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Black people ’20 times more likely to be shot’ by Toronto police

Ontario rights watchdog report says the city’s black citizens are disproportionately discriminated against by police.

The report also criticised stop-and-search processes and police response to misconduct investigations [File: Chris Helgren/Reuters]
The report also criticised stop-and-search processes and police response to misconduct investigations [File: Chris Helgren/Reuters]

A black person is 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police than a white person in Canada‘s largest city, according to a new damning report from Ontario province’s human rights watchdog.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission studied seven years of data related to interactions between police and black residents in Toronto for the report, which was released on Monday and found that the city’s black citizens are disproportionately discriminated against by police.

The group also spoke to 130 people in black communities about their experience of “fear, trauma and humiliation”, which has fostered “mistrust and expectations of negative treatment by police”.

“Even where individuals did not have first-hand experiences, high-profile incidents or experiences of friends and family reinforced community distrust,” the report said.

The study found that, although fewer than 10 percent of Toronto’s 2.7 million people are black, they account for 30 percent of police use-of-force incidents that result in serious injury or death, 60 percent of deadly encounters with police and 70 percent of fatal police shootings.

The figures have not changed since 2000.

The report also said officers involved in incidents sometimes provided biased and untrustworthy testimony, inappropriately tried to stop incidents from being recorded and failed to cooperate with the investigating unit.

“This interim report 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 policing in Toronto. Our interim findings are disturbing and call for immediate action,” Renu Mandhare, Ontario’s human rights commissioner, told reporters on Monday.

No institution ‘immune from bias’

In addition to use-of-force, the report examined “carding” – a process where police stop individuals and collect personal information – saying that there was often no legal basis to stop people and that the encounters often included “inappropriate or unjustified searches” and “unnecessary charges or arrests”.

The report said such encounters risk reducing the effectiveness of Toronto’s police force by creating a “fractured” relationship between black residents and police.

Toronto Police responded on Monday by issuing a statement acknowledging the concerns raised in the report and promising to build upon efforts to address bias.

“We recognise 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. We – the Board and the Service – know that only by acknowledging these lived experiences can we continue to work with our community partners to achieve meaningful changes.”

“The Board and the Services acknowledge that no institution or organisation, including the Toronto Police, is immune from overt and implicit bias … We have been working for several years to confront these challenges in a variety of ways.”

The police have accepted the commission’s recommendation that it continues to support the inquiry into racial profiling and discrimination against black people but said another recommendation – that police be required to collect and publicly release race-based data relating to when they stop, search and use force on civilians – will require further study.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera News

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