Isobel Granger is the first black woman to be made Ottawa Police Services inspector, after serving 28 years on the force. She was also the first black officer on a segregated police force in Zimbabwe in the late 1970s. Photographed at her home in Ottawa Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Julie Oliver/Postmedia JULIE OLIVER / POSTMEDIA


Isobel Granger has been breaking down barriers from the very first day of her policing career. She was the first black officer on an all-white police force in her home country of Zimbabwe. She was the first black female officer hired by the Ottawa Police Service back in 1994, and on Tuesday, 24 years later, she became the force’s first black woman sworn in to the rank of inspector.


“For me, it’s a picture much bigger than myself,” said Granger. “In order for people to trust, they need to be able to feel they belong … For a lot of people in the community, it’s hard for people to trust police, especially when they come from places where there is low trust for police. So when they see people who resemble themselves, it’s easier to build that trust.


“And I understand their stories — I understand what underpins some of the hurt, and some of the issues. The big thing for me is it’s helping to break down barriers.”


But for Granger, her journey to the upper ranks of the police force was nearly halted before it began.


“I grew up in segregation with doors that were permanently closed to me,” said Granger, who first pursued her dream of policing in Zimbabwe — then called Rhodesia — when she applied to an all-white division of the British South Africa Police.


Being of mixed race, Granger suspected she passed through the initial recruitment due to her last name. She fully expected to be rejected once recruiters saw her skin tone. “But I went through the process saying, ‘You’ll have to eliminate me before I eliminate myself.’ Before I knew it I was hired (as) the first non-white to join white ranks.”


Granger had been bullied by a group of white women among her fellow recruits. 


“They were telling me I shouldn’t even be training with them or living with them, let alone working with them.”


During one gruelling training session, in the midst of a 10-km run, Granger was at the head of the pack when she was suddenly placed with the group that had bullied her, lagging far behind.


At first she resented it.


“After a couple of kilometres it finally hit me that this is not about me, this is not about (her). This was about women in general. And so I started coaching (one of the women) and we completed the run, and when we returned, some of the girls wanted to go home. We started saying, ‘No, you can’t quit now or it will just set all women back.’


“I realized I have a role to play, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since,” said Granger.


She emigrated to Canada in 1991 in search of a better life for her children, but “it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be,” she said, recounting examples of near-daily discrimination she would encounter.


“I’ve encountered more prejudice here in Canada than racism, because prejudice is born out of ignorance and fear — when you don’t know something you’re afraid of it.


“Once people are awakened and enlightened to something, they develop empathy,” she said.

Granger applied to the Ottawa police in 1991, but withdrew her application when she realized the force, at that point, had never hired a black female officer.


She called the recruitment office three years later, and was hired in June of that year.  Another barrier broken.


But she still experienced hardship as she worked her way through the ranks.


“It’s taken me three times as long as anybody else to get where I am. The higher up you get the greater the challenges are. But I have no regrets because I’ve been able to be involved in some amazing things.”


Granger for years headed the partner assault unit, participated in a UN peacekeeping mission to Cambodia, and led the police community outreach effort after the death of Abdirahman Abdi.


“When I say this is where I come from, and these are the things that brought me to where I am today, it creates a shared understanding,” said Granger. “For me, I understand because I know what it’s like to be marginalized. And the wonderful thing about the Ottawa community, and the relationship with police, no matter what happens between us … even in difficult times we continue talking, and we were talking all the time (during the fallout surrounding Abdi’s death).


“We have a ways to go, but we created some really strong bonds where we can actually work together forward. In the middle of that conflict, I met some amazing people and some of the bonds that were formed between people and the police have been really strong.”


Chief Charles Bordeleau said the force is “very proud” of Granger’s work on the force, in the community and on the international stage.


“She’s had an amazing journey in policing and in her life. This is a strong signal that we recognize talent, and we want to ensure that we’re giving equal access to opportunities for women and for those from racialized communities,” said Bordeleau, calling Granger a “very well respected” member of the force.


“She’s been a mentor to many, women in particular, and police officers on the job and those who want to become police officers,” he said.


“We’ve heard loudly and clearly from our entire community that they want a police force that is reflective of who they are. We are committed to that as a police service, I’m committed as a chief to continue the good work we’ve been doing around diversifying our workplace, whether it’s women or people from racialized communities, we want to make sure we continue in our goal to be reflective of the people we serve.”











       Families mourn victims of deadly van attack


TORONTO -- The families shattered by a deadly rampage through the streets of Toronto include a seven-year-old boy now left without a mother and a son forced to bury the father who travelled overseas to visit him, community members said Wednesday.

While officials remained mum on the identities of the 10 people killed after a van mounted a sidewalk along bustling Yonge street, some who knew the victims released details of the individuals who lost their lives Monday afternoon. Fourteen people were also injured in the incident.

The latest identified victims include Renuka Amarasingha, a school board employee who was the sole caregiver for her seven-year-old child, Jordanian citizen Munir Alnajjar who had recently travelled to the city to visit his adult son, and a woman in her 90s who lived in a Toronto Community Housing complex in the area where the van attack happened.

Other victims include two unnamed Korean nationals, an unidentified female Seneca College student, an investment company worker with a love of volunteering and an 80-year-old grandmother who was passionate about local sports.

Police have charged 25-year-old Alek Minassian in connection with the incident, laying 10 first-degree murder charges and 13 attempted murder charges. An additional attempted murder charge was expected to be laid soon, investigators said.

A monk at the temple Amarasingha frequented said she was an active member of Toronto's Sri Lankan community and noted that the brutality of her death left many questioning the safety of the country they now call home.

"We think that Canada was a peaceful country, (but) that is a doubt we have if people do these kinds of things," Ahangama Rathanasiri of the Toronto Maha Vihara Buddhist Meditation Centre said in a telephone interview. "This is a very sad incident."

Rathanasiri described Amarasingha as a kind and generous person who attended regular services and brought cookies to Sunday school students every week.

Those students included her son, he said, adding the community is trying to raise money to provide for his future.

Amarasingha had spent the past three years working as a nutrition services staff member at various schools throughout the Toronto District School Board, the organization said in a statement, adding she was also an adult student at one time.

On the day of the attack she had just completed her first day of work at Earl Haig Secondary School, located near the crime scene, the board said.

"We extend our sincere condolences to Renuka's family and friends," board chair Robin Pilkey said in the statement. "This is a difficult time for the students and staff that knew her and we will continue to provide support to them in the days and weeks ahead."

Rathanasiri said Amarasingha's friends first became alarmed when she did not return home on Monday afternoon to look after her son as usual. Friends are currently caring for Amarasingha's son, he added.

Details also began to emerge about Munir Alnajjar, a Jordanian citizen in his 70s who also died in the attack.

Harry Malawi, a family friend and president of the Jordanian Canadian Society, said Alnajjar was visiting his family in Toronto with his wife when he was killed. He had only been in the country for a couple of weeks when the van attack took place, Malawi said, adding the family is in the midst of a three-day mourning period.

"They are secluded right now and they ask everybody to accept their privacy," he said. "We stand together, we want to help the family heal ... physically, psychologically, emotionally and financially, they need all the help they can get."

Another victim was Betty Forsyth, whose death was confirmed by a neighbour on Wednesday.

Mary Hunt, 84, said Forsyth's nephew broke the news that her neighbour of more than 10 years died in the van attack.

She called Forsyth a "lively person" who loved to feed the birds and squirrels on her regular walks through the neighbourhood.

"Everybody knew Betty because she used to walk in the morning to feed the animals," Hunt said.

She said they would often go to Casino Rama together and had made plans to go there this weekend.

"I will see how I feel and if I will have the energy to go Sunday," Hunt said. "But I will miss her."

Meanwhile, the grandson of 80-year-old Dorothy Sewell confirmed her death Tuesday. Elwood Delaney of Kamloops, B.C., described his grandmother as an avid sports fan who "almost had as much love for the Blue Jays and Leafs as she did for her family."

Tennis Canada said the victims also included long-time volunteer Anne Marie D'Amico. She worked at Invesco Canada, a U.S.-based investment firm with offices close to the crime scene.

"She was a really friendly, warm person ... always caring for other people ahead of herself," said Gavin Ziv, vice-president of national events for Tennis Canada.

Seneca College said another one of the victims was a female student, but didn't offer further details. A South Korean news agency said two unnamed Korean nationals were also among those killed.

Although police continued to comb the one-kilometre stretch of road where the attack took place, the area had largely reopened to the public on Wednesday. Mourners continued to visit the area to add to a growing makeshift memorial to the victims, leaving flowers, candles and messages of support in myriad languages.

Police have asked witnesses to the attack to come forward, saying they need every piece of information they can obtain as they proceed with their investigation.

Investigators are also looking at a Facebook post, allegedly made by Minassian, that praises Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and then himself at the University of California in 2014. The post also references involuntary celibacy, colloquially referred to as "incel."

A Facebook spokeswoman said the account has since been deleted.










Black police officer calls for immediate moratorium on street checks

           Halifax regional police chief says he won't act until he hears from human rights commission analyst


           Nina Corfu · CBC News 


 Sgt. Robyn Atwell says she's disappointed the mayor and police chief won't impose a moratorium on street    checks. (Robyn Atwell)


 A black police officer in Halifax is calling for a moratorium on street checks, saying they unfairly target black people.

But the police chief says he isn't ready to do that.

Halifax Regional Police Sgt. Robyn Atwell said if police officers were using street checks — a policy that allows police to record interactions in the community —  to target white people, there would have been a moratorium on them long ago.

Instead, black Nova Scotians continue to be "subjected, unfairly, to this treatment," she said.

Street checks, also known as carding, allow police officers to document information about a person they believe could be of significance to a future investigation, and record details such as their ethnicity, gender, age and location.

CBC News investigation in 2017 found black people were three times more likely to be street checked in Halifax than white people.

Last fall, Nova Scotia's Human Rights Commission hired criminologist Scot Wortley to address allegations of racial profiling in the context of street checks. At the time, he cautioned the results of his review would not come quickly. 

Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais says he will wait for the human rights commission's report before considering a moratorium. 

Until the review is done, a full moratorium on street checks is needed, said Atwell, who is currently on leave from her job as a patrol sergeant with the Halifax Regional Police for personal reasons. She is expected to return to work in a few months.

In November, she wrote a letter stating her case and sent it to seven politicians and the police chief.

In that letter, Atwell said there is little evidence to show that street checks are effective. Instead, she said, they serve as a form of punishment "for the charge of being Black."

In a written statement, Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais said the force takes the human rights commission's review "very seriously" and will continue to co-operate fully with that investigation. He said he won't consider a moratorium on street checks until the independent analyst makes his recommendations.


In the summer of 2017, Blais announced all officers would receive training on fair and impartial policing in order to improve street check practices. He also committed to changing how long street check records are kept on file.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says it's not his job to tell the police what to do. (CBC)

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told the CBC's Information Morning, "I have no doubt that there are occasions where people feel that they're being dealt with unfairly and we take it seriously."

However, he said he had no plans to impose a moratorium on street checks.

"It's not for me as mayor to tell the police how to do their job," Savage said.

Atwell said she is disappointed with that response. "This practice is wrong. It's not effective. End it."

In 2008, Atwell filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission alleging she was discriminated against during her career with the police force, based on her race and gender.

The complaint was dismissed in 2016 when she failed to attend the hearing.









RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki


REGINA — The first woman to ever be permanently appointed to lead the RCMP promised last Friday to leave no stone unturned in her efforts to modernize a law-enforcement organization that remains plagued by complaints of sexism, workplace bullying and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed Friday the appointment of 31-year veteran Brenda Lucki as the Mounties’ new commissioner, a move he said will promote gender equality and address harassment in the workplace at the national police force.

“I will not have all the answers, but I definitely plan on asking all the right questions. And maybe some difficult ones,” Lucki told a gathering at the RCMP training academy in Regina shortly after her appointment was announced.

“I plan to challenge assumptions, seek explanations and better understand the reasons how we operate. This means that no stone will be left unturned. And if what we find works, then we carry on until we unearth the issues that need addressing.”

Trudeau highlighted Lucki’s background working with Indigenous groups, including her induction into the Order of Merit of the Police Forces for her efforts to improve relations with First Nations in northern Manitoba.

Friday’s appointment comes at a time when the force’s relations with Indigenous communities are particularly strained.

Last month’s acquittal of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of Indigenous youth Colten Boushie sparked accusations of bias against Indigenous people by police and in the justice system.

Trudeau was criticized in the days following the ruling for tweeting his support for the Boushie family — a sentiment from which he did not shy away when asked about it on Friday.

“I think it is impossible to look at the situation in our justice system and not recognize that our system has not fairly treated Indigenous people over the past decades — over the past centuries, even,” he said.

“That is why we are pledging to do better. To recognize these challenges is the first step.”

Lucki has contributed to United Nations missions in both the former Yugoslavia and in Haiti, and has served as commanding officer of the RCMP training academy at Regina’s Depot division since 2016.

She was awarded the United National Force Commander’s commendation for bravery, two UN protection forces medals and the Canadian peacekeeping service medal.

Trudeau described Lucki as an exceptional leader known for her hard work and tireless efforts to improve the status quo.

“She will also play a vital role in advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, promoting gender equality and equity, supporting mental wellness across the RCMP, addressing workplace harassment and protecting the civil liberties of all Canadians,” he said.

Lucki is the first woman to be named RCMP commissioner on a permanent basis; Beverley Busson was interim leader for six months in 2007.

The appointment follows last year’s creation of an independent, non-partisan selection committee, led by former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, which earlier this year recommended three contenders for the top job.

The force has continued to face embarrassing revelations about sexism and sexual misconduct in RCMP ranks, even one year after then-commissioner Bob Paulson apologized for discrimination against female officers and agreed to a $100-million settlement of two class-action lawsuits.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who was also in Regina last Friday, described the RCMP as undergoing a period of transformation to modernize its culture and bolster public confidence.

“Internal challenges — like abuses of power, allegations of racial bias, infringements on civil liberties, bullying and workplace harassment — have harmed the RCMP’s reputation and damaged the morale of its members,” he said.

— Geordon Omand in Ottawa

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2018






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