The Death of John Joseph Harper
The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission
The Police and Aboriginal People TOP
The Winnipeg Police Department has placed only limited emphasis on increasing the cultural sensitivity of its 1,100 non-Aboriginal officers and has showed no real commitment to increasing Aboriginal representation on the force. TOP
The Value of Aboriginal Representation TOP
We believe that a police force is most effective if its members are representative of the community it serves. If the community is multicultural, the police force should have a similar multicultural mix. It almost goes without saying that a force will be more effective if its members speak the language or languages of those with whom it has to deal.
There is no question that Aboriginal people are not represented in the Winnipeg Police Department in proportion to their representation in the population, to say nothing of the proportion of persons of Aboriginal descent dealt with by the police. The same problem exists in the RCMP and the Brandon City Police, as well.
One way in which the Winnipeg police may begin to convince Aboriginal people of the sincerity of their efforts to improve relations with them is to see that Aboriginal people are represented substantially among the members of the force. As researchers Douglas Skoog and Irwin Barker say, the numbers of Aboriginal officers must be considerable:
Ideally, the police force should mirror the ethnic composition of the community it serves. That is, the target number should be based on the proportion of the Aboriginal people in the community. The hiring of a small number of Aboriginal officers would be misinterpreted as a transparent gesture designed to pacify relations with police among Aboriginals without allowing Aboriginal officers to make a meaningful impact on the force or on the community it serves. 1
There are many advantages to the Winnipeg Police Department, to Aboriginal people and to the community at large of increasing Aboriginal representation on the force:
They will be able to speak the language of those with whom they have to deal. While most younger Aboriginal people speak English, that should not imply that they fully understand everything said to them by non-Aboriginal police.
Knowing the Aboriginal community and its members, they will be able to do preventive policing.
When sensitive situations involving Aboriginal people arise, an Aboriginal officer would likely have a better understanding of the problem than an officer brought up in a different culture. If an officer understands the nature of a problem, it would follow that such an officer would be more effective in resolving it.
They will be excellent role models for Aboriginal youth.
They will give Aboriginal people confidence that the police force is interested in them.
When making an arrest, Aboriginal police should be better able to make certain that Aboriginal people understand what will happen in various court proceedings.
If an Aboriginal person is being arrested and needs family or community support of some kind, the Aboriginal officer probably will have a better idea of where that support might be available. The same will be true of recommending services for victims of crime.
They would be better able to give Charter and police warnings in such a way as to ensure that Aboriginal people understand their rights.
They would be better able to assist in the taking of statements from Aboriginal accused so as to ensure that the true intent of the accused is reflected in the document.
They would be able to assist their fellow officers in understanding Aboriginal culture and behaviour. Working with Aboriginal officers will have a positive impact on non-Aboriginal officers perceptions of Aboriginal people.
The presence of Aboriginal officers would enhance the image of Aboriginal people among the general public.
We do not recommend that Aboriginal officers restrict their service to Aboriginal areas of the city. The general population would benefit from seeing Aboriginal people involved in general police work. It is important that the entire population start seeing Aboriginal people in a new light. We are not just selecting police forces as the only place of employment where there should be a greater representation of Aboriginal people. Similar efforts will have to be made by governments at the federal, provincial and civic levels. Private employers generally also will have to make a positive effort to employ and to train Aboriginal people.
The question to consider is not whether Aboriginal people should be represented on the police forces of the province, but in what numbers. TOP
Employment Equity TOP
Although the City of Winnipeg Personnel and Police departments have made limited efforts within recent years to recruit visible minorities including Aboriginal people, their efforts have achieved little success. There continues to be an unacceptably low number of Aboriginal people on the force. This arises partly from low numbers of Aboriginal applicants. But more significantly, we believe, the under-representation arises from the departments use of recruiting methods and standards that operate as a "built-in headwind," which not only discourages Aboriginal people from applying, but also prevents them from getting in. More aggressive action will be required to alleviate such systemic discrimination and increase the extremely low numbers of Aboriginal people on the force. The numbers of Aboriginal officers and other staff members must be increased substantially, and quickly.
Employment equity or affirmative action programs are designed to eliminate systemically induced inequities and to redress historical employment disadvantages suffered by minorities. Such programs offer positive remedies for discrimination in the workplace. In the 1984 Report of the Commission on Equality in Employment, Commissioner Rosalie Abella stated:2
Remedial measures of a systemic and systematic kind are the object of employment equity and affirmative action. They are meant to improve the situation for individuals who, by virtue of belonging to and being identified with a particular group, find themselves unfairly and adversely affected by certain systems or practices....
Systemic remedies are a response to patterns of discrimination that have two basic antecedents:
a) a disparately negative impact that flows from the structure of systems designed for a homogeneous constituency; and
b) a disparately negative impact that flows from practices based on stereotypical characteristics ascribed to an individual because of the characteristics ascribed to the group of which he or she is a member.
The former usually results in systems primarily designed for white able-bodied males; the latter usually results in practices based on white able-bodied males perceptions of everyone else.
In both cases, the institutionalized systems and practices result in arbitrary and extensive exclusions for persons who, by reason of their group affiliation, are systematically denied a full opportunity to demonstrate their individual abilities.
Interventions to adjust the systems are thus both justified and essential. Whether they are called employment equity or affirmative action, their purpose is to open the competition to all who would have been eligible but for the existence of discrimination. The effect may be to end the hegemony of one group over the economic spoils, but the end of exclusivity is not reverse discrimination, it is the beginning of equality. The economic advancement of women and minorities is not the granting of a privilege or advantage to them; it is the removal of a bias in favour of white males that has operated at the expense of other groups. (p. 910) [Our emphasis]
Employment equity entails programs of positive remedy for discrimination in the workplace. The Winnipeg Police Departments hiring programs have not addressed the complexity of the problem and its efforts to date have fallen far short of what is required. TOP
Winnipeg Police Department Hiring Initiatives TOP
Chief Herb Stephen testified that both the City of Winnipeg and its police department have made efforts to recruit more minority members. He told us that he has always wanted more visible minorities in the department, and that he has worked with the Citys Equal Employment Opportunity office and the Mayors Race Relations Committee towards that goal. He said he would like to see minority people in every recruit class. To that end, the department has removed height and weight restrictions, criteria which were a barrier to women and some ethnic groups. The department also has advertised in ethnic newspapers to attract recruits, but according to Chief Stephen these ads have produced few results.
In a recent effort, the City of Winnipeg Personnel Department, in conjunction with the police department, developed a five-year outreach recruitment plan of action. The plan attempts to promote a positive image of the police department with minority and Aboriginal groups, and attempts to create an interest in police work. The plan also requires active recruitment efforts directed at minorities and Aboriginal people by raising the knowledge of police work. Success is monitored through the keeping of statistics on the number of minority and Aboriginal recruits. Community policing in the form of three storefront operations is part of the effort to ensure ongoing communication between the force and Aboriginal people in hopes of improving police-community relations.
Chief Stephen said that a departmental recruiting team, partially made up of Aboriginal and minority officers, was formed to make contact with ethnic groups and to encourage enlistment. It has developed an informational video to be shown on public television as well as posters to be distributed around the city. The four officers are engaged in the performance of regular duties while the program is in its development stage. Although there have been discussions about visiting reserves in an effort to attract Aboriginal applicants, that does not appear to have been done to date.
The Chief testified that for several years a sergeant had been assigned to the departments affirmative action program. However, this program has been working without a budget since May 1989.
Despite the departments professed efforts, we do not see any improvement in the level of Aboriginal hiring. TOP
Impediments to Success TOP
There are attitudinal barriers within the department which are blocking effective efforts to increase Aboriginal or minority employment. Many of these stem from racial stereotypes and misconceptions about the intent of employment equity programs.
Dr. Neil McDonald is a former professor of education who now is involved in training and educational programs, and in the development of training materials for public and private agencies. He has conducted courses on cross-cultural training for recruits and senior officers of the Winnipeg Police Department. McDonald testified that there was a general misunderstanding on the part of those entering the force as to what employment equity was about. He also said that members of the recruit class of August 1988, for example, made very strong negative racist statements about Aboriginal people. He stated that he had heard such sentiments frequently, but seldom so aggressively expressed. McDonald found that there were very strong feelings in this group about employment equity because of the possibility that the department might hire people from the Aboriginal community. There was a perception that just because a person was black or Aboriginal, he or she need only apply to the police force to be accepted on that basis. Recruits feared that an affirmative action program might jeopardize their future safety by encumbering them with underqualified partners.
It is not only among recruits that there is opposition to employment equity. There obviously is also resistance to equitable recruitment programs in the upper echelon of the departments administration, including the Chief of Police.
Chief Stephen told us he is opposed to the use of quotas. The use of quotas is a well-recognized means of ensuring that employment equity programs achieve results and are not merely public relations exercises. But Stephen said that he believed that every recruit or applicant must compete for the available spaces. The current procedure is that if two applicants are considered to be equally qualified, preference may be given to the Aboriginal applicant. From what we heard about the selection criteria, we doubt if the present system will allow any Aboriginal applicants to be considered equal in every category with other applicants. TOP
The Use of Educational Criteria in Recruitment TOP
Educational requirements have proved to be one of the major barriers to increased Aboriginal hiring at the Winnipeg Police Department. There is now a requirement that recruits must have completed grade 12. Chief Stephen said that this requirement must be maintained because anyone with less than a grade 12 education would find it difficult to perform his or her duties properly. Stephen stated, "They dont need just that grade 12 certificate, but just to show that they have the ability of going forward and achieving it." The Chief said that any Aboriginal applicants lacking a grade 12 standing should upgrade themselves on their own and then apply to the department.
Stephen testified that it would be a disservice to the police department to vary the grade 12 requirement. He said police work continues to become increasingly complex and "lowering the standard" for Aboriginal recruits would make it difficult for them to be accepted by other members of the department.
We tend to agree with this latter concern. It would be unfair, in our view, to have different and "lower" standards for Aboriginal recruits. It is our view that society generally, and Aboriginal people in particular, would not benefit from the application of less stringent or less demanding entry criteria for Aboriginal members than for non-Aboriginal members of the Winnipeg Police Department, and we do not advocate that. However, we believe that varying the way in which the Winnipeg Police Department approaches educational requirements so as to make them more fair would not lower the quality of police recruits, nor would it be a disservice to the department.
Chief Stephens comment that applicants grade 12 standing shows "that they have the ability of going forward and achieving it" discloses both the strength and the weakness of using such a criterion.
The conclusion that a person is proved competent by completing grade 12 leads almost automatically to the conclusion that anyone who does not is incompetent. The assumption that completion of grade 12 is a reasonable basis for comparison of individuals, however, is based upon a false premise: that everyone in society has equal access to education. For Aboriginal people that has not been the case.
Aboriginal people historically have been denied equal educational opportunities and resources in Manitoba, and throughout Canada. The residential school system, which was operated by the Department of Indian Affairs throughout Canada as late as the 1970s, was a colossal failure in providing suitable education to Indian children. Very few children ever completed high school within that system, primarily because it was not geared to educate but to acculturate. It was an abusive system and Indian children escaped from it at the first opportunitygenerally when they turned 16 years of age and no longer could be compelled to stay.
That system and the subsequent policy of educating Indian children in the provincial public school system usually required them to attend school in communities away from their reserves, sometimes hundreds of miles away. The public school system continued the acculturative bias against Aboriginal children, generally teaching them material in ways which denied to them the relevance of their cultures and identities as Aboriginal people. The resulting feelings of alienation greatly contributed to Aboriginal children leaving school at the first opportunity. It was not until 1972 that the Government of Canada altered its policy of acculturation and instituted a more meaningful policy of "Indian Control of Indian Education." However, even that has not yet addressed the problem adequately.
Most Aboriginal communities in Manitoba still lack adequate high school facilities and Aboriginal parents still must send their children out of their communities to attend high school. As attractive as this may be to some, it is still much more difficult to attend and successfully complete school in a distant community, where family supports and contacts are lacking, and social and school supports are foreign.
Even those Aboriginal communities which do have their own high schools are disadvantaged. The Department of Indian Affairs provides them with a lower level of financial and other resources than that received by provincially funded schools in the rest of the province.
Aboriginal people in urban areas continue to face an alienating public educational system which actually discourages Aboriginal children by discounting the importance of their identity. The public school system is rooted in and biased in favour of the cultures of European societies. These biases, while slowly being addressed and overcome, contribute to the fact that, according to the 1986 Canadian census, only 17% of the Indian population had graduated from high school.
Chief Stephen is quite correct in his assertion that completing grade 12 is an indication of achievement. What he perhaps does not realize is that, for Aboriginal children, it is considerably more of an achievement than for non-Aboriginal ones. In the light of such historic disadvantage, using grade 12 criterion as a prerequisite for entry into the police department affects the Aboriginal community more adversely than the rest of society.
American courts have declared this form of impact unlawful. One milestone case was the United States Supreme Court decision in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (91 S. Ct. 849 (1971)). In that case, the employer historically had hired only whites but, following the American Civil Rights Act of 1964, had changed that policy. It instituted a hiring process that included, among other things, a condition that all employee applicants had to have a grade 12 standing to be hired or promoted. The court noted that in that state, school segregation laws had prevented black people from receiving equality in education and that such a policy had resulted in most black peoples not achieving a grade 12 standing. The Supreme Court held that the use of the grade 12 criterion in that circumstance amounted to a "built-in headwind" for black people and systematically excluded more of them from being considered for employment and promotion than white people. The court noted that there were other, non-discriminatory ways of determining ability. Language and motor skills could be assessed otherwise, as could general intelligence. Finally, the court took note of the fact that completing high school did not automatically give a person the skills necessary to perform employment-related tasks. It went on to rule that to use grade 12 in those circumstances, in a way that resulted in abnormally higher numbers of blacks being excluded, amounted to systemic discrimination. We believe that the same considerations should apply in this instance.
Having a grade 12 standing does not indicate much, some believe, but it might arguably indicate the following:
A basic level of reading and writing abilities.
A knowledge of basic mathematical and scientific principles.
A basic knowledge of historical and contemporary social and political issues.
An ability to problem-solve.
An ability to achieve goals.
If that is why the Winnipeg Police Department uses grade 12 as a criterion, we believe that all these abilities can be measured in alternative ways that will not affect Aboriginal people adversely and still will enable the Winnipeg Police Department to obtain police recruits with acceptable skill levels and achievement orientation. It is our opinion that adequately skilled Aboriginal people, capable of doing police work, are being excluded unfairly by the use of the grade 12 criterion.
We conclude that the simplistic application of the grade 12 criterion for police recruits has an adverse impact on Aboriginal people, in that it unreasonably and systematically excludes more of them from entry into the Winnipeg Police Department than any other group. We conclude, as well, that better alternatives exist to determine or measure whatever it is that the use of the grade 12 criterion is believed to show, including achievement, intelligence, knowledge and skills. Its continued use in the face of such conclusions amounts to systemic discrimination.
In addition, we understand that any one of a number of other "standards" may be used by Winnipeg Police Department recruiters to eliminate a candidate. Candidates are required not only to have a complete grade 12, but also to pass a physical test and undergo two interviews before being considered for the department. We were told of an Aboriginal candidate who applied three times for admission to the department. The first time he was turned down because he lacked his grade 12. So he went back to school. Then he applied again, but this time he failed to do the required number of sit-ups in the allotted time. He was failed again. He applied once more and this time did the required number of sit-ups, but did not perform another physical test as well as he had on his previous attempt and, was failed once more. He gave up applying.
The Core Area Initiative, a joint program of the federal, provincial and Winnipeg governments, recently offered a Human Justice Training Program. The program offered upgrading to a grade 12 equivalency so that applicants could meet the grade 12 requirement of the Winnipeg Police Department and the RCMP. However, during the three years of the program, only one of the 16 Aboriginal students who completed the course was accepted into the Winnipeg Police Department. Although all the students had the requisite grade 12 and passed the physical tests, they either failed the character reference segment (one had a bad credit rating) or "failed" the interview.
The process of recruitment for the Winnipeg Police Department appears to have far too many built-in "gatekeeping" rules. We believe that any recruitment or employee selection process should use criteria which fairly assess candidates on their overall intelligence, knowledge, abilities, performance and history. Recruits should not be eliminated for failing only one element. Failing a recruit based on one officers assessment of an applicants interview performance seems counter-productive. Recruits should be scored in a variety of categories, including their membership in and ability to communicate with a minority group, and overall scores should be used to determine suitable candidates. In this way, additional marks would be given to applicants who can speak an Aboriginal language, understand Aboriginal society and demonstrate a special ability to deal with Aboriginal people. Making Aboriginal status a positive element of recruitment can only, in our view, result in a better police department, able to provide policing services more effectively and appropriately to the citizens of Winnipeg. TOP
A Hiring Plan TOP
In reviewing the City of Winnipeg Police Departments practices and standards, we found that they have an unjustifiably adverse impact on Aboriginal people in Winnipeg. That leads us to conclude that a strong remedy is justified. The employment equity program of the City of Winnipeg Police Department was intended to address the poor relations between the police and Aboriginal community, but has not improved the situation. Aboriginal people continue to be affected unfairly and adversely by the recruitment, training and hiring processes of the department.
The recruiting standards of the department have resulted in a disparately negative impact on Aboriginal people, and have had the effect of eliminating Aboriginal people at various points in the recruitment and hiring process. The development of educational standards and institutionalized prejudices historically has resulted in the exclusion of Aboriginal people, who systematically have been denied a full opportunity to demonstrate their individual abilities as police officers.
Aboriginal people need to know that they will no longer be unfairly denied access to those opportunities for which they are not only qualified but for which they are as qualified as other applicants.
Hiring sufficient numbers of Aboriginal officers will require a massive recruiting and training effort by the Winnipeg Police Department. In December 1990 there were 18 Aboriginal officers on the force, out of a total of 1,125 officers. Since Aboriginal people make up 11.8% of Manitobas population, the force must hire an additional 115 Aboriginal officers in order to reach a more equitable number of 133. Such a significant increase will be accomplished only through an effective employment equity program which develops more suitable entry criteria and sets recruitment quotas to bring racial and cultural balance to the workforce.
Practices, procedures and criteria barring Aboriginal people from becoming police officers must be eliminated and employment equity measures implemented. More energetic recruitment efforts are needed. Barriers to the training and hiring of Aboriginal people must be eliminated. Occupational qualifications and requirements should be amended to permit more Aboriginal applicants. The grade 12 educational criterion has an adverse impact on Aboriginal people and is not a legitimate standard. It is a barrier to Aboriginal people and must be removed. The grade 12 requirement is not objectively relevant to the job or an objective indicator of a persons ability. Alternative intelligence and skill determinant methods could meet the departments objective better, while lessening the adverse impact on Aboriginal applicants. A better indicator would be an objective, unbiased test that would determine whether a person is qualified to perform the duties of a police officer. Those who pass such a test should be provided the opportunity to become police officers.
We do not recommend a special constable program for the Winnipeg Police Department. Aboriginal officers will be in a better position if they enter as regular constables with a status equal to other constables. They should not have to take additional training to become regular members. If proper criteria are used, any such program will be unnecessary. Lateral transfers from other departments also should be encouraged for Aboriginal officers.
Dr. McDonald testified that the department should put "fast-tracking" into place, and accelerate or promote capable individuals from minority groups. We agree with that. We believe that it is not sufficient merely to increase the number of Aboriginal recruits in the department. Those recruits must also have the opportunity to advance to senior positions. There must be a commitment to a system of early promotion of those who are qualified but who lack seniority. To succeed, such a system will require cooperation and support from senior departmental management.
The department also should be required to have an employment equity committee made up of representatives of management, the police association and Aboriginal groups. The committee would be required to report on the departments progress and provide information on the participation of Aboriginal people in the departments work force while ensuring employee confidentiality. To assist the department in attaining the objectives of employment equity, an annual internal objective should be set by the committee. We recommend that during the first year of operation, all recruit classes be made up entirely of Aboriginal people, a goal that would not be difficult to meet if adequate recruitment efforts are employed and more appropriate selection criteria are set. In subsequent years, 50% of each recruit class should be Aboriginal, until a time when minimum representation levels are met.
In all of this we also believe the Province of Manitoba has a role to play. As the senior government, we believe it has the responsibility to ensure Aboriginal representation is not only a goal of the Winnipeg Police Department, but that it becomes a reality. We are aware that the government can influence the inclination of the department to pursue an acceptable employment equity plan. This can be accomplished through the Minister of Justices overall responsibility for policing in the province and the Provinces annual contribution of funding to the City for policing and other services. Therefore, we conclude that the Province should exercise its power and authority in both areas to achieve the results we recommend.
To be successful, it is essential that any measures or programs undertaken by the City of Winnipeg Police Department have the input of the Aboriginal community. Increasing the numbers of Aboriginal men and women on the force will be one of the most effective ways to improve the standing and respect for the force with the Aboriginal community and will, we are confident, result in more effective policing.
We recommend that:
Cross-Cultural Awareness TOP
The City of Winnipeg Police Department has a poor record of increasing cross-cultural awareness.
At the time that he testified, Dr. McDonald was in the process of drafting training materials for the City of Winnipeg Police Department. The course intended to look at the governments policy of multiculturalism, immigration patterns, prejudice and discrimination, attitudes (how they are formed and how they affect behaviour), culture and misinterpretation of cultural traits and how they influence miscommunication. Approximately half the course is spent in study of Aboriginal issues.
McDonald testified that:
I think racist and prejudiced attitudes are fairly prevalent in society at large. And in my view, at least from my experience, the prejudice towards Aboriginal peoples is probably the strongest and certainly they are the peoples that are the most widely and wildly stereotyped in our society....
And most people ... especially the males, can probably remember that the first arguments they had as a kid is who is going to be the cowboy and who is going to be the Indian. Then they set about killing each other and arguing who was killed and who wasnt ... one of the things that those Indians do is they kill children and they kill women around the wagon trains and so on and its reinforced through the media, through play and so on ... these notions of the Indian people ... are reinforced as people grow older ... and recent studies in our community indicate the same kind of thing....
I think only a fool would say that there arent racist and prejudiced attitudes and very strong ones towards Indian people, and some of the strongest ones that Ive heard expressed in my professional career are towards Indians.... Winnipeg is no exception by any means, and I think that one of the things that perhaps the Commission is doing is holding a mirror up to the face of Canadians or Winnipeggers and Im not sure they like the image. (p. 247071)
[P]olice officers ... are as likely to hold as negative attitudes as anyone else. And ... I would say that the only difference that I would find in my training with police officers, ... is that theyre more inclined to be up front about their expressions.... [P]rejudice and racism is certainly an issue.... Im always very concerned when I hear any expressions of racism or prejudice.... Im more so concerned when it comes from somebody who has to relate to a public because ... somebody who relates to a public and delivers a service and has a racist or a bigoted attitude, I think when a member of that group gets a service that theyre more likely to be shortchanged rather than be treated in a more professional manner. (p. 2473)
McDonald testified about the negative racial attitudes exhibited in the recruit class of August 1988, in which a number of recruits made racist statements about Aboriginal people, such as, "the whites will soon be the minorities," "[Aboriginal people are] always getting something for nothing," and "you find them on Main Street and thats what they do with what they get."
As we have seen in the previous chapter, it is clear that racist attitudes exist among members of the police force. The Chief of Police and counsel for the Winnipeg Police Association suggested to us that the presence of racism in the force simply was reflective of racism in society and suggested it was, therefore, not a special problem. We disagree. Police officers occupy a unique and powerful position in our society. They have the ability to interfere with the freedom of citizens and are called upon to protect society from the misdeeds of its members. The position of police officers provides them with opportunities to intrude into our livesa right denied to all others. We have every right to expect and demand from them that they fulfil their responsibilities fully, fairly and in a manner that does not discriminate against anyone on account of race. It is not acceptable for any member of society to do that, but it is even more unacceptable for a police officer to do so.
Cross-cultural educational courses should be given to every member of the force, whether they have had one before or not. The course for recruits should be enhanced and regular refresher courses also should be given to all officers from the Chief on down. The department should consider employing psychological tests that will detect whether a person has racist attitudes or tendencies. We believe that such tests can be developed with appropriate professional input. Those with racist attitudes and tendencies should not be accepted into the Winnipeg Police Department.
The Winnipeg Police Department should attempt to develop a force of professional police officers who are culturally aware and sensitive, and have the respect of the community.
All members of the community have the right to fair and sensitive policing. The Winnipeg Police Department should recognize this right by making a commitment to hiring an appropriate number of Aboriginal police officers and by increasing the cultural awareness of present members of the department.
We recommend that:
1 Angus Reid Group, "Effects of
Contact with Police Among Aboriginals in Manitoba," research paper prepared for the
Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, Winnipeg, 1989, p. 76.
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