The Calgary Police Service has selected 15 applicants to serve on its anti-racism committee, which is expected to help the force develop an equity, diversity and inclusion strategy.
However, some members of the city’s BIPOC community are raising concerns with the selection process after applications from several prominent community voices were rejected.
CPS issued a call to action in search of potential committee members in December 2020, which prompted about 215 applications from across the city.
According to CPS Acting Insp. Avril Martin, the anti-racism committee will be tasked with “identifying systemic barriers to accessing police programs and services.”
“We know that we must go slow so that the change is credible and it’s real and it’s tangible,” Martin said. “But we also can’t be at a snail’s pace where we’re seeing that it’s just lip service, and we’re not doing anything to address any systemic racism or anti-racism work in the city of Calgary, so there’s a balance, and we’ll find that balance.”
The committee is expected to meet monthly and will be tasked with identifying language barriers in accessing police services and working with community partners and stakeholders on actions to address structural racism.
CPS is in the process of notifying successful applicants to the new committee but the names of members haven’t been released yet.
The committee has yet to go over its terms of reference and term limits, but Martin is anticipating work to get underway by March 1.
Rishi Nagar, a resident of the city’s northeast and news director at Red FM, announced via Twitter that he was selected to serve on the CPS anti-racism committee.
Nagar, who also serves on Calgary’s Anti-Racism Action Committee, said he has heard many experiences of discrimination and racism directed towards people in his community because of language barriers and employment in front-line work, and he wanted to make a difference.
“If I can’t speak English, I should not be considered as a lower category,” Nagar said. “If I have a long beard and I have a turban on my head, that doesn’t mean I’m not a human being; that type of discrimination should not be there.”
Nagar said he hopes the committee’s work will help improve the relationship between police and his northeast community.
“There is a fear factor for the police in our minds. Even if there is a fight between a husband and a wife, nobody will call the police because we fear police,” Nagar said. “That fear has to go. This is Canada.”
There have been some concerns raised by the community about the selection process and the makeup of the committee.
“We are seeing that a lot of activists that are trying to make anti-Black racism their focus have not been accepted or included,” Black Lives Matter YYC president Adora Nwofor said.
According to CPS, candidates were expected to:
- have lived an experience of racism or have professional, academic or cultural expertise in anti-racism-related work
- demonstrate the ability to develop and maintain collaborative relationships
- understand a range of human and civil rights issues and the historical origins of systemic racism
The selection criteria also called for candidates to be open to supporting people and communities towards meaningful, positive change and preferably have personal or professional community connections that can inform the committee’s work.
Candidates were not asked to self-identify, and CPS could not provide a breakdown of the demographic of the committee.
There were no oral interviews, CPS said, and candidates were asked to submit a cover letter and their resume.
“Only using academia for this work misses the experience, which is the most important part because theory not put into practice is useless,” Nwofor said.
Nwofor said she decided not to apply for the committee because she felt she couldn’t speak freely with CPS moderating the discussion.
“I think the criteria that we chose was balanced. It was fair, it was transparent, it was reasonable,” Martin said.
“The candidates that were either selected or very close were the best candidates that came forward with the best knowledge, skills, abilities, lived experiences, professional experiences and willing to come together in an inclusive fashion.”
Activism group Defund2Fund told Global News it was reserving comment until the committee is unveiled.