Canada is becoming an increasingly diverse nation, and its multi-cultural landscape is expanding to meet the needs of more than 200 different ethnic and cultural groups. Experts forecast that visible minorities will become the visible majority by 2017, especially in major cities like Toronto. Policing such a diverse population requires an equally diverse police service.
While this shift in the national demographic has taken place slowly over time, it has not been met with a similar shift in the ethnic and cultural background of the police service. Policing still remains a profession predominantly occupied by white males.
Percentage of Aboriginal Police Officers in Canada Increased Between 2011 and 2016
Did you know that In 2016, 5.4% (or 4,390) of the total number of police officers reported their identity as Aboriginal, up from 4.7% in 2011? There were 1,673,780 Aboriginal people in Canada, accounting for 4.9% of the population and marking an increase from 4.3% in 2011
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Why Is This a Problem?
Certainly, one approach to the issue is to simply ignore it. After all, if white males want to be police officers, then we should let them. If immigrants, African-Canadians and First Nations people do not want to be police officers, then why bother incentivizing them?
This line of thought ignores a few critical social issues.
For one, well-known issues have already developed between Canadian police services and First Nations people, and creating a sense of trust requires a commitment to greater diversity.
Another issue is determining the reason why some individual groups seem not to consider a viable career in policing. This can indicate a lack of trust in the police in general, or a specific lack of trust in Ontario police. Some of these ethnic groups may have emigrated from countries with corrupt and aggressive police services - in each case, it is not the ethnic population that loses, but the integrity of the Canadian police and its ability to represent and protect Canadian citizens.
Consider the following facts:
- A full 20 percent of Canada's population were born outside the country.
- 10 percent of Canada's population speak a language other than French or English at home.
- Nearly 200 languages are spoken on a daily basis throughout Canada. Of these languages, 61 are native languages.
- The vast majority of visible minority populations live in large cities, like Toronto. Large cities also have proportionately higher crime rates.
Effective policing of a multicultural society simply cannot be achieved without a multicultural police service.
Why Diversity in Policing Helps
If you ask the average Canadian why we should implement and motivate diversity in our police services, they may simply respond that it's the "right thing to do"—and it is. There should be some sort of tangible benefit to hiring a diverse police service.
There is a tangible benefit, and it's an important one. The best way to visualize this is through a thought experiment called the "ketchup question". The thought experiment starts simply, with a question.
Where do you keep your ketchup?
This probably seems like a completely unimportant question, but take a moment to understand its implications. If you're a British Canadian, you keep your ketchup in a cupboard, most likely. If you're a French Canadian, you probably keep your ketchup in the refrigerator. Now imagine what happens when you don't have any ketchup—you immediately start looking for other condiments nearby.
If you're looking in the refrigerator for a substitute, you're going to find an entirely different set of condiments than if you're looking in the cupboard. The end result may be choosing mayonnaise over malt vinegar or olive oil. This is where diversity actually plays a significant role in the ability for people—including police officers—to solve tough problems.
This simple shift in perspective shows that someone who can draw on the experience of a different cultural upbringing can apply what they've learned in ways others may never think of. A female First Nations police officer, for instance, may come up with a peaceful, communicative strategy for conflict resolution. This is why motivating these people to become officers is such an important goal for modern Canadian police services.