After a week of making headlines for not acknowledging that systemic racism exists in the national police force, Commissioner Brenda Lucki sent out a statement Friday afternoon walking back her previous comments.
“During some recent interviews, I shared that I struggled with the definition of systemic racism, while trying to highlight the great work done by the overwhelming majority of our employees,” said Lucki.
“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. I should have.”
For much of the week, politicians of every stripe have been asked about Lucki’s remarks in a number of media interviews.
APTN News also requested an interview with Lucki on multiple occasions this week but they were not granted.
In Friday’s statement, Lucki said she has the responsibility to “ensure that our organization is free of racism, discrimination and bias, both inside and out.”
“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,” she said.
For the past two weeks, the Mounties have been questioned over videos that have surfaced showing members using what some say is excessive force against Indigenous people.
It started when a video from Kinngait, Nunavut showed an RCMP officer driving up to an Inuk man and knocking him to the ground by opening his car door. That officer’s actions are now under investigation – as are five other police-involved incidents in Nunavut from 2020 alone.
Then on the weekend, Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam told reporters that he had been violently arrested by members of the Wood Buffalo RCMP on Mar. 10 over an expired license plate.
Dashcam video of the arrest shows an RCMP officer charging at Adam and tackling him to the ground. The officer can also be seen punching Adam while he was face down on the ground.
When the officer lifted him up, Adam’s face is bloodied. Adam was charged with resisting arrest.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating the arrest and is now looking for witnesses.
And on Friday, APTN reported that a Dene man is accusing the Mounties in Yellowknife of driving him to an undisclosed location and beating him. The RCMP in Yellowknife announced on Friday that they are investigating the incident.
The videos have coincided with Black Lives Matter protests taking place in Canada and around the world in reaction to the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who died after a police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck as the man pleaded for his life.
“Systemic racism isn’t about the behaviour of a single individual or the actions of one person,” said Lucki. “It’s in the institutional structures that reflect the inequities that persist in our society. And it shows up in policies, processes or practices that may appear neutral on the surface, but disadvantage racialized people or groups.
“The RCMP will not tolerate those whose actions are not in line with our core values and will be held to account.”
In Alberta, the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association (CTLA) tweeted that it’s’ calling for the resignation of Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki.
Earlier this week Zablocki, who heads the RCMP in Alberta, said that systemic racism didn’t exist within the force.
He also walked those comments back Friday.
But the head of the CTLA said Zablocki would have been one of the senior officers who reviewed the arrest of Adam – and said no excessive force was used.