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'We must demand change:' Canada's first black police chief supports demonstrations


WINNIPEG — Canada's first black police chief says he will be joining people to shine a light of hope "into the darkness of this moment" as anti-racism demonstrations take place around the world.

"We must stand up. We must march. We must demand change," Devon Clunis, the former police chief of Winnipeg, wrote in a letter to the city on his Facebook page Friday.

Demonstrations in the United States have spread to other cities since the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, on May 25. A police officer knelt on Floyd's neck for several minutes, even as Floyd said he couldn't breathe.

Clunis said the man's death has left him with immense anger and outrage.

It "has awakened us to our collective responsibility, to do everything within our power, to eradicate the scourge of ethnic and cultural discrimination," Clunis wrote.

"I am a proud black man. A black man whose heart is deeply wounded."

The former chief said he spent his entire adult life working to build bridges across all cultures in Winnipeg, Canada and around the world.

He was one of the first black police officers when he joined the Winnipeg force in 1987. Clunis said he thought joining the service would send a strong message about what the city could be when diversity is celebrated.

When he was named chief in 2012, he became the first black person in the country to hold the position. Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Regional Police Services now have chiefs who are people of colour, he noted.

Clunis retired in July 2016. The following year, he was awarded a Lieutenant Governor's Award.

During his time working with police, he experienced a culture of caring and compassion, he said.

He expected many officers would be standing behind him Friday night at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Winnipeg.

Not every single officer is of that quality, he said.

"That enemy is not the police officers I've had the privilege to work with and lead," Clunis said.

"My hope is we will fight the darkness and see the real enemy."

Organizers of the demonstration in Winnipeg have called for police not to attend to ensure people feel safe and it remains peaceful.

Winnipeg police said in a video posted online that officers do not plan on going to the site but will be in the area.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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