Ontario police chiefs have decried NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s comment that the recent peaceful arrest of an armed Rideau Hall intruder would’ve ended differently if he had been a person of colour.
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) called Singh’s assertion “a direct attack on all police officers who are ready to give their lives to ensure the health and safety of their fellow citizens,” in a statement Thursday. The organization that represents Ontario’s senior police leaders said Singh should apologize and thank the officers who made the arrest.
“Rather than lauding the officers who de-escalated a serious public safety threat based on their extensive training, Mr. Singh has taken the opportunity to undermine public trust in police services and imply that police officers – as individuals and as highly trained and accountable law enforcement professionals – engage in conscious, racist behaviour when responding to incidents such as the one at Rideau Hall.”
Halton police Chief Steve Tanner tweeted that Singh chose to make a situation that was resolved safely about racism. “I suppose you openly believe that the accused should have been killed by the RCMP then?” Tanner wrote.
The backlash is an example of how police leadership continues to refuse to acknowledge their role in systemic racism and police brutality in Canada, said NDP MP Matthew Green.
“What was hard for people in reckoning with this terrorist attack is that police have the ability to de-escalate instances when they feel threatened or it’s hard,” Green told HuffPost Canada. “This is less about the feelings of [police] chiefs and their associations, and more about the tragic circumstances of people killed by police.”
Although he doesn’t speak for Singh, who was unavailable for an interview, Green said the party leader has nothing to apologize for.
The backlash comes after Singh was asked by reporters Wednesday to share his reaction to the actions of military reservist Corey Hurren, and following weeks of public scrutiny into the actions of police across Canada — from the violent arrest of a First Nations chief to the police shooting deaths of two Indigenous people during wellness checks and a series of other brutal incidents caught on video.
On July 2, Hurren allegedly rammed a truck through Ottawa’s Rideau Hall gates and ran with a firearm in the direction of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s residence there. RCMP officers spoke with him for more than an hour and a half before making the arrest. Hurren faces 22 criminal charges.
Singh compared the incident to the death of Ejaz Choudry last month, who was shot and killed by Peel police in his Mississauga apartment.
Choudry had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was not taking his medication when his family called the non-emergency helpline. Peel police said officers believed he had access to weapons when they entered his home which led to a shooting.
“That contrast … someone showed up to potentially kill the prime minister of Canada or, with weapons … and that person was arrested without any violence and you had a person in his own home who was killed,” Singh said. “That to me is what systemic racism in policing is all about.”
OACP’s stance is “completely devoid of the current social and political context of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the very clear and apparent impacts of policing in Indigenous and Black communities,” Green said.
OACP said in its statement that while Ontario police leaders have acknowledged systemic racism exists in policing, as it does in any other social institution, Singh is using the incident to further his political agenda and promote the argument that officers “handle calls for service differently based on the race or ethnicity of the individuals involved.”
“The OACP has clearly stated that racism in any form is evil, that systemic racism does exist in policing as an institution, and that we as leaders must take constant and resolute action to remove anything from our profession that stands in the way of providing unbiased public safety services to everyone in our communities.
“However, we will not let politically motivated attacks on our people by public officials go unchallenged.”
Watch: Liberals, Bloc spar over ‘systemic racism’ in Canada.
UPDATE - 2:10 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to include comments from NDP MP Matthew Green.