Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer says he and other Canadian police leaders want peace and justice for the family of the Minneapolis man who was killed at the hands of police almost three weeks ago.
Palmer made the statement in his capacity as president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and in response to the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes in a Minneapolis street.
“We want to see the officers involved held accountable for their actions,” Palmer said in a statement Wednesday posted on the website of the chiefs’ association.
“We also want peace, justice, and healing, not only for Mr. Floyd’s family and friends, but for everyone who has been hurt and impacted by this. Racism is painful, inexcusable, and cannot be tolerated.”
Canada is not immune to racism, he said, noting it is an “insidious” part of the country’s history and continues to be a reality in 2020. He pointed to the recent spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in Vancouver and across the country as an example.
“This powerful moment we are experiencing has culminated after more than a century of systemic racism in Canada,” the chief said.
“It is time for change in all aspects of society. Tackling racism requires a response from the entire community, including the police.”
Palmer acknowledged that many people are hurt and angry right now and that police are at the forefront of the conversation. While, he said, police have developed strong relationships in communities, this is a time to listen and learn.
“Please know that we are your brothers, sisters, neighbours, coaches, volunteers, sons and daughters, who serve proudly on the frontlines under very challenging circumstances to keep our communities safe,” he said.
“We all want a better Canada without racism.”
Being on the frontlines, he said, means police are required to step in when other services are not available for a person in crisis.
“These gaps are consistent across the country,” he said.
“Services for mental health, homelessness and substance use are woefully lacking. Police leaders share this concern and have also advocated for better support and proper resources for people in need.”
He said police training and civilian oversight in Canada is “among the best in the world,” with more oversight and accountability than almost any other profession.
On the “defund police” movement, Palmer said police leaders in Canada welcome thoughtful and constructive discussion on possible reform to public safety systems.
Palmer’s statement came the day before Mayor Kennedy Stewart called on Premier John Horgan to have his government launch a comprehensive review of policing in B.C., including the Vancouver Police Department.
The review, Stewart said, should include an investigation of “systemic racism and disproportional violence experienced by Black and Indigenous” people. The mayor also doubles as chairperson of the Vancouver Police Board.
“Black, Indigenous and people of colour across our province expect people like me and the premier to use our privilege and our power to do something profound — and I truly believe that we can,” Stewart said.