In Quebec’s secularism law, an Ontario police force sees a source of recruits

Reminds me of Ontario hospitals doing the same thing during the 2013 PQ charter of values debates:

An Ontario police force will launch a recruiting campaign targeting Quebec residents affected by the province’s new law on religious symbols.

The Peel Regional Police, which covers territory including the cities of Mississauga and Brampton, will conduct a campaign in Quebec after a motion was passed unanimously by the region’s police services board on Friday.

The police force “believes in the values of diversity and inclusion, including the accommodation of religious symbols,” the motion states. It goes on to say that the police board “invites all affected individuals either pursuing or training for a career in policing in Quebec to apply for a career with the Peel Regional Police.”

The motion calls for the police force to place advertising “within Quebec.”

Quebec’s religious symbols law, which was passed last Sunday, will bar public school teachers, government lawyers, judges and police officers from wearing religious symbols while at work.

The Peel Regional Police have just over 2,000 uniformed officers and 800 civilian staff, said Constable Danny Marttini, a spokesperson for the force. They hire approximately 100 new recruits every year, she said.

The police board motion was seconded by Patrick Brown, Brampton’s mayor and the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, who declared his opposition to Quebec’s law in a statement released Friday.

“We need to send a strong message to proponents of [the secularism law] in Quebec,” the statement says. “This law is an affront to freedom of religion and an infringement of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Brown has also introduced a similar motion with Brampton’s city council for recruiting for the city’s fire and emergency service.

Another motion calls for the city to join a legal challenge to Quebec’s law initiated by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

In his motion advocating for Brampton to join the legal challenge, Brown writes that the city “is ground zero for diversity and Canadian multiculturalism, and [Brampton’s] Council bears a responsibility to stand up in defence of the Canadian multicultural mosaic.”

Those motions will be considered at a council meeting on June 26.

Brown’s statement says the law on religious symbols will prohibit Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others who wear religious symbols from pursuing careers in many public sector jobs.

The Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec thanked the Peel police force for its action.

“Thanks to the Peel Regional Police for applying the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” the organization said on Facebook.

Source: In Quebec’s secularism law, an Ontario police force sees a source of recruits

Black people in Halifax 6 times more likely to be street checked than whites

Not unique to Halifax:

A new report released Wednesday on racial profiling by Halifax-area police found black people were street checked at a rate six times higher than white people in Halifax.

The independent report found that in Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black men, followed by Arab males and black females.

The number is about double the CBC News estimate that triggered this review. The new report comes more than two years after data showed black people were three times more likely than whites to be subjected to the controversial practice in the municipality.

The report by Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto criminology professor, also found that police in the Halifax region do more street checks than police in Montreal, Vancouver or Ottawa. There were comparable rates in Edmonton and Calgary.

Street checks allow police officers to document information about a person they believe could be of significance to a future investigation, and record details such as their ethnicity, gender, age and location.

In Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black people, followed by Arab and west Asian people. (CBC )

The 180-page report also found the practice of street checks has a disproportionate and negative impact on the African Nova Scotia community, contributing to the criminalization of black youth.

Wortley reported that black community members interviewed for the study said they are afraid of police, they feel targeted by police, and they are treated rudely and aggressively. They also said police treatment of black people has not improved significantly in the past 20 years.

Blacks more likely to be charged

Wortley was hired by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission in 2017 after a report from Halifax RCMP in January of that year found that in the first 10 months of 2016, 41 per cent of 1,246 street checks involved black Nova Scotians.

Halifax Regional Police figures showed that of the roughly 37,000 people checked between 2005 and 2016, almost 4,100 were black — about 11 per cent of checks — despite making up only 3.59 per cent of the city’s population, according to the 2011 census.

In what Wortley described as a “difficult statistic,” the report showed that 30 per cent of Halifax’s black male population had been charged with a crime, as opposed with 6.8 per cent of the white male population, over that period.

Wortley said this likely means black people are more likely to be charged for the same behaviour than white people. The charge rate for black males with cannabis offences was four times higher than for white males, even though there’s no evidence that black people use more cannabis than white people.

He said police street checks have contributed to an erosion of trust in law enforcement and undermined the perceived legitimacy of the entire criminal justice system.

Wortley presented several recommendations including that street checks must be banned or at least regulated.

He said it’s clear that street checks have a disproportionate effect on the black Nova Scotia community and consequences of current street check use “clearly outweigh and crime prevention benefits.”

Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard said she supports stopping the practice of street checks.

“The rest of Canada will be watching what happens here,” she told an audience gathered at the Halifax Central Library, where the report was unveiled.

‘Anti-black bias’

Lindell Smith, the first black city councillor elected in Halifax in 16 years, said in a statement on his website that he hopes this is an opportunity to “repair the broken relationship with the black community and our police force.”

“As a member of the African Nova Scotian community, I certainly do not need Dr. Wortley’s report to tell me that for decades the community has felt that there is anti-black bias, and racial profiling when policing black communities. I hope that with the release of this report that we as the black community don’t see this as a ‘I told you so’ moment,” he said.

Smith said he’s been stopped many times by police, both while driving and walking in the Halifax area. He said in those instances he had the felling of “humiliation and being racially profiled.”

Across Canada, the report found the average annual street check rate was highest in Toronto, with Halifax in second place. Despite an overall reduction in street checks in Halifax in recent years, Wortley says the over-representation of minorities has remained constant.

Ontario banned police carding in specific situations in 2017 — a controversial practice that is similar to street checks.

However, Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais has argued in the past that the valid street checks performed by police officers in Halifax differ from the random stops or carding practices that are now restricted in Ontario.

Source: Black people in Halifax 6 times more likely to be street checked than whites

UK: I served in the Met. The lack of progress on diversity is disgusting


Canadian police forces also struggle with recruitment of visible minorities:

The question that needs to be asked is not “are the Metropolitan police institutionally racist?”, or “why does black and minority ethnic recruitment for the police still lag so far behind the diversity of London as a whole?” It should simply be: “Why do young black and minority ethnic people reject the Metropolitan police as a career choice?”

This week, marking 20 years since the landmark Macpherson report on institutional racism in the police, the Met said it would take 100 years for the force to mirror the wider diversity of London and will remain disproportionately white. Why?

The answer can be found in the experiences of black and minority ethnic communities of the police, which continues far too often to be marked by incivility, suspicion and distrust. The continued disproportionate use of stop and search and the vanishingly low numbers of stops that result in a substantive charge, never mind conviction, cements in young black consciousness an underlying enmity – a feeling that the police are “other”.

From those new recruits who manage to overcome this feeling of alienation, I’ve heard how the recruitment process can often make BAME individuals feel unwelcome.

Those who make it to become serving officers also experience a continued canteen culture which, while muted in its vocal expressions of racism compared with 35 years ago when I joined, nevertheless still has subtle ways of excluding BAME staff as well as LGBT officers. There has been significant progress both in terms of the initial recruitment and promotion of female officers, but this has not been mirrored for BAME staff. Promotion for black, Asian and minority ethnic officers continues to take longer, and come up against more obstacles than for white colleagues. As recently as 2008, I set up a mentoring and coaching programme to raise promotion rates for BAME officers, which had some early successes. Unfortunately, when I tried to extend the programme, the initiative was rubbished by senior officers.

Access to further and specialist training, and hence jobs with special squads, is holding BAME officers back: selection continues to be based on who you know rather than what you can do. That means the police service is missing out on talented individuals who could contribute to specialist teams, and help reduce the impression, for example, that responders are less careful about the safety of BAME suspects.

This depressing picture reflects a failure to fully engage with the Macpherson message that “processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping disadvantages minority ethnic people”.

This week Cressida Dick, the force’s head, claimed the Met is not institutionally racist: “I don’t feel it is now a useful way to describe the service and I don’t believe we are,” she said. “I simply don’t see it as a helpful or accurate description.”

But in saying this, the commissioner is effectively rejecting the reality of the unconscious bias that certainly exists. She is also fostering the unhelpful idea that naming the problem amounts to a slur on individuals. This failure to recognise discrimination where it exists has stymied the progress that the Met could and should have made, both in its attitude to the general public and to BAME recruits and officers. It has sabotaged attempts to bring the Met into the 21st century, and will continue to do so.

Only when discrimination – whether implicit or explicit, wilful or unwitting – is recognised can it start to be addressed. And only when it is addressed will the daily experience of black and minority ethnic Londoners encourage them to join the police to create a virtuous upward spiral of respect, acceptance and diversity.

Source: I served in the Met. The lack of progress on diversity is disgusting

Frank, revealing report on race relations made public by Ottawa police

Good that the report was made public and hopefully there will be meaningful consideration and appropriate follow-up to some of the recommendations:

Fear and mistrust of Ottawa police and public concerns about police leadership, accountability and transparency are the “overarching” themes of a report on race relations that was so stressful for officers doing the study that they had to have special counselling to deal with abuse from the public and their fellow cops.

“The vast majority of officers go out there every day with the idea that they’re going to do the best job that they can,” said Insp. Isobel Granger, who led the seven-member team and wrote the final report that was released this week. “So, when the community comes to you and says you’re not treating us fairly, it leaves a questions mark and you wonder, ‘What am I doing?’”

The 146-page final report of the Ottawa police Outreach Liaison Team was completed more than a year ago, but was only made publicly available this week on the Ottawa police website. The team was created in August 2016 in the weeks after the death of Abdirahman Abdi with a mandate to engage with the city’s racialized community “and rebuild the community’s trust and confidence in the Ottawa Police Service.” It spent a year researching the report and met with approximately 1,000 individuals and community groups.

It identified 32 issues, including everything from systemic barriers inside the police service affecting women, minorities and LGTBQ officers, complaints about the service’s “ineffective” and “out of touch” Community and Police Action Committee to the number of unsolved homicides in the Somali community.

The report was prepared as an internal document for police, but was shared last year with some of the community leaders who had been consulted. It is unusually frank for a public document, includes sections on how the team was brainstorming about public reaction into findings of the province’s Special Investigations Unit on Abdi’s death. (The SIU charged Const. Daniel Montsion with manslaughter, assault with a weapon and aggravated assault in Abdi’s death. His trial is scheduled to resume Feb. 25.)

The report also includes unflinching criticisms the outreach term heard such as “attitudes surrounding black youth need to change” and “police should stop assuming people are LIARS.” Police senior officers were criticized by the public for not attending public meetings, while police officers themselves criticized “racism and/or ineptitude or incompetence in selection and promotion processes.”

Granger wouldn’t say if she thought those criticisms were valid. What was important was that people felt that way.

“I come from the standpoint that your perception is your reality,” she said. “We need to know what that perception is because, if there is a misunderstanding, we need to work together to create a common understanding … common values. And, if it’s for real, we have to work together to change the reality.”

“I’m in the police service, so I will see things differently, (but) it’s not what I feel that’s important, it’s what the community feels that’s important.”

Granger said progress had been made since she delivered her final report last January. Last summer, police launched the new Community Equity Council with the aim of strengthening the relationship between police and Indigenous, faith-based and racialized communities. As well, Granger’s team’s report has been adopted as a foundation document in the police service’s multi-year action plan for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

“There’s a lot being done. Sometimes meaningful change appears not to be happening and maybe to some people it appears slow — and maybe it is slow — but we want meaningful change to happen. I’d rather not rush, but I want to see change, too.”

Though the team was formed after Abdirahman Abdi’s death, it found itself dealing with other controversies and tragedies. In October 2016, a veteran Ottawa officer pleaded guilty to police act charges after he was identified making racist comments online about the death of Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook. That same month, a study of three years of data about Ottawa police traffic stops revealed the stops were “consistent with racial profiling.”

It all took a toll on Granger and her team, which was “on the receiving end of hostile treatment” from community groups.

“In the course of their day-to-day work, the officers were frequently subjected to verbal abuse and/or challenging behaviours and these experiences, which began to take a personal toll on the officers,” the report says. “They also expressed that coming into work was becoming difficult as they were being subjected to similar behaviours internally.”

The team developed a support plan, including team debriefings and skills training to help them cope. Some of her officers were working 18-hour days on the research, Granger said.

“We were listening to a lot of raw emotions, internally and externally. It’s very difficult not to be affected by it … Fortunately, the individuals members went on to healthy next steps  in their career, but it wasn’t easy,” she said.

“When one person is put under scrutiny, the whole police service is put under scrutiny. What people don’t realize is that, when something traumatic happens, it affects all of us, inside (the police) and outside.”

The full Outreach Liaison Team Final report can be downloaded from the Equity Diversity and Inclusion page of the Ottawa Police Service website.

Source: Frank, revealing report on race relations made public by Ottawa police

Fewer street checks in Halifax but black people still more likely to be stopped

Good municipal level data:

Halifax Regional Police are performing fewer street checks but new numbers released by the force show that visible minorities, especially black people, are still more likely to be stopped by an officer.

The data shows street checks dropped by 28 per cent between 2017 and 2018, part of a continuous decline since 2012.

Despite that decrease, a CBC News analysis of the data found black people were four times more likely to be street checked than white people in 2017 and 2018.

People identified by police as Arab or West Asian were nearly three times more likely to be street checked.

The figures “are alarming in the sense that they’re very high,” said Michael Kempa, chair of criminology at the University of Ottawa.

“It’s not a morally good thing. But they’re consistent with the numbers right across the country.”

In Halifax, police checks can take one of two forms: a face-to-face interaction between police and an individual or group, or observations made at a distance. The figures released by police don’t differentiate between the two.

Checks are recorded with details such as age, gender, location, reason and ethnicity.

CBC’s analysis was based on 4,579 people who were street checked a single time by police between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2018.

Kempa said similar studies from other Canadian cities have shown visible minorities are street checked at three to four times the rate of whites. ​

“Looking at [CBC’s] statistical analysis, you made conservative assumptions in your data,” he said. “So if anything, you’re underestimating slightly.”

‘Still the target’

Ashley Taylor, who’s black and works as a support worker for African-Nova Scotian high school students, said street checks make him feel like “an enemy.”

He said he believes he draws police attention attention because he’s black, wears his hair in dreadlocks and drives a Mercedes Coupe. His job as a social worker often takes him to higher-crime areas of the city.

CBC News interviewed Taylor in January 2017 when a different CBC analysis showed black people were 3.2 times more likely to be street checked than whites between 2005 and 2016.

At that time, Taylor said he was being street checked approximately three times a year. Since then, Taylor said he’s been street checked maybe once.

“The frequency [of street checks] might have changed, but the stats are still the same,” he said. “I guess we’re still the target.”

Following CBC’s street check coverage in 2017, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission hired criminologist Scot Wortley from the University of Toronto to study how street checks impact visible minority populations in Halifax.

His study is scheduled for release on March 27.

The Halifax Regional Police said it would not grant any interviews before the report’s release.

“Out of respect for Dr. Wortley’s process, we are not commenting on issues related to street checks,” said spokesperson Const. John MacLeod.

Fear of complaints

Kempa attributes the overall decline in street checks to a number of factors.

“Street checks … have really leapt into the public consciousness. People have become sensitized to it and aware that there’s something not quite right going on there. They’re more adamant about pushing their rights with police officers,” he said.

Individual officers may be less likely to stop and question citizens because they’re worried about complaints being filed against them, said Kempa.

“They’re tending to pull back a little bit in engaging the public at all, most especially with a formal street check.”

Taylor’s experiences with street checks have left him hyper-vigilant when he’s behind the wheel. He said he switched from driving a white car to a black one to “blend in and stay under the radar.”

If he notices a police car around, Taylor assumes he’s being followed.

“Is that me thinking, that I guess, I’m losing my mind?” he said.

“It’s not. It’s just something that, you know, your sixth sense takes over, and those are the things that you feel while you’re driving … It just feels like it’s very tough sometimes to be who you just want to be.”

Source: Fewer street checks in Halifax but black people still more likely to be stopped

ICYMI – Chris Selley: Police carding ought to be an anathema in a free society. How is it still up for debate?

Good commentary:

In the debate over if, when and how police should be able to stop, question and compel identification from citizens, and then store the information they receive in databases, those arguing to allow officers maximum discretion tend to defer to public safety. The more info police have, the more crime and violence and misery they can avert. Conveniently for that view, in the two years since more restrictive rules took effect in Ontario, Toronto has experienced a significant spike in homicides.

Coincidence? Justice Michael Tulloch thinks so. In his 300-page report on the Independent Street Checks Review he oversaw, officially released Friday, Tulloch does a pretty good job busting causation down to correlation.

In 2013, he observes, Toronto police agreed to ramp down “street checks” (an interaction producing “identifying information … concerning an individual … that is not part of an investigation”) and “carding” (when “a police officer randomly asks an individual to provide identifying information when there is no objectively suspicious activity,” and the individual isn’t suspected of or to have knowledge of any offence, and the information winds up stored in a database).

Despite that, the city’s homicide count held steady at 57-59 per annum until 2016, when it spiked to 75. In 2017, the year the rules came fully into effect, the number dropped to 65, before soaring to 96 in 2018 — the highest in a decade.

The number of shooting incidents, meanwhile, has hardly budged since the new rules came into force: There were 406 in 2016, 390 in 2017 and 424 in 2018. Furthermore, some areas of the city where carding was most prevalent — Jane and Finch, Rexdale, Lawrence Heights — saw dramatic decreases in shooting incidents. Whereas getting guns off the street is a common justification for intrusive police tactics, such as New York City’s stop-question-and-frisk, firearm seizures in Toronto skyrocketed after the new regulations came into place. And other Ontario municipalities reported no similar surges in crime. Overall, homicides in Ontario dropped from 2016 to 2017.

In short, it’s far easier to make a case that carding has no effect at all on serious crime than that it has a huge one. But even if previous carding practice had “worked,” even if the new regulation had stopped it from working, it barely even amounts to a defence. As Tulloch notes, “the regulation simply gives effect to the existing law that people do not have to provide their identification when there are no reasonable grounds to believe the person has committed an offence.”

If carding “worked,” in other words, it relied on citizens not knowing or caring about their already-existing right to be left alone whilst minding their own business, or being too intimidated to exercise that right — as well they might be. Politely refusing an armed man or woman’s request to identify yourself is no small thing, all the more so if you have “nothing to hide.”

The problems inherent in such a situation are myriad. There are quantifiable harms: People were denied jobs and security clearances, and in at least one case menaced by child services, thanks to information stored in police databases that implicated them in nothing other than being included in a police database. And there are more existential harms. Imagine growing up with a squeaky-clean nose yet constantly feeling like a person of police interest. It’s profoundly alienating, especially when targets quite logically conclude, based on well-documented statistics if not their own intuition, that they’re being harassed because of their race, skin colour or some other innate characteristic. It’s no less insidious if the bias is unconscious; it might even be more so.

Nothing good can come from it, and plenty bad. It hinders police in solving crimes, for one thing: “When a segment of society believes that it has been unfairly targeted by the police,” Tulloch writes, “it will delegitimize the police in their eyes.” All those desperate calls for witnesses to come forward will be met more skeptically. Tulloch cites research showing “inappropriate interaction with police” can even “desensitize young people from guilt regarding potential acts of crime.”

Tulloch has scores of recommendations, including clarifying what he argues are overly complex rules for officers; requiring officers to tell people when a conversation is voluntary; including written reasons for the existence of any database record; and destroying those records automatically after five years.

As he says, the police have lots of powers at their disposal — including the power to stop and question people if officers have a legitimate, articulable “reason to believe the identifying information would be valuable police intelligence.” That still goes too far for some civil libertarians. But it’s maddening there are still people who object to the very idea of eliminating truly random stop-and-question policies; people who can’t grasp just how anathema that idea ought to be in a free society, how profoundly it undermines the social contract that underpins modern Western policing; people who could actually take issue with Tulloch’s most fundamental recommendation: “No police service should randomly stop people in order to collect and record identifying information and create a database for general intelligence purposes.”

Well, obviously.

Source: Chris Selley: Police carding ought to be an anathema in a free society. How is it still up for debate?

Little to no proof police carding has effect on crime or arrests: Ontario report

Significant study:

Police street checks widely known as carding have little to no value as a law enforcement tool and should be significantly limited across Ontario, a judge tasked with reviewing the practice said Monday.

The report from Justice Michael Tulloch outlines certain circumstances in which police may have legitimate grounds to conduct street checks, or stop people at random and request identifying information.

But Tulloch, who was hired by Ontario’s previous Liberal government to assess the effectiveness of new regulations meant to limit the impact of street checks on racialized groups, said those circumstances are very specific and the practice as a whole should be sharply curtailed.

“There is little to no evidence that a random, unfocused collection of identifying information has benefits that outweigh the social cost of the practice,” Tulloch wrote in his 310-page report.

“Given the social cost involved with a practice that has not definitively been shown to widely reduce or solve crime, it is recommended that the practice of randomly stopping individuals to gather their identifying information for the creation of a database for intelligence purposes be discontinued.”

Tulloch, who previously led a review into Ontario’s complex police oversight system, was asked to turn his attention to carding months after the previous government made moves to eliminate what it described as systemic racism in law enforcement.

Police oversight

Street checks started coming under intense scrutiny several years ago amid data showing officers were disproportionately stopping black and other racialized people.

In 2016, Ontario introduced rules dictating that police must inform people that they don’t have to provide identifying information during street checks, and that refusing to co-operate or walking away cannot then be used as reasons to compel information.

The aim was to end arbitrary stops, especially those based on race, though anti-carding advocates have called for the practice to be abolished entirely.

Race is prohibited as forming any part of a police officer’s reason for attempting to collect someone’s identifying information.

Police had long argued that street checks have value as an investigative tool, a notion Tulloch challenged in his report.

“A widespread program of random street checks involves considerable time and effort for a police service, with little to no verifiable results on the level of crime or even arrests,” he wrote. “Some police services reported that there are other ways to gather data or use data that they already have more effectively.”

Tulloch’s report also debunked the notion that carding had played a role in solving the high-profile killing of Cecilia Zhang, a nine-year-old girl who was abducted from her Toronto home in the middle of the night in 2003.

Tulloch said many of the more than 2,000 people consulted for the report cited the arrest of Min Chen, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Zhang’s death, as an example of a carding success story. Tulloch said, however, that Chen’s name first came to be in police files as a result of a non-random stop that did not fit the definition of carding.

Chen was stopped in response to a complaint of illegal fishing filed weeks before the girl was killed, Tulloch said, adding the information gathered during that interaction later gained relevance when Chen’s name surfaced in the Zhang investigation.

“The Cecilia Zhang case does not support the proposition that the police should be authorized to randomly request and record identifying information,” Tulloch wrote. “It simply reinforces that when identifying information is properly obtained during a police investigation, as it was in that case, that information might be useful to help solve a crime.”

Additional recommendations

Tulloch said street checks have value in cases where there are clear suspicious circumstances, or when police need to identify the identity of a missing person or crime victim. Among his many recommendations to the new Progressive Conservative government were some stating the 2016 rules should not apply in such cases.

But other recommendations advise the government to take a harder line on street checks, tightening definitions of terms such as “identifying information” and “suspicious circumstances” and broadening protections during vehicle stops.

Tulloch also recommended an overhaul of the training that was put in place when the new rules took effect. He said it lacked the critical component of explaining why the changes were being made, which left some officers hesitant to get on board.

“Implementing new rules for police officers to follow has little value — and will not achieve the intended goal — if officers are not effectively and adequately trained on the reasons why the changes were necessary,” Tulloch wrote.

He also recommended officers at all levels “should learn how the widespread use of carding by some services and some officers has been abused in the past.”

Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said the government is taking time to go through Tulloch’s findings, but said his work would “inform” efforts to reform police legislation in the province.

“We are committed to developing legislation that works for our police and for the people of Ontario,” Jones said in a statement. “Our new police legislation will reflect a simple principle: racism and discrimination have no place in policing.”

Source: Little to no proof police carding has effect on crime or arrests: Ontario report

Christie Blatchford: Police and blacks in Toronto: The numbers tell a hard truth

Lot of coverage on the just released report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission but picked Blatchford given her generally more sympathetic coverage of police issues, with her column all the more devastating as a result:

There is nothing like solid data — naked, objective, hard data — even for someone like me, who struggles mightily with numbers.

Numbers are what’s at the core of an Ontario Human Rights Commission report released Monday. I don’t know that it’s the first time the commission has backed up the anecdotal with hard data, but it’s the most astonishing such marriage I can remember.

The report includes analysis of data collected from the Special Investigations Unit, the arms-length agency that probes all serious incidents where police forces in Ontario inflict serious injuries upon civilians.

For the first time, it also includes a review of the SIU director’s reports, a rich trove of heretofore unreleased detail — including descriptions of the circumstances of each incident, assessments of the civilians involved and the justification behind the SIU director’s decision to charge or not charge police.

Using that information, plus SIU investigator notes, case photographs, police documents such as officer notes and even media reports (solely when race couldn’t be otherwise determined) the analyst — University of Toronto associate criminology professor Dr. Scot Wortley — examined 244 completed SIU investigations of civilian/Toronto Police Service encounters in the four years from 2013-2017.

In those years, black people made up about 8.8 per cent of the population in Toronto. Yet, shockingly, they also made up 70 per cent of police shootings that resulted in death, 61 per cent of other sorts of lethal force encounters, almost 29 per cent of all Toronto police use of force cases and fully one quarter of all SIU TPS investigations.

As Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane said, “This inquiry is different from past initiatives. We will examine racial disparities in how police services are provided in Toronto and will marry hard data with lived experience and case law.”

The report is called A Collective Impact, the commission’s interim report on its inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of black Torontonians by police.

Even its aim is different. “The goal of the inquiry is to build trust in law enforcement and make our communities safer,” Mandhane said. That’s exactly what such an inquiry should hope to do, but not all its predecessors have been so clear.

Now, to put this in perspective, it’s important to remember that Toronto police have about 30,000 encounters a year with those it calls “in crisis,” meaning people who are emotionally or mentally disturbed. About 97 or 98 per cent of these end without the use of any sort of force. And encounters with people in crisis account for a significant chunk of those who end up in use of force clashes — almost 30 per cent.

Another troubling note: In a “significant minority” of SIU cases, the SIU director had problems with Toronto Police co-operation, though, a small mercy, such problems were no worse in cases involving black citizens.

One of these issues was delayed or improper notification to the SIU; police are supposed to notify the unit immediately whenever a civilian has been seriously injured or died. Sometimes, police notes indicate there was early awareness someone had been badly hurt, but the SIU was still not called right away.

Sometimes, the SIU director questioned the legal basis for police to have stopped or detained the black person in the first place, or for conducting searches.

And black men were significantly over-represented in SIU investigations of sexual assault complaints — six times more likely than their numbers in the population would suggest.

The data lend heft to the “lived experiences” people have been hearing about for decades and which the commission heard about in focus groups — black Torontonians being stopped because they “matched the description” of a suspect, including a young black man who was running to school, excited about a special event, and was stopped in full view of his classmates, and a black man who earlier this year who was leaving his office and searched in front of his workmates and onlookers both.

“I was feeling embarrassed,” the youth told the commission. “This is not who I am. This is not who I want to be. After that, people were looking at me different, like I was a criminal or some type of thug.”

It’s funny, but not so long ago, I was in a room full of accomplished black citizens; this was the judicial discipline hearing into the conduct of Ontario Court Judge Donald McLeod, one of a few black faces on the bench. Many of them were upset that the hearing had even been called. McLeod is a distinguished man who made it to the bench from a hard background (single mom, subsidized housing) and who in his efforts to pay it forward by founding a non-profit national black organization allegedly crossed a line judges should not cross.

McLeod had been moved to act by the shooting of a pregnant young woman, which hit close to home; he’d gone to school with the young woman’s aunt.

There was a real sense of affront in the room, that somehow, even this good and honourable man who rose so high should have been brought down like this.

It’s not quite the same thing, rather a real sense of injury and injustice, when black people end up, in such out of whack numbers, dead or hurt after encounters with police. We leave it alone to fester at our peril.

Source: Christie Blatchford: Police and blacks in Toronto: The numbers tell a hard truth

Hate crimes reached all-time high in 2017, Statistics Canada says

 

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada, showing a substantial increase compared to previous years, most notably for religiously-motivated hate crimes:

The number of police-reported hate crimes reached an all-time high in 2017, largely driven by incidents targeting Muslim, Jewish and black people, according to Statistics Canada data released Thursday.

The federal agency said hate crimes have been steadily climbing since 2014, but shot up by some 47 per cent 2017, the last year for which data was collected. In total, Canadian police forces reported 2,073 hate crimes – the most since 2009, when data became available.

The increases were largely driven by incidents in Ontario and Quebec, Statistics Canada says. The agency said the increase may have been driven by more people reporting hateful incidents to police, although it says that many likely go unreported.

In the worst incident in the country, six Muslim men were shot to death and others were seriously injured during an attack on a Quebec City mosque in January 2017. This spring, 28-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty, but said he was not Islamophobic and instead “carried away by fear and a horrible form of despair.”

Quebec reported a 50 per cent increase in the number of hate crimes in the month after the mass shooting, mainly driven by incidents with Muslims as the victims.

There was a record set in 2017 for the number of police-reported hate crimes in Canada. (CBC)

Police are also dealing with an increase in smaller incidents like hate-related property crimes.

Toronto police’s hate crime unit said it investigated 186 incidents — largely vandalism and graffiti — in 2017. In nearby Hamilton, police reported an 18 per cent increase in the number of what the force calls hate and bias incidents.

Overall, Ontario saw a 207 per cent increase in hate crimes against Muslims, an 84 per cent increase in crimes against black people and 41 per cent increase on incidents against Jewish people.

Alberta and British Columbia also reported increases in the number of incidents.

Community leaders call increase disturbing

Brittany Andrew-Amofah, of the Toronto-based Urban Alliance on Race Relations, said the increase in hate crimes is making communities feel less safe.

“It’s time for political leaders to unequivocally speak out against hate and intolerance and in support of a multicultural society where everyone feels safe to participate and contribute,” she said in a news release.

Avi Benlolo, President and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, issued a statement saying while the new statistics aren’t surprising, they are alarming.

“It’s disturbing to hear that hate crime continues to increase in Canada and that the Jewish community – a community that is integrated into the Canadian mosaic — is still victimized,” he said.

Black people major targets, StatsCan reports

Across Canada, black people remained the most common targets of hate crimes based on race or ethnicity. Some 16 per cent of all incidents involved black victims.

Two per cent of police-reported hate crimes involved Indigenous people, according to the report, but it suggests a large number of all victims — possibly as high as two in three — didn’t file reports with authorities.

Hate crimes account for 0.1 per cent of the more than 1.9 million non-traffic crimes reported by Canadian police services in 2017. The agency defines hate crimes as “criminal incidents that, upon investigation by police, are found to have been motivated by hatred toward an identifiable group.”

Source: Hate crimes reached all-time high in 2017, Statistics Canada says

Racial profiling concerns raised after ‘DNA sweep’ targeting Middle Eastern men alleged in B.C.

Of note:

Civil liberties watchdogs say they’re troubled by a recent media report that suggested homicide investigators in B.C. targeted numerous Middle Eastern men in a voluntary DNA collection “sweep” as part of their investigation into the killing of a teenager.

The use of a DNA dragnet, they say, raises immediate concerns about racial profiling, coercion and the targeting of vulnerable populations, as well as questions about what’s done with DNA samples after they’ve been collected.

“If you’re trying to build trust in communities to further your investigation, make this something people will find credible,” said Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

The body of 13-year-old Marrisa Shen was found in a wooded area of Central Park in Burnaby, B.C., in July 2017, prompting a massive investigation that at its peak eclipsed 300 investigators.

Two months ago, the region’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) announced that a suspect, Ibrahim Ali, 28, had been arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Ali, a permanent resident of Canada, had arrived in the country in March 2017 as a privately sponsored refugee from Syria.

Police would not say how they homed in on Ali. During their 14-month investigation, they canvassed more than 1,300 residents, conducted 600 interviews and identified and eliminated 2,000 “persons of interest.”  The killing was said to have been a random act.

This week, the Burnaby Now newspaper reported that prior to Ali’s arrest, police had approached numerous Middle Eastern men across the region — including those who escaped “persecution in totalitarian regimes” — asking them if they would voluntarily provide samples of their DNA.

One of those men, Ayub Faek, fled Iraq as a refugee and came to Canada in the early 2000s. He said homicide investigators called him out of the blue and asked if they could come talk to him.

“When they came, I asked them, ‘Why me?’ and they say, ‘Not only you; many people,’” Faek told the newspaper. “I said, ‘Do you have clue like about why, for example, me?’ Maybe they have clue. They didn’t tell me. They didn’t tell me anything.”

Faek said he was asked about his work and visits to the park and was shown Shen’s picture. He agreed to provide a sample of his blood from his finger. “You don’t want to do that … but you have to say yes,” he said.

The Burnaby Now also spoke with Ariyan Fadhil, another Burnaby resident who fled Iraq in the early 2000s. He said he was questioned in a van during his lunch break and agreed to give a DNA sample.

“I knew that, if they want, they’re going to get an order from court or something, I don’t know, to take it from me, so that’s why I gave it,” he said.

Both men told the paper they were skeptical about the assurances they got that their DNA samples would be destroyed after the investigation was complete.

Cpl. Frank Jang, a spokesman for IHIT, said in an email Wednesday that it would be improper to comment while the case is before the courts.

“What I can tell you is that IHIT strictly adheres to Canadian law and RCMP policy with respect to the handling of DNA exhibits.”

The RCMP’s website states that DNA profiles must be removed from a database in a “timely manner” if the donor asks for its removal or if it is no longer useful in the investigation for which it was obtained.

But Vonn said police agencies should take the extra step of providing written verification to people that samples have been destroyed.

“You should be able to take that to the bank,” she said.

As for the act of collecting DNA samples in the first place, Vonn said while it is described as voluntary, there’s still an inevitable “element of coercion” involved because if you don’t agree to give a sample, that could make you a target of suspicion.

“No doubt police are very alive to how delicate a balance this is,” she said. “In other cases, we’ve heard in media reports people say the officer made it clear, ‘You don’t do this. We’ll put you under a microscope.’”

The use of DNA sweeps has come under scrutiny in the past. In 2016, in response to a complaint, Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director examined the use of the technique by Ontario Provincial Police detectives investigating a sexual assault in Bayham, a rural municipality in southwestern Ontario.

While police succeeded in finding the culprit — a migrant worker from Trinidad — the review found that the DNA canvass carried out by police had been “overly broad.”

DNA was obtained from virtually “every local migrant worker of colour,” regardless of physical characteristics, the review found.

The scope of the DNA sweep “could reasonably be expected to have an impact on the migrant workers’ sense of vulnerability, lack of security and fairness. It could also send the wrong message to others in the local community about how migrant workers, as a group, should be regarded,” the review found.

And while DNA samples of those individuals cleared in the investigation were destroyed, the OPP “took no steps” to notify migrant workers this had taken place.

Dozens of migrant workers from that case have since filed complaints with the Human Rights Council of Ontario.

And one of those workers is the plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit against the province of Ontario alleging that the results of DNA samples collected in this and other cases have been retained unlawfully.

Source: Racial profiling concerns raised after ‘DNA sweep’ targeting Middle Eastern men alleged in B.C.