VICTORIA — The office of British Columbia’s human rights commissioner says an analysis of data from five police services across the province shows “profound racial disparities” and it is calling for changes to address discrimination in policing.
The report from Kasari Govender’s office includes a series of recommendations for the B.C. government as part of a submission to a special committee of the legislature that’s looking at changes to the province’s Police Act.
It says analysis of data from five B.C. police services found Indigenous, Black and other racialized people were over-represented in arrests and detentions, as well as in mental health or well-being checks and strip searches.
In one example, the report says data provided by the Vancouver Police Department from 2011 to 2020 showed Indigenous people were over 11 times more likely to be arrested than their representation in the general population would predict.
In Nelson, data from 2016 to 2020 showed Black people were 4.7 times more likely to be involved in mental health incidents than their representation in the population.
Govender told a news conference on Wednesday that systemic racism in policing is unjust, contrary to the law and undermines community safety.
“When marginalized people cannot trust the police, they are less likely to report crimes against them. To build this trust, we need to reimagine the role of police in our province, including by shifting our focus from the police as default responders.”
Govender is urging B.C. to adopt recommendations that include working with other levels of government to redirect funding from police budgets and investing in civilian-led services for mental health and substance use, homelessness and other conditions that could be addressed through social programs rather than the criminal justice system.
The report says the Police Act should be amended to ensure police boards are representative of the communities they serve, specifically those who are disproportionately affected by policing, including Indigenous Peoples.
It also recommends the government work with Indigenous Peoples on amendments to the act. It says police should be authorized to collect race-based and other demographic data for the purpose of addressing systemic discrimination, and it recommends minimizing officer discretion during street checks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2021.
The Canadian Press