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RCMP reveals which provinces’ Mounties did least amount of mandatory anti-racism training

February 9, 2023

The RCMP told the Star previously that more than 50 per cent of its workforce had taken the course; it turns out the actual number is 51.6 per cent.

Toronto Star: More than a year after committing to have each RCMP officer and employee take anti-racism training, the Mounties have revealed the full extent of their failure to do so.

When the Star asked the RCMP in late December how many of its employees had taken a mandatory anti-racism course, the deadline for which had passed months earlier, the response was: “To date, over 50 % of the workforce has completed the United Against Racism training.”

It turns out, the number is actually 51 per cent.

That’s according to figures the RCMP released to the Star this week, almost a month after being asked for more precise compliance figures. Of the Mounties’ 27,984 employees, only 14,439 — 51.6 per cent — had completed the course as of Jan. 1, 2023. When that data is filtered to include only RCMP members — officers and special constables — that figure drops slightly to 51 per cent.

The numbers also reveal which province had the worst compliance rates in the country — Nova Scotia — and which had the highest: Ontario. The latter province, however, operates its own police force outside of large cities; the Mounties’ duties are more limited in Ontario than in some other provinces including Nova Scotia.

In eight provinces and territories, the completion rate for RCMP members failed to reach the 50 per cent mark as of the beginning of this year.

The “United Against Racism” program — a three-hour, online course — was launched in November 2021. It was stipulated by the RCMP as mandatory for all employees to complete by fall of 2022.

“September 30, 2022 was the target date for completion, however, there is a large portion of the force that spend their day providing policing services and supports in communities, and we are working to balance these priorities as we continue to communicate to all employees the requirement to complete the training,” said RCMP spokesperson Kim Chamberland in an email.

That seems like a strange rationale to Toronto Metropolitan University criminology professor Kanika Samuels-Wortley, who studies racial bias within policing, including the use of training to address that bias.  “In order to provide those policing services, they need to be versed on the people that they’re servicing,” she said. “This is very much part of their job — having an understanding of the community they serve … they don’t see that the two work hand-in-hand.

“I think that … response demonstrates an antiquated idea as to what policing is. Police services need to recognize that being versed on anti-racism, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism should be very much ingrained and part of policing as well.”

The program in question, examining “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 — problems that have, since 2018, led to the national police force paying out or potentially facing some $2.4-billion worth of damages in class-action lawsuits.

In the data just released by the Mounties, “H” Division, covering Nova Scotia, is by a significant margin the worst in the country in terms of the fraction of its workforce taking the course. Of Nova Scotia’s 1,221 RCMP employees, only 15.2 per cent — 186 — have managed to complete the course since it was introduced in November 2021.

When just Nova Scotia’s officers are considered, that number drops to 12.7 per cent — only 110 out of 886 members have managed to complete the course in that time.

Nova Scotia’s lack of compliance is rivalled by Nunavut and Quebec, where the anti-racism course has been taken by less than a quarter of their employees and officers.

In fact, there are no less than eight RCMP divisions — in Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Quebec, Alberta, Northwest Territories, New Brunswick, B.C. and P.E.I. — in which less than half of Mounties have completed the course.

At the RCMP Depot in Regina, where cadets are trained before being stationed across the country, the compliance rate for the course is only 70.7 per cent for employees and 71.6 per cent for members — in both cases, lower than the percentages for Saskatchewan’s “F” Division.

On the flip side, Ontario’s “O” Division led the country in taking the anti-racism course, at 93.6 per cent compliance for employees and 94.9 by members.

Ontario was trailed by Newfoundland and Labrador’s “B” Division (86.3 per cent) and Saskatchewan’s “F” Division (78.4) in terms of employees who have taken the course, and in terms of officers (92.8 and 76.7, respectively).

Samuels-Wortley noted with concern that some of the regions with the highest racialized populations of Indigenous or Black people were those whose RCMP divisions had low compliance numbers. Of similar concern was the fact that depot, where future Mounties are trained, wasn’t close to full compliance.

To her mind, anti-racism training needs to start on Day One at the depot, it has to be recurring throughout a Mountie’s career and it needs to be bolstered by evaluations to ensure the training is being taken seriously. “It continues to be concerning that there’s no indication whether these officers have to, in fact, pass the training. It just seems like it’s a box that they’re ticking,” she said.

“But there isn’t anything to indicate that they need to take a test or to do anything to demonstrate that they’ve retained the information.”

Earlier questions on whether RCMP employees were held accountable in any way for not taking or refusing to take the anti-racism training again went unanswered, as did questions on when the national police force projected to have 100 per cent compliance.

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