Mohawk RCMP officer speaks out about racism he experienced on the job

·4 min read
Mohawk RCMP officer speaks out about racism he experienced on the job
Jeremy Tomlinson was recruited to a special unit fighting organized crime in 2017 after 15 years with the RCMP. (Submitted by Jeremy Tomlinson - image credit)
Jeremy Tomlinson was recruited to a special unit fighting organized crime in 2017 after 15 years with the RCMP. (Submitted by Jeremy Tomlinson - image credit)

"When you come into the office in the morning, are you Mohawk or are you an RCMP employee?"

The question was asked of Jeremy Tomlinson, a Mohawk police officer from Kanesatake, Que., during a 2019 interview with a superior.

Radio-Canada has listened to a recording of the interview. It's just one piece of evidence in a case Tomlinson is building against his employer.

He's filed a complaint with the RCMP External Review Committee, an independent administrative tribunal that conducts impartial case reviews and issues findings and recommendations for appeal decisions in certain RCMP employment and labour relations matters.

In addressing the committee, he's hoping to be granted damages to account for the loss of revenue associated with a blocked promotion and suspension without pay.

Tomlinson also accuses the RCMP of having "a management which not only ignored a toxic environment of inappropriate comments, racist comments, but which encouraged racism against the Indigenous by letting it happen."

Throughout his career, Tomlinson said he's witnessed racist comments and prejudice against Indigenous people.

"I'll give you an example. An officer colleague used mouthwash and said he was going to take 'a native shot'. Hearing this almost every day in the office was unpleasant," he said.

After 15 years of service with the RCMP, Tomlinson was recruited in 2017 to be part of a new special team to fight organized crime in Indigenous communities in Quebec.

He thought that things might get better once he joined the special unit. But on the new team, he ran into different problems.

'They started to question my allegiance'

Working to co-ordinate a drug bust in a Mohawk town, Tomlinson felt the resources being deployed for the operation were disproportionate. He told his supervisor so.

"In our communities, if the police arrive with helicopters and armoured vehicles, you could provoke the whole population. The Oka Crisis happened in 1990 and we're still talking about it 30 years later," he told Radio-Canada.

Tomlinson later learned that his position was not well received by his bosses.

"They started to question my allegiance to the RCMP."

WATCH | RCMP is failing to retain Indigenous officers:

Tomlinson began to feel singled out by his bosses. He was sanctioned for claiming a $17 meal he had while on a mission which included an overnight stay at a hotel, which he was not entitled to.

According to Tomlinson, some of his colleagues made the same mistake, but he was the only one punished. The sanction was 12 days without pay and a suspension from being promoted for two years.

He filed a harassment complaint but it was dismissed by the RCMP commander responsible for Quebec territory, Division C, in Montreal.

Between 2017 and 2019, Tomlinson was the subject of two ethics investigations.

It was during these investigations that Tomlinson was asked whether he identified first as a Mohawk or an officer.

He replied: "I am a Mohawk who works as an RCMP officer. If you believe that I can't be both, tell me."

Blocked for promotion

Tomlinson filed the complaint to the RCMP External Review Committee after he learned that he'd been selected for the rank of sergeant by the RCMP's National Promotion Unit. But he was never able to take advantage of it because of the sanctions imposed by his commander.

It will be up to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to make a final decision based on what the external committee recommends.

Tomlinson has been on leave from work since 2019. It had become impossible, he said, to conduct investigations without fear of constant criticism from his bosses.

A spokesperson for the RCMP told CBC in an email that the agency cannot comment on the case as it is "currently before the External Review Committee. Out of respect for the impartiality of this process, it would be inappropriate for the RCMP to comment further at this time."

However, the spokesperson did say that the RCMP is "growing as an organization to ensure all employees feel valued and respected."

"Racism and discrimination have no place in the RCMP, and through our Vision 150 plan, we're taking concrete actions to modernize and advance equity, accountability and trust in our organization," reads the statement.

Vision 150 is the RCMP's plan to modernize by its 150th anniversary in 2023.

Some of the efforts include developing a new mandatory anti-racism training course for all employees and releasing an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

Currently, Tomlinson is living in his hometown of Kanesatake, spending time with his two children.

"They've asked me several times: 'Dad, why aren't you a police officer anymore?'"

"It's a heavy question. I don't want my kids to develop hate toward other people but what do I tell them? There is a whole reality that I face, that other Indigenous people face," said Tomlinson. "I'm afraid they too are going to have to face it when they grow up."

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