OTTAWA — The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) quietly released employment statistics showing 1.5 per cent of regular members in officer roles identify themselves as Black.
It’s an early glimpse of the disaggregated race-based data the national police force is beginning to collect. This data is currently not published in its employee diversity statistics, updated annually, which organizes staff under four broad categories: persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, members of visible minorities, and women.
The data was disclosed in a document tabled in the House of Commons last week in response to a written question submitted by NDP MP Jack Harris in October.
Harris sits on the House’s public safety committee currently studying systemic racism in policing in Canada. In an order paper question, he asked the RCMP to provide demographic details about employees and asked for statistics about staff who self-identify as Indigenous, Black or “another visible minority.”
Watch: Minister says RCMP reform necessary to tackle racism against Indigenous people. Story continues below video.
According to the document, of the permanent, regular RCMP members, 1.6 per cent described themselves as being of “mixed origin” as of Oct. 27, 2020. Slightly more employees who self-identified as Black hold non-police officer roles.
There are two categories of non-officer roles: civilian members and public service employees. Though both are considered public service workers, the distinction between them is determined by the conditions of their employment.
Civilian members, such as psychologists and 9-1-1 dispatchers, are hired under the RCMP Act, while public service workers are hired under the Public Service Employment Act.
Approximately 19,000 police officers are employed by the RCMP, according to the national police force. As of last year, just over 3,400 people were employed as civilian employees and nearly 7,700 people as public service employees.
Among public service employees, slightly more people (1.8 per cent) identified themselves as Black. One per cent of respondents self-described as “mixed origin.”
Among civilian members, the number is lower. Less than one per cent (0.9 per cent) of civilian members self-identified as Black, and 1.2 per cent as “mixed origin.”
The disaggregated data gives new insight into the RCMP’s demographics.
RCMP Demographics Sessional Paper – December 2020 by HuffPost Canada on Scribd
The RCMP only provided percentage information to show diversity staffing levels — which may not accurately reflect reality.
Demographic data is collected under the federal Employment Equity Act, but according to the hub where diversity statistics are publicized: “Employees may identify to more than one group or choose not to identify at all, and must be provided with a means of modifying or removing their self-identification information at any time.”
New detailed, demographic data to point to
Kanika Samuels-Wortley, Carleton University professor at the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said the new figures showing the low number of Black employees in the RCMP is a surprise.
“We have consistently heard over the years how the RCMP is committed to diversity, they’re committed to equality, but we’ve never had anything to demonstrate that,” Samuels-Wortley told HuffPost, adding the details provide a new level of accountability.
“Now that we have hard data to show that there are almost no Black employees with the RCMP, we now can question whether they are following these mandates that they claim to focus on.”
Footage of the death of George Floyd in the custody of three Minneapolis police officers this summer increased awareness about systemic discrimination and racism in and outside of the United States.
That increased awareness prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to say systemic racism exists in the RCMP after Commissioner Brenda Lucki admitted she struggled to understand the definition.
This brought renewed attention on the heightened policing of Indigenous, Black, and other racialized people — and the lack of race-based data to track inequalities.
Samuels-Wortley suggested this environment is what initiated the document detailing the number of Black members in the RCMP to be tabled in the House in the first place.
“[The RCMP] need to demonstrate that they are creating a culture that allows for Black and Indigenous people to feel safer in that environment.”
Disclosure of disaggregated data is needed to give the public a better sense of what the work environment is like inside the RCMP, she said, to show if the national police force is “an inclusive culture that allows for individuals, racialized individuals to continue to want to work there.”
RCMP reviewing release of disaggregated employment equity data
The national police force continues to not be reflective of the country it serves.
Data from the 2016 census suggests 3.5 per cent of Canada’s population — nearly 1.2 million people — identified themselves as Black, constituting 15.6 per cent of the visible minority population.
Less than 12 per cent of the RCMP’s workforce identified themselves as a member of a visible minority — a statistic that continues to stagnate and fall below the general rate of the national workforce.
In 2016, members of visible minorities made up 21.3 per cent of the national workforce.
Lucki, the top Mountie, has aspirations to diversity membership by increasing the number of diverse recruits, changing eligibility criteria so more permanent residents can apply.
The RCMP has previously said it doesn’t keep detailed employee equity data, but spokesperson Robin Percival told HuffPost Canada the national police force does collect disaggregated race data under the Employment Equity Act.
“The release of disaggregated employment equity data is under review and it is anticipated that more specific data will be made available in future published reports.”
Percival explained the RCMP’s human resources system “only captures current employee self-identification data” and that “historical data for [employment equity] groups has been captured and stored manually over the years for reporting purposes” — but not at the disaggregated data level.
“Our intention is to start tracking employee data on employment equity sub-groups as of October 2020.”
Despite a review to evaluate whether or not the RCMP will release disaggregated employment equity data in future reports, the national police force is also looking into collecting disaggregated race-based data on police interactions with Indigenous and racialized peoples.
“This information will support an evidence-based assessment and update of RCMP policies, processes and practices to address systemic racism and other forms of discrimination,” reads a description of the initiative on a webpage tracking the national police force’s efforts to modernize.
That review is expected to be completed this spring.
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