Justice, public safety ministers discuss need for anti-racism training

 

OTTAWA -- Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says a need for anti-racism training for all people working in the criminal justice system was a focus of conversation with his counterparts from across the country at a two-day meeting.

Blair said there was recognition among public safety and justice ministers that police, prosecutors and judges could "benefit from a better understanding" of the cultural realities of Indigenous and racialized people in Canada.

At a news briefing after the meeting, Blair noted the need to be respectful of judicial independence, but indicated that should not stand in the way of educational efforts.

"There was a very fulsome acknowledgment that we need to do better and that all of us have a responsibility here," Blair said.

The recent throne speech pledged federal legislation and money to address systemic inequities in all phases of the criminal justice system. 

The commitments came amid mounting concerns about unfair treatment of Black and Indigenous people, who are overrepresented in courts and jails.

The government has promised action on issues ranging from sentencing and rehabilitation to improved civilian oversight of the RCMP and standards on police use of force. 

The planned measures also include modern training for police and other law-enforcement agencies, as well as broader RCMP reforms that emphasize a shift toward community-led policing.  

In addition, the Liberals promised to speed up work on a legislative framework for First Nations policing as an essential service, seen as crucial to ensuring safety in Indigenous communities.

"I've had initial meetings with Indigenous leaders across the country on this important matter," Blair said Thursday.

"And we are seized with the urgency of ensuring that all Indigenous people receive culturally competent, adequate and effective police service which is respectful of their jurisdiction, accountable to the people and will serve to keep them safe."

Ministers also discussed police wearing body cameras as one way to try to contribute to greater accountability, including the RCMP's plan to roll out such devices, Blair added.

In a report released this week, the RCMP watchdog found the national police force's policies lacked clear guidance when it comes to collection, use and retention of information related to civil protest events.

The RCMP signalled its intention to reform data-handling practices in a way that could better protect rights of activists.

Blair said Thursday there is "clearly work that needs to be done" to ensure the RCMP and other police services are transparent and accountable to the people they serve.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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