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Trudeau wants to move ‘very quickly’ to address systemic racism, minister says

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Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos says the prime minister wants to move “very quickly” to dismantle barriers that contribute to systemic racism.

The government is making modest progress at diversifying the federal public service, but there is more work to do, especially in the senior ranks, Duclos told a media briefing Monday.

READ MORE: ‘From taking a knee to taking a stand’: Why anti-Black racism in Canada can’t be ignored

More broadly, he said, the government can and should help others remove barriers to progress for Canadians of different racial backgrounds.

Duclos says it’s about empowering everyone to see the obstacles that others are facing.

He rhymed off a list of areas, including education, public safety and Indigenous relations, where advances in equity can be made.

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Click to play video 'Community groups call for concrete action to be taken following the OCPM report on systemic racism in Montreal' Community groups call for concrete action to be taken following the OCPM report on systemic racism in Montreal
Community groups call for concrete action to be taken following the OCPM report on systemic racism in Montreal

“As elected officials and, more generally, as citizens, we do have both the ability and the responsibility to help,” Duclos said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already engaged his team “to work very quickly and very efficiently” in coming up with a way forward, he said.

The government has come under pressure to spell out what it is doing to counter discrimination and entrenched racism in federal agencies following the police killing of a Black man, George Floyd, in the United States and a spate of confrontations between police officers and Indigenous Peoples as well as racial minorities in Canada.

Federal officials recently delayed a comprehensive response to the many recommendations of a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Click to play video 'CAQ government launches anti-racism task force' CAQ government launches anti-racism task force
CAQ government launches anti-racism task force

Trudeau said Monday there had been “stacks of recommendations, of analyses, of reports on measures that can be taken” to address systemic racism, particularly against Indigenous Canadians.

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“It is a question of picking which of those recommendations we should be moving forward with first,” Trudeau said.

“And that’s why we’re working with Indigenous leadership and communities, working with the Black community, working with racialized Canadians to prioritize exactly what things we should do rapidly.”

The federal government should immediately declare First Nations policing an essential service, rather than just a program, to ensure adequate funding and a legislative base, said Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

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Bellegarde echoed Trudeau in noting there had been many studies and reviews on justice to draw upon.

The lack of action on the various recommendations is what is “killing our people,” he said.

As for the RCMP, Bellegarde advocates a zero-tolerance policy on excessive use of force.

“There are things that can happen immediately, short-term, within the existing systems that are there.”