Black people are much more likely to face charges, harm, or even death at the hands of Toronto police, according to a new report.
On Monday, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released its second interim report into racial profiling and discrimination of Black people by the Toronto Police Service (TPS). The findings confirm that the Black community is more likely than others to be arrested, charged, over-charged, struck, shot, or killed by Toronto police.
The OHRC called the results of A Disparate Impact, written using two reports from criminologist Dr. Scot Wortley that analyzed TPS data from 2013 to 2017, “highly disturbing” in a release. Adding that its findings confirm that Black people “bear a disproportionate burden of law enforcement.”
“The time for debate about whether anti-Black bias exists is over. The OHRC calls on the TPS, TPSB, the City of Toronto and the Government of Ontario to take immediate action to address systemic and anti-Black racism in policing and to respect and protect racialized people in Toronto,” said Ena Chadha, OHRC Interim Chief Commissioner. “It is time to make transformative changes in the institutions and systems of law enforcement that produce such disparate outcomes – community trust and safety, especially the safety of Black lives, depend on it.”
Although they make up only 8.8% of Toronto’s population, the report found that Black people represented almost one-third (32%) of all the charges in the dataset.
The charge rate for Black people was 3.9 times greater than for White people and 7.1 times greater than for other racialized groups. They were also found to be 4.8 times more likely to be charged with obstruction of justice offences. In the same category, White people and people from other racialized groups were under-represented.
Only one-fifth (20%) of all charges resulted in a conviction, and charges against Black people were found more likely to be withdrawn and less likely to result in a conviction. The OHRC says this raises concerns about systemic bias in charging practices. A similar pattern was found in “out-of-sight” driving offences — like not having valid insurance — that are found after being pulled over. The Black community made up 35.2% of people charged this way, “suggesting other motives for the stop,” since the offence was not found until after questioning has begun.
Black people were also reportedly involved in approximately one-quarter (25%) of all Special Investigations Unit (SIU) cases resulting in death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault, and almost four in 10 (39%) cases involving lower-level use of force that doesn’t warrant an SIU investigation, according to OHRC.
Data from the SIU also shows that Black people were over-represented in use of force cases (28.8%), shootings (36%), deadly encounters (61.5%), and deaths caused by police shootings (70%). Notably, they were more likely to be involved in use of force cases that involved an officer deciding to stop and question someone as opposed to police responding to a call for assistance.
The next phase of the inquiry will involve preparing a final report that will examine training, policies, procedures, and accountability mechanisms in the city’s law enforcement, along with recommendations for combating racism in the department.
The issue of racial impact on this city is not unique to policing either, as a report presented in July from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, found that certain ethnoracial groups and low-income people are over-represented in coronavirus infections in the city.
Data found that Arab, Middle Eastern, or West Asian people; Black people; Latin American people; South Asian or Indo-Caribbean people; and Southeast Asian people were over-represented based on their infection rate, when compared to the population size in the city.
East Asian and white people were found to be under-represented in infections.