. (Jonathan DuPaul/CBC)

Current and former black RCMP officers say they've regularly endured racist treatment from their colleagues and are calling for Canada's national police force to improve its treatment of visible minorities.

Alain Babineau, who retired from the RCMP in 2016 after a 27-year career and now lives in Ottawa, told Radio-Canada one of his bosses nicknamed him "black man," and that racial slurs were common.

"The word n--ger was used on a regular basis," he said.

One example he shared occurred in Quebec City in 2008 at the Sommet de la francophonie, a meeting of representatives from French-speaking nations.

"There were a lot of African countries visiting Quebec City, and a group of RCMP members were talking about their VIPs from Africa and using the N-word and making jokes and so on," he said.

"I told them, 'First of all, I'm extremely offended by what you're saying. And, number two, these are our clients.

"Of course [they said], 'We're just joking around' … their jokes are not always the funniest."

Babineau said one of his bosses with the RCMP nicknamed him 'black man.' The N-word was also frequently used, he said. (Jonathan DuPaul/CBC)

'I had so much pride for the RCMP'

Radio-Canada spoke to other black RCMP officers, including two who agreed to speak anonymously because they fear reprisals from their employer.

CBC and Radio-Canada have agreed not to name them or say where they work.

"Over the years, members have called me 'black bastard,' 'uneducated black man' and again recently 'n--ger,'" one officer said.

He added that after working in several communities across Canada for over 15 years, he's tired of the racist treatment.

"I had so much pride for the RCMP," he said. "Now, if someone asks me what I do, I say I work for the government."

The other officer said he wished his colleagues would stand up to defend him, but the RCMP workplace culture is not friendly to people who complain about racism.

"I heard the word 'n--ger' more often in the RCMP than in the general public," the officer said.

While CBC and Radio-Canada have chosen not to disclose the details of these incidents to protect the officers' identities, the events have been corroborated with documents and witnesses have confirmed what happened.

Other officers who had agreed to talk to Radio-Canada changed their minds at the last minute.

The federal government has introduced an interim civilian oversight body designed to root out bullying and harassment in the RCMP, called the Interim Management Advisory Board. (Canadian Press)

Allegations 'deeply troubling,' RCMP says

In a statement to Radio-Canada, the RCMP called the allegations of racism "deeply troubling" and said all forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

Both the RCMP and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said they're taking steps to address the situation.

The police force said it routinely uses what's known as "gender-based analysis plus," or GBA+, to "assess how men, women and gender-diverse people experience policies, programs and initiatives."

"The 'plus' in GBA+ acknowledges that this analysis goes beyond biological sex and gender differences and also examines the impact of other identity factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, age and mental or physical disabilities," the RCMP said.

Watchdog board created

Goodale's office brought up a new interim civilian watchdog board his government created for the RCMP to help rid it of bullying and harassment.

Its members will be named by April 1, and Goodale's office said it's aiming "to appoint members who represent the diversity of Canadians."

The officers who spoke to Radio-Canada want the RCMP to do an in-depth study of visible minorities in the RCMP, citing a recent Ottawa police diversity audit as one example of something the RCMP could adapt.

The RCMP declined to comment on whether it would take a similar step.

In 2015, the RCMP's then commissioner admitted there were racists in the force

"I understand that there are racists in my police force. I don't want them to be in my police force," Bob Paulson told a group of First Nations leaders.

Visible minorities underrepresented in RCMP

Babineau now works as a volunteer adviser for the Montreal-based Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.

He said, while he believes individual acts of direct racism have decreased in the RCMP over the years, systemic racism is still a problem.

Visible minorities, excluding Indigenous people, make up 22 per cent of Canada's general population, according to the 2016 census — but only 11 per cent of the RCMP's workforce as of 2018.

In this sense, the RCMP is more representative than the typical Canadian police force. In 2016, the most recent year this national data was available, eight per cent of all Canadian police officers were visible minorities.

However, while there are now more women and visible minorities in the RCMP's leadership, visible minorities remain absent from the three highest ranks.

"There are now many women in the highest ranks of the RCMP. That's a good thing," Babineau said. "The same thing should be happening for racialized people."

With files from Radio-Canada's Brigitte Bureau