Representative picture (File photo: Reuters)
TORONTO: Black people in Toronto are disproportionately arrested and fatally shot by police, according to a government report released on Monday showing racially charged police violence in Canada’s largest city rivaled that of the United States.
Black people are “grossly over-represented” in police actions, comprising nearly a third of criminal charges despite being about 9% of the city’s population, said the Ontario Human Rights Commission report.
The highly anticipated report comes in the wake of protests around the world, including in Canada, over the U.S. deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans at the hands of police.
“The report’s results are highly disturbing and confirm what Black communities have said for decades: that Black people bear a disproportionate burden of law enforcement,” said Ena Chadha, interim chief commissioner, in a virtual news conference.
Analyzing data from 2013 to 2017, researchers found the lethal police shooting rate of Black people in Toronto was 7.29 per million people each year, compared with an average of 6.99 per million people in the United States.
Any perception that racist behavior in Canada’s police was not as serious as in the United States is wrong, and the report “compels us to stop perpetuating this myth,” Chadha said.
Charges against Black people were more likely to be withdrawn and less likely to result in conviction than those against white people, it said.
“Anti-Black racism remains persistent and is not simply a perception of angry and frustrated activists. It manifests very clearly in pretty much every interaction that a civilian can have with police,” said Anthony Morgan, manager of the Toronto city government’s anti-racism unit.
The commission called for the provincial government to mandate police forces to collect data on race-based cases and for police and the municipal government to work with black communities on remedies.
The commission said the high rates of Black people, particularly Black males, getting arrested, charged and subjected to the use of force “reflects the everyday racism Black communities face.
“These reports and the findings they contain add considerable weight to the groundswell of calls for systemic reform to policing services,” it said.
In response, the Toronto Police Service and Toronto Police Services Board said: “We are committed to learning and continuing to address the harmful impacts of systemic racism, working with impacted communities to create the fundamental shifts in the aspects of policing that have disproportionate impact, and to enhance the practices that promote equity.”
Toronto’s first black police chief, Mark Saunders, abruptly retired nearly a year early last month, weeks after kneeling with protesters calling for police reform.
He told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that Floyd’s death left him with a “horrible feeling” in his stomach.
“It still bothers me,” he said. “That is not what law enforcement is trained to do.”
Angry streets protests were prompted by the May 25 death of Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.