Ottawa police investigating video of members saying 'white man's day is done'

·4 min read
A screenshot of a video that circulated on social media recently. In the video, three uniformed Ottawa police officers have a conversation about how the 'white man's day is done.' (Instagram - image credit)
A screenshot of a video that circulated on social media recently. In the video, three uniformed Ottawa police officers have a conversation about how the 'white man's day is done.' (Instagram - image credit)

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) is conducting an investigation after a video circulating online this week shows uniformed members of its force having a racist conversation. 

The video is a partial recording from a security camera at a person's home and was originally posted on social media by a friend of the person involved.

On Thursday, that person confirmed the video was recorded in his garage in the summer of 2019. He said the officers were there to serve a warrant after he had been pulled over for driving without a licence a few days earlier. He asked CBC not to identify him because he fears for his safety and that of his family.

The video shows three police officers standing in a garage, seemingly unaware that their conversation was being recorded.

WATCH | Ottawa police investigating after video shows officers having racist conversation:

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One officer said, "Our days are done. White man's day is done." 

Another officer replies, "you're probably right."

A third said, "you're onto something." 

"The population of North America, we're the minority I think even at this point," one officer goes on to say.

"You go to Toronto and every couple you see walking by is a mixed couple. You don't see white and white people together. It's white [and] Asian, white [and] East Indian," he said.

"I told my son he can find a Chinese, Asian girlfriend," he continued. "If he wants to stay in the mix, get your foot in the door."

OPS investigating

The video has since been shared widely on social media.

In an emailed statement, an OPS spokesperson said the service is aware of the video and there is "an active professional standards unit investigation regarding it."

"Regardless of the intent, the comments expressed in the video have negatively impacted community members and service members. The comments are offensive and they have further eroded public trust as well as internal morale." 

The police statement goes on to say "such statements are not consistent with the values of the Ottawa Police Service and they have no place in the policing profession."

Reacting to the video, Xiaobei Chen, a sociology professor at Carleton University, said: "I think these are very troubling racist ideas that we are seeing behind the conversation."

The conversation in the video, Chen said, is a prime example of the "enduring notion of white ownership of this nation," despite North America first belonging to Indigenous people and being "built on the back of free labour, of Blacks under cruel conditions, under slavery and also exploitation of Chinese labour."

Xiaobei Chen, a professor of sociology at Carleton University, says she hopes Ottawa police use this video as a stepping stone to address racism in the force.
Xiaobei Chen, a professor of sociology at Carleton University, says she hopes Ottawa police use this video as a stepping stone to address racism in the force.(Submitted by Xiaobei Chen )

Example of exploitation of Asian women: prof

Chen said the conversation is also problematic because it suggests using Asian women as the solution to the "disappointment that they're feeling" — and is an example of the long-standing sexual exploitation of Asian women. 

"What's especially problematic about this [conversation] is it's benign. What it tells us is that these conversations are probably happening a lot of times, but we just don't see it," Chen said.

Chen said she hopes OPS uses this video as a stepping stone to address white "nationalistic notions and racism and colonialism within the police force."

"We need to be very careful about not reducing this to individual police officers," added Chen.

Last year Ottawa police released an equity, diversity and inclusion plan aimed at boosting diversity and stamping out discrimination within its ranks.

Officer responds

One of the officers in the video, Const. Paul Heffler, said his words were taken out of context and that he believes the OPS' response was an overreaction. He said the conversation in question was harmless and the comments about demographics were based off an article he had read.

"In my opinion, I didn't see racism in that. I didn't see it when I said it and then when I listen to it again, I still didn't see it," Heffler said.

Heffler acknowledged that racism exists with the OPS but that he doesn't treat people "differently because of the race, I don't believe, but there are subtleties in how we deal with things and maybe somebody could judge that."