Senator calls on RCMP commissioner to resign after comments on systemic racism

Progressive Sen. Lillian Dyck said today RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki should resign or be replaced as the force's top cop following comments she made about systemic racism in a series of media interviews last week.

'Her recent statements show that she does not fully understand what systemic racism is,' Sen. Dyck says

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki at a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, April 20, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Progressive Sen. Lillian Dyck said today RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki should resign or be replaced as the force's top cop following comments she made about systemic racism in a series of media interviews last week.

Lucki initially said she was "struggling" with the term systemic racism and had heard "15 or 20 definitions" of it, adding she couldn't say for certain whether the RCMP is grappling with that form of racism.

She later backtracked on those comments in a statement sent to the press late Friday.

"I did acknowledge that we, like others, have racism in our organization, but I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP," Lucki said in that statement. "I should have."

"As many have said, I do know that systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included. Throughout our history and today, we have not always treated racialized and Indigenous people fairly."

Dyck said Lucki's "about-face" shows she does not have the "necessary knowledge or skills" to remain as commissioner.

"She should step down or be removed immediately. This will benefit all Canadians, including the members of the RCMP," Dyck said in a written media statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended Lucki in recent days, saying he trusts the commissioner to lead the force at this time. Trudeau appointed Lucki to the job in March 2018.

"I have confidence in Commissioner Lucki and I know that the changes that she has already begun to bring to our national police force, and the work that we're going to be doing together in the coming months, is going to make a huge difference in combating systemic racism and reducing it in this country," Trudeau said Friday, not long before Lucki released her statement.

Systemic racism refers to entrenched discrimination in certain institutions that puts minorities at a disadvantage. Civil rights advocates maintain that the criminal justice system treats Indigenous and Black people differently, and that these communities are disproportionately affected by police violence.

Advocates have pointed to a number of police shootings in recent weeks — incidents that have left six Indigenous people dead since April — as evidence of systemic or institutional discrimination.

Dyck said Lucki is not equipped to lead the RCMP at a time when racial issues are the forefront.

"Her recent statements show that she does not fully understand what systemic racism is; thus, she will not be able to implement or envision the way forward to eliminate systemic racism in the RCMP. Her unexplained about-face on whether or not systemic racism exists in the RCMP is paradoxical and unacceptable as a leader," Dyck said.

Portrait of Lillian Dyck.
Progressive Saskatchewan Sen. Lillian Dyck says RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki should resign or be replaced. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

Dyck said Lucki promised the police would "do better" after the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report documented how police actions have led to unsafe conditions for some First Nations, Métis and Inuit women and girls in this country.

The report called on the RCMP to stop rotating inexperienced police officers into Indigenous and northern communities, to support Indigenous-led policing and to teach cadets about the "history of police in the oppression and genocide of Indigenous people."

"It is clear now that she does not possess the knowledge or leadership skills to keep her promise," Dyck said.

"Canadians and Indigenous women, in particular, deserve to have the best possible commissioner who will be able to initiate and lead the necessary changes in the RCMP to keep us safer and protect us from violence."

Dyck is a senator from Saskatchewan and a member of the Cree Gordon First Nation. She has been recognized for her advocacy work against sex-based discrimination in Indigenous policy making.

Another senator, Conservative Senate Leader Don Plett, will call for an inquiry into racism in the Red Chamber when the upper house resumes sitting tomorrow.

The inquiry will give senators the chance to study "the presence of racism and discrimination within Canadian institutions."

Zero tolerance for excessive use of force: Bellegarde

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde told reporters Monday policing in this country needs fundamental reforms.

He said he wants to see new money from the federal government to support Indigenous-led police forces.

"There's no use having a police service when you don't have the adequate financial resources or human resources," he said.

Bellegarde said he also wants to see the RCMP adopt a zero-tolerance policy on the excessive use of force.

"The police are there to serve and protect, not assault and kill," Bellegarde said.

When asked today by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh if she'd support defunding the police — as some activists have demanded in the wake of George Floyd's police custody death in the U.S. — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland described racism against Indigenous peoples as the "original sin of our country."

WATCH | Chrystia Freeland says anti-Indigenous racism is Canada's 'original sin'

'We could describe it as the original sin of our country': Freeland on racism

3 years ago
Duration 2:24
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh questioned Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland about stopping systemic racism, during a sitting of the House of Commons' special COVID committee.

"It is such a crucial issue ... I absolutely agree that we need root and branch reform, including of how policing is done in Canada," Freeland said.


John Paul Tasker

Senior reporter

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

With files from the CBC's Olivia Stefanovich