Indigenous, Black, West Asian, and Hispanic people are overrepresented in interactions with police in British Columbia, and they are more likely to face racial discrimination, according to a new report.
The report from the BC Office of the Human Rights Commissioner (BCOHRC) analyzed five different police jurisdictions and revealed what it calls “disturbing” racial disparities.
The report offers recommendations on how to reform policing in BC in an effort to reduce systemic discrimination and improve overall safety. This includes reforming controversial street checks and de-tasking police.
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Indigenous people made up the most overrepresented group when it comes to arrests and chargeable incidents. The report highlighted that in Vancouver alone, Indigenous men are 17.3 times more likely to be arrested “than their presence in the population would predict.”
Grand Chief Phillip Stewart was quoted in the report as saying, “It’s going to take incredibly strong commitment, leadership and decisive action to fully eradicate the racist attitudes inherent in all police forces within BC and right across Canada.”
In three of five jurisdictions analyzed, Black British Columbians are highly overrepresented when it comes to arrests and chargeable incidents. Those jurisdictions include Vancouver, Surrey and Nelson. The report adds that Hispanic and West Asian people are also overrepresented in many jurisdictions.
“The results of this examination are disturbing. Indigenous and Black people are either grossly or significantly overrepresented in British Columbia arrest statistics,” said Professor of Criminology Dr. Scot Wortley in a statement.
People with mental health issues also have frequent interactions with police. The report suggests that this also has a disproportionate impact on Black, Indigenous, West Asian and Hispanic populations. “For example, in Nelson, Black people are 4.7 times more likely to appear in mental health incidents involving police than their presence in the general population would predict.”
Indigenous women are either “grossly or significantly overrepresented” in arrest statistics in most of the jurisdictions that were analyzed. This is despite the fact that women are generally underrepresented when it comes to arrest statistics.
The data outlined in the report suggest a trend of “over-policing” of racialized people in the province. The report was released by BC Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender, who suggests that the fundamental role of police needs to be reexamined.
“Systemic racism in policing undermines community trust and safety,” she said. “To restore this trust, we need to reimagine the role of police in our province, including shifting our focus from the police as default responders to other community-based strategies.”
Govender also had concerns about the amount of police data that was available for research and study purposes.
“The BC RCMP’s failure to retain historical policing data for research and study purposes is deeply troubling as it contradicts principles of transparency and accountability in policing,”