Ottawa directing RCMP to eliminate neck restraints, tear gas and rubber bullets: Mendicino
Two years after the murder of George Floyd, the Canadian government says it will soon order the RCMP to ban the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and neck restraints. In an interview with CBC News on the second anniversary of Floyd's death in police custody, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said his office will in the coming days instruct RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to end the police force's use of these controversial techniques. Although the federal government doesn't oversee local police forces, Mendicino said he hopes his directive to the RCMP will serve as a blueprint for reform in other police services across the country. "There are some police services that have already taken those steps, but we think that with a new and modernized set of policies around the use of force by the RCMP, it can serve as a role model for other law enforcement branches across the country," Mendicino told CBC. When pressed for further details, the minister said he anticipates the RCMP will work toward ending its use of these techniques by the end of the year. Figures obtained by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin under access to information law show the neck restraint technique — while rare — is still in use in Canada. The RCMP has argued that the neck restraint technique applies pressure to both sides of a person's neck without restricting the airway and causes a brief period of unconsciousness that allows police officers to place an individual in handcuffs. Every three years, the RCMP says, officers must undergo refresher training on the use of the neck restraint technique and pepper spray. The RCMP has been reviewing its use of neck restraints since Floyd's murder. Floyd died after then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.
According to a briefing note obtained by CBC News, the RCMP still allows its officers to place a knee on an individual's upper body in some instances. Why we need to know more than just George Floyd's name Wednesday will mark the two-year anniversary of George Floyd's murder. Commisioner Lucki has said the carotid restraint hold is at the far end of the continuum of police use of force, on par with using a firearm. "It's when something serious or death or bodily harm is going to happen," she said in 2020. During the interview with CBC News, Mendicino said his government is committed to reforming law enforcement in Canada — a position that clashes with calls from some Black Lives Matter protesters for police services to be stripped of their funding or even abolished. Despite resistance from politicians, one police abolitionist said the movement has been successful in curbing the growth of policing and, in some cases, reducing its footprint in some communities. Robin Browne, a leader in Ottawa's Black community, said activists have been successful in freezing police budgets and eliminating the presence of police officers in schools. "Progress has been made but there's definitely work to do," Browne said. Browne and others say they would like to see communities redirect funds to non-policing solutions — such as a pilot project underway in Canada's largest city.
This year, an $11 million pilot project was launched in Toronto after the deaths of Ejaz Choudry, D'Andre Campbell and Regis Korchinski-Paquet in encounters with police. The pilot project sees 911 and 211 operators connect some callers with community services for people in crisis — not with the Toronto Police Service. One of the organizations involved in the pilot is the Gerstein Crisis Centre. "Many communities, like the Black, Indigenous and people of colour, are already traumatized (by police)," said crisis intervention worker Darna Savariau-Daley. WATCH | The National talks to Denise Campbell about the policing alternative pilot project: After the deaths of Ejaz Choudry, D’Andre Campbell and Regis Korchinski-Paquet, the City of Toronto has launched an $11-million program to create teams that can respond to mental health calls without police officers. Taibu, a community health centre that focuses on Toronto's Black community, participates in the pilot. "(It) put institutions and organizations in a position where they could no longer ignore the challenges that the community has been facing for generations," he said. For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of.
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