Stop downplaying systemic racism, Montreal police officers tell their union president squib

Nine Montreal police officers — all of them people of colour — have signed a letter calling on their union president to acknowledge systemic racism exists in the force, after he downplayed the issue in several interviews earlier this month. In the letter addressed to Montreal Police Brotherhood President Yves Francoeur, the officers say they were "surprised" to hear Francoeur does not believe there is systemic racism in the force. The officers described a "culture of silence" within the SPVM that prevents their colleagues from speaking out against racism. "Several of us officers have tried to draw your attention to the silent minority among your members," the officers said in the letter.Francoeur gave a series of interviews in early June, following protests in the United States, and Canada, over the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police.The protests, including those in Montreal, have criticized police treatment of Black, Indigenous and people of colour. They are seeking widespread reforms to address racial profiling and other forms of systemic discrimination.  Francoeur told French-language television station TVA, "I don't think there is racism at the police-force level." He told 98.5 FM radio host Paul Arcand that "I don't know any officers who stop someone just because they are Black."Different realityIn their letter, the officers of colour said the interviews made them "realize that our union does not have the same understanding of reality as its so-called racialized members."The letter also points to a recent report by the city's office of public consultations, which recommended that the culture within the SPVM needed to change in order to deal racial profiling.A separate report, published last year, found Black and Indigenous people were four to five times more likely than whites to be stopped by Montreal police.Earlier this month, Montreal police Chief Sylvain Caron said he was committed to eliminating racial profiling by his officers and acknowledged systemic racism was a problem. In their letter, the officers call on their union to do the same. "Recognizing a problem is the first step toward a solution; we'd like the Brotherhood to also look at the problem," they wrote. Union president defends position  Francoeur wrote a reply to the officers, defending his refusal to acknowledge systemic racism within the force. "The meaning given to the term 'systemic racism' is different from the one we naturally understand by reading the definition of the words of which it is composed," Francoeur wrote."This is probably why there is no consensus or uniform understanding of this expression." He also said the term "systemic racism" suggests everyone is deliberately implicated in a racist system. He added: "In addition to being false, [this] is outrageous for Montreal police officers. We therefore abandoned semantics to avoid dividing ourselves on an expression." Francoeur said the union is against all forms of discrimination and that it is important to fight racism within the ranks of the force. A spokesperson for the union declined CBC Montreal's request for an interview with Francoeur.The anti-racism advocacy group CRARR convened a news conference Sunday morning to address the demands raised by the officers of colour. CRARR circulated the letter to media outlets on the condition the officers not be named. This is a developing story and will be updated.
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