Home / Canada / What is the role of the Police? Iqra Khalid, MP Mississauga Erin Mills

What is the role of the Police? Iqra Khalid, MP Mississauga Erin Mills

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to do a ride-along with a Peel Police officer. The viewpoint from a police cruiser is very different from that of my own car. People behave differently on the road when they spot a police car in the vicinity. We responded to a distress call of a young person having a mental health crisis. His mother had locked him into his room while she waited for the police to arrive. The police arrested him and took him to the local hospital where we waited for hours because the limited facilities designated for people in similar situations were already occupied.
Four years later, in the face of the horrific and tragic death of Ejaz Choudhry, I remember that young person in crisis and think about how much more we need to do. In the face of Black Lives Matter protests, we have much more to do. But where does the responsibility lie?
We call the police for everything. Arguments over parking spots, domestic violence, mental health crises, petty and major crimes, to our local schools, for community events, and more.
When officers wear the uniform, they also wear the responsibility of being the responders to any plea for help in our community. I’ve seen passionate police officers mentor young people about the dangers of human trafficking. In my role as a prosecutor at the Provincial Court, I’ve seen police be vilifiedby the people they gave traffic tickets to.I’ve seen police officers play soccer with kids on the street. I’ve seen videos of people being killed by police. Most recently, a 62 year old man suffering a mental health crisis.He is survived by four young children and a traumatized wife.
Over these past few weeks, I’ve heard people talk about “bad apples”. I’ve met some of them. I’ve also met some really good apples.
The reality is, our system of justice, system of education, systemof public service, has been found wanting. The data suggests in no uncertain terms that systemic racism and unconscious bias is a lived reality for too many Canadians. This is seen in the disproportionate numbers of racialized minorities in our justice system; in the racism endured by racialized minorities in the Peel District School Board; in the underwhelming number of racialized minorities at decision making tables.
So I hesitate to blame bad apples. I blame all of us. As a collective and as individuals.We have failed to take seriously the need for re-evaluation of how we govern ourselves. To revisit the social contract we have with one another based on our charter of rights and freedoms.
In 2017, I raised the issue of systemic racism and discrimination that exists in Canada through a private members motion in the House of Commons. This motion was based on research and studies, both qualitative and quantitative, and asked our government to develop strategies around combatting racism and supporting vulnerable communities.This motion sparked a much-needed debate amongst Canadians about our shared values. The motion passed and the study was conducted.We invested millions to support vulnerable communities.
But we need to re-think. We need to do more on all levels of government. Businesses big and small need to do more. We as a society need to do more.
We turn to our police force, our educators, our women and men on the front lines to help us and protect us. Do we equip them with the right tools and resources to make sure that that system of support works? For example, can every police officer deescalate a mental health crisis, and support a traumatized victim of domestic violence, and mentor an at-risk youth, and figure out who was actually entitled to that parking spot, and get that cat out of the tree, and build relationships with communities at local events? Do we have a process that weeds out those not up to the responsibility of public service?
What are we, as a society, willing to do about this system that is not serving all Canadians equally? As the SIU investigates the killing of Ejaz Choudhry, I ask: what is the role we expect the police to fulfill in our communities? What is the role of the Police Services Board in matters like these? What is the role of the police union in ensuring that while our women and men on the force are well protected, that the communities that they protect are treated fairly? What is the role of elected officials like me in these complex and yet simple challenges? More importantly, what role shouldwe play?
The systemic challenges in our public service institutions such as racism cannot be solved overnight. We need well-planned systemic solutions. We need all levels of government to collaborate, listen and recognize the lived experiences of so many Canadians.We need to commit to the work that lies ahead.

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