‘We have a duty to fight against social exclusion,’ says Mayor Marc Demers
Following recent events in the U.S. involving police violence and widespread accusations of racism, the City of Laval has decided to revise its policies with regard to ethnic and intercultural relations – with emphasis on taking a serious second look at the actions of its police department.
The City of Laval’s decision to move forward on this issue comes as its population from multicultural and ethnic origins is growing in leaps and bounds. According to some of the latest statistics, more than a quarter of Laval’s population (28.5 per cent) consists of persons from immigrant backgrounds.
As well, when parents and grand-parents with immigration roots are taken into consideration, the percentage of the population with immigration-based origins rises to 35 per cent. From 2001 to 2011, the number of people in Laval who are immigrants rose an astounding 84 per cent. In recent years, Laval has become the second-ranking city in Quebec for the number of immigrants it welcomes.
Emphasis on inclusion
“Laval wishes to continue to be at the forefront with regards to the welcoming and the inclusion of citizens in all aspects of our activities,” Mayor Marc Demers said during a recent presentation of the new policy webcast for the media.
“We have a duty to fight against social exclusion while encouraging accessibility,” he continued. “We also have a responsibility to ensure a living environment that is secure and inclusive for our citizens, without distinguishing between their ethnic origins or social status.”
Demers said the goal of the new measures is to strengthen the bonds that citizens from immigrant backgrounds feel for their city from the standpoint of confidence and security. He said the strategy includes several aspects, as well as the implementation of key indicators to allow the achievement of the goals to be monitored.
A common objective
“We are aiming for a culture of integrated inclusion that is comprehensive, efficient and shared as much by the administration of the city as by the peace officers and the whole of the population,” said Jacques Ulysse, the City of Laval’s director-general.
The strategy will be taking place in three phases and in up to a dozen detailed measures. Here are some of the principal elements:
Phase One will involve surveying the City of Laval’s territory to acquire a better understanding of its ethnocultural diversity, its issues and the interventions that might be necessary. According to the city, new measures will be taken to gain a better understanding of the ethnocultural diversity, while establishing a strategy to improve relations with communities.
New training for police
As part of Phase One, the city will also put into place a program for the continuous training of police officers and other city staff in intercultural relations and diversity. The training of police in this respect will be mandatory and designed to assure the quality of relations by police with citizens.
Phase Two will include measures to see that the Laval Police Department implements a program to increase representation in its ranks by people from visible and ethnic minorities through dynamic recruitment strategies designed to retain employees. Working in conjunction with the human resources department, the police department will have goals to reach in terms of hiring of minorities.
The city says it wants to improve the way Laval’s police officers do their work in several respects, including raising their awareness of ethnic and multicultural issues, while seeing that they’re better informed, better trained and made aware of things impacting under-represented minority groups.
Meeting the objectives
Phase Three concerns tools the city wants to put into place to attain the goals of its overall program. The City of Laval’s Ombudsman will be given a new mandate to oversee its effectiveness and will make a report every year in that regard. The city says detailed records and documentation will be kept to see that racial profiling doesn’t take place and that corrective measures are taken if and when it does happen.
Over the coming weeks and months, the Laval Police Department will be putting into place the groundwork to open a dialogue with Laval residents regarding measures they feel are necessary to improve security while being respectful towards minorities.
As Mayor Demers pointed out, the city already has two committees in place to deal with related issues: they are the Consultative Committee on Intercultural Relations and the Consultative Committee on Youth. Their current mandate is to provide counsel and advice to the executive-committee on intercultural and youth issues. The executive-committee has decided to give the following mandates to the two sub-committees:
Two key committees
- The Consultative Committee on Youth will be asked to recommend to the administration what measures it believes should be taken to improve mutual understanding between the city and youths, while improving dialogue between the Laval Police Department and youths who live here.
- The Consultative Committee on Intercultural Relations will be asked to produce an opinion on the phenomenon of racial profiling, its causes and its consequences for people in Laval perceived as being members of visible minorities or who are immigrants. In addition, the committee will be asked to produce an opinion on the measures that should be taken for the city to achieve its set goals for equal access in employment, and so that there is better overall sociodemographic representation.
A detailed breakdown of the population of Laval in terms of its immigrant residents can be seen on the city’s web site web site (www.laval.ca/). In addition to the city council committees, the City of Laval was also instrumental in helping to create the Table régionale en immigration, diversité culturelle et inclusion de Laval (TRIDIL), which looks at related issues from a regional perspective.