Disturbing racial disparities in law enforcement activities across British Columbia revealed in British Columbia Human Rights Commissioner’s Police Act submission



BC Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender on Wednesday released her submission to the Special Committee on Police Law Reform (SCORPA), which she says is making recommendations to tackle a worrying pattern of discrimination in maintaining order in this province.

Written submission from the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner of British Columbia (BCOHRC), “Fairness is Safer: Human Rights Considerations for Policing Reform in British Columbia, ”Includes an expert analysis of data from five police jurisdictions that reveal worrying racial disparities in policing activity across British Columbia.

The commissioner’s recommendations relate to:

  • fulfill British Columbia’s obligations to Indigenous peoples
  • implement a human rights-based approach to collecting disaggregated data
  • reform the practice of street checks
  • demobilize the police
  • improve police accountability

The report also includes expert analysis of data from the Vancouver Police Department, Nelson Police Department and RCMP Detachments in Surrey, Duncan and Prince George, which were selected to represent different communities with varying demographic populations in different parts of the province.

Among the discoveries:

  • Aboriginal people are significantly over-represented in arrests or prosecutable incidents in the five police services studied. For example, in Vancouver, Aboriginal men are 17.3 times more likely to be arrested than their presence in the population would suggest.
  • Blacks are significantly over-represented in arrests or prosecutable incidents in three of the five jurisdictions examined: namely Vancouver, Surrey and Nelson. Hispanics and Arabs / West Asians are also over-represented in many police jurisdictions.
  • People with mental health issues have frequent interactions with law enforcement, which in turn also has a greater impact on Indigenous, Black and Arab / West Asian peoples. For example, in Nelson, Blacks are 4.7 times more likely to appear in mental health incidents involving the police than their presence in the general population would predict.
  • Indigenous women are either grossly or significantly over-represented in arrest statistics in most of the jurisdictions examined in British Columbia, despite the fact that women are generally under-represented in arrest statistics. In many cases, their arrest rate exceeds that of white males. “Systemic racism in police services undermines community trust and safety,” Govender said. “To restore that trust, we need to reinvent the role of the police in our province, including shifting our focus from the police as default responders to other community strategies. ”

    Scot Wortley, professor of criminology at the Center for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto, analyzed police data on behalf of the BCOHRC.

    “One thing is clear: Deep racial disparities in police arrest and mental health statistics exist in British Columbia. These disparities require surveillance, political attention and action by police, government and watchdogs to correct the disparities pointed out by this data, ”Wortley said.

    “While this report analyzes the data and the numbers, it is critical to recognize that the data is about people, especially Indigenous, Black and other racialized people who experience significant and long-term damage, trauma and impact. on mental health as a result of interactions with the police and involvement in the criminal justice system, ”said Govender. “This report calls for immediate and sustained action to tackle the structural discrimination behind these numbers and to redress the damage caused by it. “

    Concern about the collection and retention of police data

    The Commissioner expressed concern about the limits of police data available for research and study in British Columbia. data for research purposes after a case is closed beyond the minimum national standard, which in some cases is only 24 months. This makes it difficult for researchers to access the kind of data needed to examine policing patterns over time. The Commissioner recommends that provincial data retention schedules be established in consultation with the community.

    “The fact that the BC RCMP has not kept historical police service data for research and study is deeply troubling, as it contradicts the principles of transparency and accountability of police services. police, ”Govender said.

    Support for impacted communities

    Govender added, “The data we are releasing indicates a trend of over-monitoring of racialized people in British Columbia. We recognize that this information will be deeply troubling to many in our province. This issue, while essential to consider, is extremely difficult, especially for people who have experienced or witnessed negative interactions with police or law enforcement. Members of the police force who are shocked by these statistics and concerned about the conclusions drawn may also feel the need for support. British Columbians who are distressed upon hearing this news or who need immediate help can access a list of emergency mental health crisis lines and support that we have compiled on our website at address: bchumanrights.ca/support.


A PDF of the BCOHRC’s written submission, “Fairness is Safer: Human Rights Considerations for Police Reform in British Columbia,” and links to supporting documents can be found at address: bchumanrights.ca/SCORPA

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