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‘Disturbing’ pattern of discrimination alleged among B.C. police services

December 2, 2021

By Vancouver Sun |

A new report reveals a ‘disturbing’ pattern of discrimination among the province’s police forces, says the office of B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner.

The report was funded by commissioner Kasari Govender and collected race-based data from five police jurisdictions — the Vancouver police, the Nelson police, and the RCMP in Surrey, Prince George and Duncan/North Cowichan.

It’s part of a presentation by the commissioner to a provincial legislature committee is working to reform the Police Act to address alleged systemic racism in police services.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth began the study of the act in response to Black Lives Matter rallies across Canada following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis, Minn., police.

The commissioner, who made oral submissions to the committee in February, said in a written summary that the time for debate about whether system racism exists in policing is over, particularly, but not exclusively, as it affects Indigenous and Black people in B.C.

“It is time to act,” said the summary, which added that analysis of the data provided by the five police departments confirmed what communities had long been saying, namely that Indigenous and Black people are either grossly or significantly overrepresented in arrest statistics.

For example, the report, which noted there were some limitations in data collecting, found that although Indigenous people represent only 2.2 per cent of Vancouver’s population, they were involved in 24.5 per cent of all arrests.

Although Black people only represent one per cent of Vancouver’s population, they were involved in 5.3 per cent of all arrests. Hispanic person and Arab/West Asian persons were also significantly overrepresented in arrests in the Vancouver data.

Figures from Surrey RCMP showed Indigenous and Black people were significantly overrepresented in arrest data. Although Indigenous people only represent 2.6 per cent of Surrey’s population, they were involved in 6.9 per cent of all arrests captured by the data, according to the report.

Although Black people only represent 1.8 per cent of Surrey’s population, they were involved in five per cent of all arrests.

Govender’s submission makes a number of recommendations to the committee, including that the B.C. government should work with Indigenous Peoples on a “government-to-government” basis on legislative amendments to the Police Act.

The submission also asks that the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor-General take steps to amend the Police Act to authorize police to collect race-based and other demographic data to address systemic discrimination in policing.

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