Current Problems

Justice (25-42)

RCMP misses deadline for employees to complete mandatory anti-racism training

January 25, 2023

The 3-hour online course “Uniting Against Racism” was introduced as part of the Vision 150 program brought in by Brenda Lucki when she took over.

Toronto Star: The Mounties have acknowledged their ongoing problems with systemic racism and discrimination. They have touted their action plan for dealing with those problems.

But the RCMP has, so far, failed in its quest to have all of its employees take mandatory anti-racism training. And that, coupled with the nature of the training and a lack of transparency from the Mounties, is a strong indicator that those problems aren’t being taken very seriously, says one expert.

The training in question — a three-hour online course titled “Uniting Against Racism” that “examines race and racism, including the history of racism in Canada” — was introduced as part of the Vision 150 program brought in by Commissioner Brenda Lucki when she took over the Mounties in 2018.

Vision 150 was designed, over the course of five to seven years, to reform the RCMP, in part by addressing its systemic problems with racism and discrimination. Those problems, since 2018, have led to the national police force paying out or potentially facing some $2.4 billion worth of damages in multiple class-action lawsuits.

Another mandatory training course was included in that Vision 150 package, a Cultural Awareness and Humility course, which the Mounties said 95 per cent of their employees have completed.

The RCMP’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) report for 2021-22 says about the anti-racism course: “This training will help employees to recognize the impacts of Canadian and RCMP history on the communities we serve; the unique role law enforcement plays with regard to individual and systemic racism; the intersection between a policing mandate, community perceptions, and trust; and how to play an active role as agents of positive change.”

The EDI report also stipulates that all RCMP employees were expected to complete the mandatory course by Sept. 30, 2022. But that didn’t happen.

“To date, over 50 per cent of the workforce has completed the Uniting Against Racism training and we continue to communicate the importance of this learning and monitor uptake to ensure employee completion,” said RCMP spokesperson Camille Boily-Lavoie in an email.

The Mounties did not respond to followup questions from the Star on what the exact completion percentage was as of the beginning of January, or why the September 2022 deadline was not met. It also did not respond to questions on whether RCMP employees were held accountable in any way for not taking or refusing to take the anti-racism training.

A question on when the national police force projected to have 100 per cent compliance from employees in taking the mandatory course similarly went unanswered.

“There has been a sense of a racial reckoning and discussions about racial bias in Canadian policing, and the RCMP, as our national police force, has explicitly stated that they care very much about equity and diversity,” said Toronto Metropolitan University criminology professor Kanika Samuels-Wortley, who studies racial bias within policing, including the use of training to address that bias. 

“But the fact that they are not being transparent about what their officers are doing or the level of training that their officers are doing demonstrates that it really isn’t much of a concern.” “The fact that they haven’t hit their target — I can appreciate that sometimes these things can take time. However, once again, the fact that they’re not being very transparent about how they’re going to ensure that their members are trained at a decent pace — or are being trained — again, is a bit concerning.”

Samuels-Wortley takes issue with the nature of the training itself. A three-hour online course, she said, is not a panacea for the decades of systemic racism within the force. The nature of that training, she says — the ticking of that anti-racism training box after three hours online — undermines its importance to the officers themselves.

“If they just have to go in for three hours, do whatever they have to do and leave and they’ll never have to think about it again, it is not going to be something that they feel is important for them to internalize and for it to become part of their behaviours in engagements with the community,”

To her mind, that training needs to start from Day 1 with the RCMP, has to be recurring throughout an officer’s career and it needs to be bolstered by evaluations to ensure the training is being taken seriously. Anti-racism training — even if the RCMP hits its 100 per cent target — means nothing unless it demonstrably has an impact on officers’ interactions with members of the community, she said.

And to that end, not only do RCMP members have to be evaluated to see if they retain the tenets of that anti-racism training, but also, to see if that training has any merit, supervisors at the highest levels must seek out feedback from racialized communities to see if and how their interactions with police have changed over time.

“Because there has been a demonstration that racialized peoples are more likely to have lost confidence in the police and report more negative experiences with the police, it needs to be demonstrated right from the top that that is a priority, that they wish to try to change these relationships and therefore to have temperature checks — see how the community feels about the police that service their community,” she said.

SMSteve McKinley is a Halifax-based reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @smckinley1