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The RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador has formed an RCMP Black engagement steering committee in an effort to better address the issues and concerns of the Black community in the province.
The announcement was made Friday at RCMP headquarters in St. John’s by RCMP NL Assistant Commissioner, Commanding Officer Ches Parsons, co-chairman of the committee, and committee founder and co-chair Lloydetta Quaicoe.
Parsons said discussions with members of the Black community began a few months ago about ways to promote and support effective communication between the Black community and the RCMP.
“Our goal was to find a better way forward in terms of engagement with the Black community here in this province and, in many respects, a better way to serve the public of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Parsons said. “The meeting proved very fruitful. … (The committee) is a very significant step forward.”
He said forming the committee will help ensure that police services are both inclusive and reflective of the residents officers serve and protect. The Black community is growing in the province, yet the number of Black police officers serving here is not, Parsons said.
“Their contributions to the betterment of our society exceed by orders of magnitude their numbers among our population,” Parsons said.
“So, it’s an important initiative that we’re undertaking.”
He said they are mostly delving into the issue of recruitment of members of the Black community in the RCMP, both as officers and civilian ranking members.
“(We’re looking at) how we can do everything possible to eliminate, not simply reduce, but eliminate the systemic barriers which exist in terms of recruitment of members of the Black community."
Some of those barriers include permanent residency issues. For example, promising young people are often here on students visas, but cannot apply to the force because of strict entry criteria. Parsons said the RCMP has been in contact with federal government officials to review that issue.
“We might have to clear hurdles,” he said. “(People in the Black community) have to clear walls and we have to knock down those walls.”
Parsons said there is only one member of the Black community in the RCMP — a member in Happy Valley-Goose Bay — “and we hope to have many others in the next year or so.”
Quaicoe said members of the Black community are delighted with the formation of the committee.
She says in just a couple of months, they’ve had many open and honest conversations about recruitment, training, education and community engagement — some of the areas where systemic barriers exist.
She said the committee will open doors, both literally and figuratively, for the province’s Black community.
For example, she said, Parsons has arranged to have conversations about employment and recruitment with the director of the RCMP’s national recruiting program, as well as the executive director of human resources, policies, strategies and programs.
“It has meant a lot to our Black community to feel valued, to feel that sense of welcome, recognition and acceptance by the RCMP,” Quaicoe said.
“We appreciate that the doors in this building are open at any time. This is where our committee meetings are held.”
Members on the committee came to Canada from eight different countries and hold positions of leadership and influence in the province, she noted.
“We’re proactively encouraging productive communication and intercultural understanding between the RCMP and the Black community,” said Quaicoe, who is the founder and CEO of Sharing Our Cultures Inc. “We feel a sense of assurance that we’re on the right path to building valuable, positive relationships and finding solutions to systemic barriers that exist for our community.
“We’re hopeful. In fact, I’d say that we are confident in what this RCMP Black engagement steering committee of Newfoundland and Labrador will accomplish in the days ahead.”
Somkene Mbakwe, president of the Nigerian Canadian Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, said he was asked to be part of the committee and is encouraged by what he has seen so far.
“It would only be very encouraging if a Black officer stops me on the way and says one or two things that I could identify with,” he said. “Not to say it’s got to be just a Black officer, but creating that relationship goes a long way to help people feel more comfortable, more influenced in the community and also the younger ones have that hope that someday they could be in that uniform.”
Other members of the committee are Dr. Paul Banahene Adjei, interim associate dean of graduate programs and research in the department of sociology at Memorial University; RNC Const. Jevaughn Coley; Const. April Gavel and Sgt. Tony Triffiths, both of RCMP NL Indigenous and community policing; Sarojini Ramnarine-Lang, producer and host of "Caribbean Connections" on CHMR Radio; Glenda Power, RCMP NL director of strategic communications; Nuna Toweh, post-secondary student; and Pauline Villaume, settlement officer, provincial service for Francophone Immigration of Newfoundland and Labrador.