Last week, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (“OHRC”) released an interim report regarding racial profiling and racial discrimination by Toronto Police Services.
The OHRC is the provincial statutory agency responsible for improving human rights and preventing systemic discrimination in Ontario.
According to the OHRC, the data showed that Black citizens are overrepresented in cases where Toronto Police use force that results in serious injury or death. In its report, the OHRC expressed its grave concern about racial profiling and discrimination of Black people by Toronto Police Services in use of force incidents, stops, questioning and searches, and charges laid.
A COLLECTIVE IMPACT
The OHRC began its inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black citizens by the Toronto Police following concerns raised by Black communities in Toronto, and more specifically following the gunpoint arrest of four black teenagers in 2011 (known as the Neptune Four) and the shooting death of Andrew Loku in 2015.
The report, entitled “A Collective Impact” (the “report”), examined qualitative and quantitative data from the Special Investigations Unit (an agency that investigates police incidents that involve injuries or death) between January 1, 2010 and June 30, 2017 in Toronto.
According to the report, between 2013 and 2017 a Black person was 20 times more likely than a White person to be involved in a fatal shooting by the Toronto Police.
In Toronto, Black people account for 8.8% of the population. According to the report, between January 1, 2013 and June 30, 2017 in Toronto, Black people were found to be over-represented in the following circumstances:
- police use-of-force cases (28.8%);
- shootings (36%);
- deadly encounters with police (61.5%); and
- fatal police shootings (70%).
Renu Mandhane, the OHRC’s chief commission, stated:
A Collective Impact is the latest in a body of reports, findings and recommendations – over the past 30 years – that point to persistent concerns about anti-Black racism in policing in Toronto. Our interim findings are disturbing and call for immediate action.
The report also exposed that there was a lack of legal basis for police stopping Black citizens, inappropriate searches, and unnecessary charges or arrests.
TORONTO POLICE RESPONSE TO THE REPORT
Toronto Police Services Board (“TPSB”) and Toronto Police Services (“TPS”) have acknowledged the frustrations amongst Black citizens in Toronto who have suspected they were treated differently based upon the colour of their skin.
Toronto Police Services Board and Toronto Police Services released a joint statement responding to the interim findings, which read as follows:
We recognize that there are those within Toronto’s Black communities who feel that, because of the colour of their skin, the police, including when it comes to use of force, have at times, treated them differently. We understand that this has created a sense of distrust that has lasted generations. … The Board and the Service acknowledge that no institution or organization, including the Toronto Police, is immune from overt and implicit bias. … Nevertheless, we acknowledge that a unique obligation is required from those of us who are charged with upholding the law and protecting all of our city’s people. And, while we may be confronting these challenges with resolve today, we are committed to doing even better. … We are ready, willing and actively doing the hard work that is required of us.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The OHRC will continue to study SIU data and look for patterns in use of force incidents and examine connections between age, mental health, socio-economic status, and sex.
The OHRC will also examine the Police’s culture, training, policies, procedures, and accountability mechanisms. Lastly, the OHRC will hold focus groups with Black communities in Toronto and connect with police leaders, officers, associations, and organizations to better understand all of the issues.
The OHRC will prepare a final inquiry report likely to be completed in 2020, which will include all findings, recommendations, and any next steps.
In the interim, the OHRC has made the following requests:
- That TPS and TPSB acknowledge that racial disparities raise serious concerns;
- That TPS and TPSB support the OHRC’s inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black citizens;
- That TPSB require the TPS to collect and publicly report on race-based data on all stops, searches, and use of force incidents;
- That Ontario implement recommendations in the Report of the Independent Police Oversight Review;
- That the City of Toronto implement recommendations in the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism.
We will continue to follow any developments that arise regarding the OHRC’s report and findings and any response to the noteworthy report, and will inform of these developments in this blog.
In the meantime, if you are facing criminal charges, contact the experienced and skilled Oshawa criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We take all steps needed to protect your best interests, both immediate and long term. For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour phone service and a free confidential consultation. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help.