The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) makes the following deputation to the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) in response to its Anti-Racism Advisory Panel (ARAP) Quarterly Update.
The OHRC requests that the TPSB pass the following two motions:
- The TPS shall collect race-based data on all stops, searches, and use of force incidents by January 2020 and publicly release data on an ongoing basis.
- The ARAP shall limit the scope of its study to providing advice to the TPSB on how to collect race-based data on all stops, searches, and use of force incidents in a manner consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the expectations of Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities.
Background and context
On International Human Rights Day, December 10, the OHRC launched A Collective Impact, the interim report on its inquiry into racial profiling and discrimination of Black persons by the TPS. A Collective Impact describes the OHRC’s inquiry work to date, provides findings relating to Special Investigations Unit investigations of police use of force resulting in serious injury or death, describes the lived experiences Black communities have shared during the OHRC’s community engagement, and highlights certain legal decisions.
In response to the release of A Collective Impact, the TPS and TPSB released a joint statement on December 10 which acknowledges that:
- The job of police is a hard one
- Black communities’ concerns about differential police treatment, including in use of force, have resulted in a lack of trust that has lasted generations
- Black communities’ lived experiences must be recognized to achieve meaningful change
- The TPS and TPSB are not immune from overt and implicit bias
- The TPS and TPSB have a unique obligation to uphold the law and protect all the city’s people
- The TPS and TPSB are committed to doing better, including exploring the overall approach to police use of force and critically examining specific cases where it has been employed.
The OHRC is pleased that the TPS and TPSB have accepted the interim recommendations in A Collective Impact, specifically that:
- The TPS and TPSB acknowledge that the racial disparities and community experiences outlined in A Collective Impact raise serious concerns
- The TPS and TPSB continue to support the OHRC’s inquiry into racial profiling and discrimination of Black persons
- The TPSB require the TPS to collect and publicly report on race-based data on all stops, searches, and use of force incidents.
The TPSB must require race-based data collection by January 2020 and publicly release data on an ongoing basis
While we welcome the TPS and TPSB’s acceptance of the OHRC’s interim recommendations, based on the December 10 statement, there is some confusion about the extent of the commitment in relation to data collection. To clarify this commitment, the TPSB must require race-based data collection to identify, monitor and address potential systemic discrimination and racism with respect to service delivery by January 2020 and publicly release data on an ongoing basis.
The TPSB has clear, positive obligations under the Police Services Act to address concerns about systemic racism including being “alert to events, trends and issues within their community.”
In the Ontario Civilian Police Commission’s Thunder Bay Police Services Board Investigation Final Report, released December 14, Senator Murray Sinclair confirms that police services boards “have a positive obligation to address allegations of systemic discrimination.” This obligation is grounded in boards’ responsibilities under the Police Services Act. In particular, boards are responsible for the manner in which policing is carried out and the actions of members of the police service. Senator Sinclair’s conclusions are supported by the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Odhavji Estate v Woodhouse, 2003 SCC 69.
Police boards must take positive steps to make themselves aware of systemic racism. Senator Sinclair found that one of the key roles of police boards is to “be alert to events, trends and issues within their community and the impact on the effectiveness of police services.” As a representative of the community, a police board has the responsibility to “assess the presence of systemic discrimination and racism within its own operations and governance practices, particularly where allegations have been made against them.”
Failing to act in the face of evidence of systemic racism can amount to “wilful blindness.” Indeed, in ultimately recommending that an Administrator be appointed to take over the powers of the Thunder Bay Police Service Board, Senator Sinclair found that that Board was “aware of concerns regarding policing and Indigenous peoples in Thunder Bay but chose to passively tolerate, refute or ignore these issues, rather than obtain proper information about them; that action can be characterized as wilful blindness in the discharge of their duties.”
In light of the obligations of police services boards and the OHRC’s findings in A Collective Impact, race-based data collection is urgent and imperative.
To build trust with Black communities, the TPS and TPSB must move quickly and with clear resolve. The December 10 joint statement highlights the TPS and TPSB’s willingness to “do the hard work.” As such, the OHRC expects the ARAP to prioritize its study of race-based data collection and be in a position to present recommendations to the TPSB by August 2019, with a view to the TPS collecting race-based data by January 2020.
We encourage the TPSB to pass the following motion:
The TPS shall collect race-based data on all stops, searches, and use of force incidents by January 2020 and publicly release data on an ongoing basis.
The TPSB should clearly define the scope of the ARAP study on race-based data collection
Further to the December 10 joint statement and the ARAP’s Quarterly Update dated December 5, the TPS and TPSB have asked the ARAP to further study the OHRC’s recommendation about race-based data collection. Specifically, the ARAP will make recommendations on how to improve the existing Policy on the collection, use and reporting of demographic statistics.
The OHRC encourages the TPSB to retain an expert to assist the ARAP in the review and development of a practical plan for race-based data collection. The OHRC would be pleased to offer advice on selection of an expert.
The OHRC cautions against a study that considers whether or not race-based data collection is valuable and appropriate for the TPS. Over the past 30 years, there have been numerous reports, oversight bodies and independent reviews calling for the collection of race-based data in policing. Data collection is the foundation to combat systemic racial discrimination, including anti-Black racism. Race-based data collection is particularly urgent and imperative in light of the OHRC’s findings in A Collective Impact.
In approaching its task, the OHRC encourages the ARAP to draw on experiences from past, similar data collection projects. For example, Ottawa Police Service’s Traffic Stop Race Data Collection Project and Rob Tillyer et al., “Best practices in vehicle stop data collection and analysis” (2009) 33(1) PIJPSM 69 provide practical guidance on how to collect and analyze race-based data in traffic stops.
In addition, the OHRC’s written submission to Justice Michael Tulloch as part of his Independent Street Checks Review provides practical guidance on data collection in other areas of policing, including stops and use of force incidents. It highlights the value of officer perception data in combatting racial discrimination and provides extensive guidance on the selection of racial categories. The OHRC encourages the ARAP to look to comparable jurisdictions that have already implemented race-based data collection, including the Los Angeles and New York police departments.
For broader advice on collecting race-based data, the OHRC recommends the ARAP review Count me in, the OHRC’s guide on collecting human rights-based data, and Ontario’s Data Standards for the Identification and Monitoring of Systemic Racism. The OHRC assisted the government’s Anti-Racism Directorate with the development of these standards.
The ARAP must also receive input from communities most impacted by racial discrimination in policing, including Indigenous, Black and other communities. The OHRC is also available to provide the ARAP with expert advice.
We encourage the TPSB to pass a second motion as follows:
The ARAP shall limit the scope of its study to providing advice to the TPSB on how to collect race-based data on all stops, searches, and use of force incidents in a manner consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the expectations of Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this deputation.