The peaceful arrest of an armed Rideau Hall intruder last week reminds Canadians “systemic racism is real” when compared to other police incidents involving people of colour, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says.
Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill Wednesday, the NDP leader responded “yes” when asked directly if the incident would have ended differently if the suspect had been a person of colour.
Watch: Singh discusses Rideau Hall intruder’s arrest
Singh was asked to share his reaction to the actions of military reservist Corey Hurren, who faces 22 charges for allegedly carrying weapons and making a threat against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Hurren was arrested on July 2 after allegedly ramming a truck through the gates at Rideau Hall and running with a firearm in the direction of the prime minister’s residence.
According to The Canadian Press, police spoke to Hurren for more than an hour and 40 minutes, while he was still carrying a gun, before he was arrested. No member of the prime minister’s family, nor those of Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, whose residence is also on the grounds, were present at the time.
Asked if he considered the incident an assassination attempt, Singh said he thinks it was “domestic terrorism” and expressed relief that Trudeau’s and Payette’s families are all safe.
But he made a point of contrasting that incident with the death last month of Ejaz Choudry, a 62-year-old man who was shot and killed by police in his Mississauga apartment.
Choudry’s family said they called a non-emergency help line because he was not taking his medication and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Peel Regional Police later said officers believed Choudry had access to weapons when they entered the home, which sparked an “interaction” that resulted in the shooting.
“That contrast… someone showed up to potentially kill the prime minister of Canada or, with weapons… and that person was arrested without any violence and you had a person in his own home who was killed,” Singh said. “That to me is what systemic racism in policing is all about.”
Singh tweeted similar sentiments Wednesday, saying “systemic racism in policing is killing people.”
The NDP leader also reiterated his call for the federal government to turn a critical eye on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and systemic racism, as he championed in a motion that he was unable to move in the House of Commons last month. Bloc Québécois MP Alain Therrien denied unanimous consent at the time. Singh was later kicked out of the House for refusing to apologize for calling Therrien a racist.
The motion called on the federal government to review the RCMP budget and use of force by Mounties, noting “several Indigenous people have died at the hands of the RCMP in recent months.”
Despite Liberals apparently supporting the motion, Singh said Trudeau has not acted in concrete ways to review and overhaul how Mounties police.
“He has done less to address police brutality and violence than even (U.S. President Donald) Trump has done. That is shameful,” Singh said.
The NDP leader later elaborated that while Trump has “been horrible on this issue” and has said “hateful things,” he signed an executive order last month that prohibits police chokeholds “except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law.” Trump made the move in the wake of protests over the police killing of George Floyd.
The most Trudeau has done is a “vague reference” in support of police wearing body cameras, Singh said. He also swiped at the prime minister for taking a knee during protests against anti-Black racism in Ottawa, something Singh has said was a symbolic gesture.
“We don’t need the prime minister to take a knee,” he said. “We need the prime minister to take a stand.”
PM unveils ‘work plan’
At a later press briefing in Ottawa, Trudeau unveiled that, after a two-day virtual cabinet retreat, they have put together a “work plan” for the summer months to take steps to combat racism.
“Our goal is to come up with strong policies that will help eliminate barriers facing Indigenous peoples, racialized people and persons with disabilities,” Trudeau said. Justice Minister David Lametti will work on justice reforms and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair will look at modernizing police structures and “updating standards regarding the use of force,” he said.
A reporter noted Singh’s rare praise for Trump on the issue and asked if the summer work plan will involve specific instructions to ministers regarding the RCMP and police brutality.
“As I’ve said, we need to end systemic racism in this country and that includes looking carefully at what happens in our police forces and changing the protocols and ways that our police forces operate,” Trudeau said, adding that Blair will work with partners to bring “substantive changes to how policing is delivered across the country.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was also invited to share his thoughts on the Rideau Hall incident during a press conference in Ottawa Monday morning. Like Singh, he expressed concern for the prime minister’s family.
“Being in public life is a tremendous sacrifice and there are so many challenges that every elected official goes through, especially the person who occupies the office of prime minister,” he said. “Nobody should have to have any kind of fear for themselves or their family, and I just want to send my sentiments of support to Justin Trudeau and his family.”
Scheer said he would leave it to the RCMP to determine if the incident was an assassination attempt but said it’s a “reasonable estimation” when someone has a firearm on the same grounds as the prime minister’s residence.
Scheer was also asked to react to a Global News story on a two-page letter Hurren reportedly wrote that, according to their sources, included references to fears Canada was becoming a “Communist dictatorship” under Trudeau and that the suspension of Parliament means the government isn’t accountable.
“All I can say is that in Canada we have the wonderful gift that our ancestors purchased for us through loss of life and great sacrifice that we get to take action at the ballot box,” Scheer said. “And when people are upset with different levels of government, that is the only appropriate course of action.”
With files from The Canadian Press