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OHRC update: COVID-19 pandemic and the OHRC’s inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service

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April 17, 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is working hard to continue its inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service (TPS).

The OHRC publicly launched this inquiry on November 30, 2017. Using its legislated inquiry powers under section 31 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code, the OHRC requested a wide range of data from the TPS, the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to determine exactly how and where racial discrimination operates in law enforcement.


Interim report: A Collective Impact

On December 10, 2018, the OHRC released A Collective Impact, its interim report on the inquiry. A Collective Impact included an analysis of quantitative data received from the SIU, as well as a review of SIU Director’s Reports, which had never before been released to the public. It also highlighted legal decisions that found discrimination against Black persons by the Toronto Police and summarized our engagements with Black people across the city.


Steps taken since the release of A Collective Impact

Since the release of A Collective Impact, the OHRC has continued to engage with the TPS and TPSB. For example, it made oral and written submissions to the TPSB related to their data collection policy. Coming out of the recommendations from A Collective Impact, the OHRC is pleased that the TPSB adopted a policy on collecting race data. This is a significant step forward in the TPSB’s efforts to identify and address systemic discrimination.

The OHRC has engaged with Black communities to gather first-hand accounts within the scope of the inquiry, including through focus groups. It met with over 70 individuals across the GTA and heard similar concerns related to fear, trauma, humiliation, mistrust and expectations of negative treatment by the TPS as those expressed in A Collective Impact.

Dr. Scot Wortley, the expert the OHRC retained to assist with this inquiry, is currently completing his analysis on certain charges, arrests and conditions and forms of release and use of force incidents involving the TPS. Dr. Wortley is also analyzing survey data on perceptions of bias and data related to street checks.

Dr. Wortley has advised that his analysis on the charge, arrest and release data is substantially complete. He is part way through his analysis on both the use of force data and the survey data. Once he has completed these reports, he will begin his analysis on the street check data.

Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the OHRC had been interviewing senior TPS leaders, and gathering additional documents and information related to the inquiry. The OHRC had also sent the TPSB a comprehensive set of questions for response. These interviews and responses are in progress but not yet competed.


Next steps

Given the current provincial and municipal states of emergency, the TPS has requested that the OHRC suspend interviews. The TPSB continues to work on its responses to the OHRC’s questions but has requested additional time to complete them. As a result, the OHRC anticipates that there will be some delay in completing the inquiry.

Despite these challenges, the OHRC remains committed to completing the inquiry and hopes it can release a report with findings and recommendations before the end of 2020. The OHRC will release Dr. Wortley’s expert reports on its website as they are finalized and made available to the OHRC.

Additional updates on the inquiry will be available on the OHRC website.