Cultural competence and Canada’s security: Can being culturally competent assist police and security officers in ensuring Canada’s security?

Project Title

Cultural competency training as a response to radicalization leading to violence

Lead / Author

Jewish General Hospital, McGill University, Université du Québec à Montréal, University of Saskatchewan, Ryerson University, The Environics Institute

Relevant Dates

Report submitted April 2014, and published online October 2014.


This report is an initial analysis of community-level data gathered as part of a larger study designed to assess how cultural competency training programs for law enforcement and security officials are meeting the national security needs of Canada, including the value of such training in promoting trust with communities. The authors define cultural competency as the skills required to effectively interact with individuals and groups from diverse communities, with respect to culture, religion, ethnicity, gender, race, and other characteristics. The project includes participation by law enforcement organizations, and is intended to contribute to front-line training for police and security personnel.

The research sites are Montreal, Toronto, and Saskatoon, and the first phase of the study focuses on community members’ experiences and perceptions of their interactions with national and local police, along with their views on subjects such as national security threats, inter-community relations and discrimination, and circumstances under which one would reach out to law enforcement when confronted by evidence of criminality and national security concerns. The second phase of the project examines how police and security officers view their training, in providing what they need to be culturally competent, and what their organizations need to be effective.

The community survey covered the general population in the three cities, as well as oversamples of four ethnic/religious sub-groups: Muslims, Blacks, Asians, and South Asians. Additionally, researchers held focus groups in each city to present the results, seek views about their meaning, and solicit suggestions for the second phase of the project.

Select Findings

On protecting the country from extremist/terrorist activities, most survey respondents stated that they were either somewhat or very confident in both local police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, though greater confidence is placed in the RCMP. There were, however, significant differences across cities and across ethnic/religious on the issue of confidence, as well as on other questions. With particular regard to Montreal, significant numbers across all groups stated that they were not very confident, or not at all confident, in local police. This included around 80% of South Asian respondents and around 55% of Muslims, though this lack of confidence does not appear when the same questions were asked in Montreal about the RCMP.

On reporting to the police, the majority of survey respondents across all groups stated that they would likely or definitely contact the police if they become aware of potential extremist or terrorist activities in their neighbourhood. With respect to those who stated that they likely would not or definitely would not contact the police this category included over 75% of respondents from the South Asian community in Montreal. That said, almost 100% of members in that same community stated that they would likely or definitely contact the RCMP in the same circumstances. While most respondents with recent experience of interaction with police felt they were treated fairly and that police acted professionally, of those who felt otherwise, Muslims, Blacks and South Asians felt that their treatment was likely attributable to their religion or ethnicity. According to the authors, overall, the results indicate that citizens base their judgments of police cultural competence on their interactions with police, and that perceptions of police behaviours move in concert with perceptions of cultural competence.

Further Information

Cultural competence and Canada’s security: Can being culturally competent assist police and security officers in ensuring Canada’s security?

Related Initiatives

Wesley Wark et al., “Securitizing Minority/Muslim Canadians: Evaluating the Impact of Counter-terrorism, National Security and Immigration Policies since 9/11,” University of Ottawa, 2016.

John Monahan, Rima Berns-McGown and Michael Morden, “The Perception & Reality of ‘Imported Conflict’ in Canada,” The Mosaic Institute, 2014.

Charlie Edwards, Calum Jeffray and Raffaello Pantucci, “Out of Reach? The Role of Community Policing in Preventing Terrorism in Canada,” RUSI, 2015.



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