RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is expressing regret for not acknowledging systemic racism within the police force after her recent comments sparked widespread criticism.
“During some recent interviews, I shared that I struggled with the definition of systemic racism, while trying to highlight the great work done by the overwhelming majority of our employees,” she said in a statement Friday.
“I did acknowledge that we, like others, have racism in our organization, but I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP. I should have.”
Systemic racism, she said, is part of every institution including the RCMP, and historically as well as today, the force has “not always treated racialized and Indigenous people fairly.”
Lucki said it’s time for the RCMP to double down on efforts to combat racism and discrimination.
“There is no one answer, no single solution, no one approach. It is the ongoing commitment to work and continue to learn that will help us make real progress and I am motivated and determined to make change,” she said.
Lucki told Global News on Wednesday that while she believes there is “unconscious bias” among members of the police force, she is “struggling” with the definition of systemic racism and how that applies to the institution of the national police force.
She recounted that statement on Friday, a day after the release of an RCMP video showing an Alberta First Nations chief, Allan Adam, being tackled and punched during an arrest in Fort McMurray in March.
The issues of police brutality and institutionalized racism, particularly against Black and Indigenous Canadians, have taken on a renewed spotlight in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died after an officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minn., on the U.S. Memorial Day holiday in May.
Floyd’s death sparked historic demonstrations across the U.S. — as well as in Canada and Europe.
Lucki’s remarks on racism within the force were met with a backlash, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week that he maintains confidence in her.
He added that many Canadians are struggling to define systemic racism amid what he described as a national “awakening.”
Alberta RCMP deputy commissioner Curtis Zablocki, who previously expressed similar sentiments as Lucki, also backtracked on Friday.
“These have been conversations that have challenged my perceptions and made it clear that systemic racism does exist within the RCMP,” he said.
“My statement earlier this week was not intended to minimize the experiences some people have endured in working with or interacting with the systems or policies of the RCMP.”
–With files from Amanda Connolly, Global News