Alberta RCMP top official vows to end systemic racism after denying existence


Alberta Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP Curtis Zablocki bypassed calls for his resignation on Friday and promised to eliminate systemic racism in his organization after denying it had existed before.”I never intended to downplay anyone’s experience or hurt racialized or aboriginal people through my comments,” said Alberta senior RCMP official when told by CBC News. asked to resign from the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association of Alberta (CTLA).

“I have learned a lot personally this week and I am committed to ensuring that the RCMP employees in Alberta and I continue the work necessary here in the province to eliminate systemic racism.”

Zablocki said at a press conference in Edmonton on Monday that he did not believe there was systemic racism in the police service in Canada or Alberta.

In a statement released later, he retracted his claim, at least in part, that “racist individuals” could be found anywhere in society and institutions, which had been recognized by the RCMP.

But Zablocki says his position has changed after research and conversations with Indigenous leaders and colleagues.

“These were conversations that challenged my perceptions and made it clear that systemic racism exists in the RCMP,” said Mr. Zablocki.

“We need to understand and learn, challenge our assumptions, recognize racism for what it is and, most importantly, hold our employees and our organization accountable for racist attitudes and behavior. ”

At a press conference a few hours earlier at Edmonton City Hall, the CTLA called for reforms to address the problems of systemic policing in Alberta. But they said it should start with Zablocki’s resignation.

The CTLA – a 40-year-old organization that represents the interests of crime lawyers and the police – has also called for the resignation of RCMP officers involved in the violent arrest in March of the First Nation’s chief Athabasca Chipewyan, Allan Adam, and senior officers who concluded the use of force was warranted after viewing the video.

If they don’t quit, they should be fired, the group insists.

Tom Engel, head of the CTLA police committee, said that Zablocki and the senior officer who reviewed the video showing Adam’s arrest have lost all moral authority to lead the RCMP, which is responsible for monitoring most of the Aboriginal communities in Alberta.

Richard Mirasty is a Cree lawyer who spends most of his time defending Aboriginal Albertans. (David Bajer / CBC)

He said that the federal government generally submits complaints to the agency responsible for civilian oversight, but that changes are necessary because it can only make recommendations to the Commissioner, rather than having the opportunity to investigate or to fire a police officer.

What is needed, said Engel, is an independent oversight body like the Law Enforcement Review Board in Alberta.

“We demand that action be taken immediately to correct this. These are not complicated changes. All they have to do is review the Alberta Police Act and amend it accordingly.

“The police have to investigate themselves,” said Engel, adding that the request was supported by police chiefs and police unions.

Engel said underfunding of complaints-laden system should also be addressed as part of province’s police law review, noting ASIRT investigation into Adam’s arrest will take a year or more before charges can be laid.

“Charge this officer”

“No one would think it’s okay,” he said. “Anyone who watches this video, any police officer, any crown prosecutor who watches the video would say charge this officer … this guy must be put out of service. But it just doesn’t happen in our system. ”

The CTLA also calls for the creation of an independent investigative body for complaints against the police and a community-based approach to mental health appeals that would no longer see armed officers being the first to respond.

Lawyers say concrete changes are needed immediately to ensure that the Alberta police force meets the expectations of all Albertans who marched through the streets in their thousands after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd.

“For a person in a leadership position to deny the existence of systemic discrimination in Canada when our Supreme Court has recognized it since the 1990s, it is absurd,” said Richard Mirasty, member of the CTLA.

Mirasty is a Cree lawyer who spends most of her time defending Aboriginal Albertans.

“If you are in a leadership role like this and you cannot recognize it, then it may be time to go find someone else who understands systemic racism. “

Tipping point for an Aboriginal lawyer

Mirasty said the RCMP’s denial of racism and excessive use of force was the tipping point as his own memories of life in northwestern Saskatchewan went back.

As a teenager, he said, RCMP officers repeatedly choked him until he passed out. Another RCMP officer pointed a service pistol at his head at the age of 21.

Initially paralyzed by anger, Mirasty was quickly motivated by a determination to express herself.

“I can understand the anger because I thought I had given up on this, but you never move,” he said.

Among the demands for reform, the CTLA wants an independent investigative body so that the police no longer carry out investigations themselves.

In addition, armed officers should no longer be the first to respond to mental health crises that can easily become fatal, said the CTLA.

Zablocki said the RCMP will continue to put in place initiatives that challenge assumptions and promote inclusion, such as developing a reconciliation strategy for the province.

He declined to comment on Adam’s video while ASIRT is investigating.


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