Data collected from five police forces in British Columbia revealed that Indigenous peoples are among the most over-represented in arrests or prosecutable incidents.
The data, collected by University of Toronto professor of criminology Scot Wortley, was presented during a presentation by the Office of the British Columbia Human Rights Commissioner.
In Vancouver, Indigenous peoples have been implicated in such incidents at a rate of over 20,000 per 100,000 people. Blacks were involved at a rate of 9,500 per 100,000 people, Hispanics at a rate of over 3,500 per 100,000 people, and Arabs and West Asians at a rate of over 3,000 per 100,000 people.
All of these racialized groups were involved in arrests or prosecutable incidents in Vancouver at a much higher rate – 10 times in the case of Indigenous peoples – than whites, who had a rate of just over 2,000. per 100,000.
The statistics were also disproportionate in the other police forces studied: Surrey RCMP, Prince George RCMP, Nelson Police and Duncan / North Cowichan RCMP.
|(Office of the British Columbia Human Rights Commissioner)|
Wortley said blacks and aboriginals were overrepresented in all cases once they were taken in by the BC Prosecution Service. However, he said they were the most represented in cases abandoned by the Crown, which Wortley said could indicate police cases against blacks and Aboriginals were the least solid.
Wortley outlined three possible explanations for racial disparity; racial policing, civil bias in crime reporting and higher delinquency rates, linked to the lasting impacts of colonization, discrimination, multigenerational trauma and socioeconomic disadvantage.
“A lot of what the police focus on are very visible crimes that take place on the streets,” Wortley said, adding that this means the police focus less on white collar crime, which helps representation of certain racialized groups.
Wortley said the three explanations for the racial disparity in arrests and prosecutable incidents need to be investigated, along with increased police oversight, investing in community crime prevention efforts, as well as in mental health and substance use. Wortley said improving the collection and analysis of race-based data is essential, along with decriminalizing drug possession and public disturbance offenses.
“We have to stop the cycle of crisis,” he said.
Commissioner Kasari Govender said trust must be built between police and marginalized groups, but this cannot be done without reform and de-prioritizing the police as the first call when a community issue is identified.
Recommendations from the governor’s office include that the government of British Columbia work with Indigenous peoples on a government-to-government basis on changes to the Police Act, which the Department of Public Safety allows police to collect. race-based data to combat systemic discrimination, which the public The Ministry of Security should reduce the use of discretion in street checks and ensure accountability for police actions in these situations and “detach the police Directing funds from their budgets to civilian-led initiatives on mental health, substance use and homelessness.
Govender said the current police structure looks like “over-surveillance,” which she says has led to several police incidents with tragic results. The Commissioner singled out Max Johnson, an Indigenous man handcuffed by police when bank staff suspected him of using fraudulent ID to open a bank account for his granddaughter; retired Justice Selwyn Romilly, the first black judge of the British Columbia Supreme Court who was arrested by police looking for a black suspect in his 40s; and the death of Chantelle Moore, an Aboriginal woman from British Columbia shot dead by police in New Brunswick during a welfare check.
“These are the painful realities behind the numbers we shared today,” Govender said.