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Black History Month: former police officer in Montreal speaks out on racial profiling

Calvin Lawrence during a photo shoot for his book Black Cop.
Calvin Lawrence during a photo shoot for his book Black Cop. Calvin Lawrence

Calvin Lawrence, author of Black Cop and race relations adviser, was at Union United Church in Montreal over the weekend to speak about his time with the RCMP as part of Black History Month.

Born in Yarmouth, N.S., and now based in Ottawa, Ont., Lawrence began his career with the Halifax detachment in 1969. Lawrence said he was hired as a token Black person after the Black Panthers visited Halifax.

During his presentation, Lawrence spoke out against racial profiling and the use of street checks in Montreal. He also spoke about his career in Canadian law enforcement and the racism he endured as one of the first Black police officers in Nova Scotia.

READ MORE: West Island non-profit to tour Canadian schools for Black History Month

As an activist, Lawrence has spoken out about systemic racism and racial profiling, specifically in the case of Santina Rao, a 23-year-old woman whose controversial arrest at a Halifax Walmart has sparked an investigation from Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team.

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Rao’s violent arrest came less than three months after Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella issued a formal apology to Nova Scotia‚Äôs Black community over the prejudicial use of street checks.

READ MORE: Former cop says more than apology to black community needed from police

In his book Black Cop, Lawrence writes that he was mocked, humiliated and denied advancement because he was not white.

After 36 years spent engaging in “an unwinnable war”, Lawrence retired and filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. His case resulted in a confidential settlement.

“I knew at that point 36 years of policing was enough, and the situation wasn’t going to get any better for me because, if you will excuse the pun, I was blacklisted,” said Lawrence.