MONTREAL (CityNews) – A group of Montreal police officers of colour are asking the Police Brotherhood to acknowledge systemic racism in the force, something the union has refused to do so far.
A Montreal workers union who’s already taken that step, say the brotherhood’s stance is a mistake.
“It is very important for the credibility of the unions to address and tackle this problem because they do represent workers of colour, Indigenous workers, women, that do suffer discrimination. At a different level, but it does exist,” said Marc-Édouard Joubert, Comité Intersyndical Montréal Métropolitain.
“So the union cannot pretend that everything is nice when within their own ranks people are suffering from this.”
“It is a necessary conversation and we acknowledge the fact that it’s not an easy conversation but it needs to happen.”
Nine officers of colour penned a letter to Montreal Police Brotherhood president Yves Francoeur, June 24 – after he made media statements denying systemic racism within the ranks of the Montreal police force.
Even after Montreal’s Police Chief Sylvain Caron said he was committed to eliminating racial profiling by officers and acknowledged the systemic nature of racism in early June, he stopped short of admitting it existed within the force.
The nine officers say in part: “We cannot blame you for not knowing our reality, if the culture of silence is for us the most common of the options in several situations. To that effect, we are several police officers who are trying to draw your attention to a silent minority of your members.”
Francoeur replied that he was defending the majority of officers who are not racist, saying: “Many understand the expression systemic racism to mean that everyone is involved in some form of a deliberately racist system, which in addition to being false, is outrageous for Montreal police officers.”
“I understand their position, in terms of being representative of the majority – and the majority is white,” Alain Babineau, former RCMP officer and CRARR advisor.
“But at the same time, they have a responsibility towards these black officers that are paying union dues and say they need protection.”
The Police Brotherhood turned down our requests for an interview.
Francoeur says the union is committed to fighting racism within their ranks – but Joubert says using the right term is just as important.
“I’m always smiling when I hear reactions a little bit like this because I always say, why don’t you let the people that are suffering from this discrimination name the way they feel? Why do you have to try to put words into their mouth as to what the right wording should be?”
“Of course, I have experienced it myself and I am in contact with a lot black, RCMP officers, racialized RCMP officers who’ve experienced racism and discrimination in various forms,” said Babineau.
“In this day and age, we can’t keep turning a blind eye to the systemic nature of the problem.”