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OHRC Inquiry into Racial Discrimination and Racial Profiling of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service

November 30, 2017

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is the provincial statutory agency responsible for advancing human rights and preventing systemic discrimination in Ontario. The OHRC has broad powers under the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code) to initiate inquiries in the public interest, monitor and report on human rights issues, and engage in litigation, including by filing applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and intervening in other legal proceedings.

The OHRC’s 2017-2022 Strategic Plan identifies enforcing human rights in the criminal justice system as one of four strategic priorities. The OHRC is working towards ending racial profiling and discrimination in all police practices, increasing human rights accountability in policing and making human rights competence a requirement for the police.

For over a decade, the OHRC has raised concerns about anti-Black racism in policing in Toronto. Carding and other practices that have a disproportionate negative impact on Black persons have eroded trust in police, which is essential to effective policing, and ultimately, public safety. 

The OHRC is conducting a public interest inquiry into potential racial profiling of and racial discrimination against Black persons by the Toronto Police Service (TPS).  This inquiry is being carried out under the OHRC’s powers pursuant to section 31 of the Code which include but are not limited to:

  • The power to request the production of documents or things;
  • The power to question a person on matters that may be relevant to the inquiry; subject only to the person’s right to counsel; and
  • The ability to use expert assistance to carry out the inquiry.
Scope of the Inquiry
  1. The OHRC will inquire into the following practices and activities of the TPS  between January 1, 2010 and June 30, 2017 to assess whether they are consistent with racial profiling and racial discrimination against Black persons:

a. Stop and question practices of the TPS.
b. Use of force by the TPS.
c. Arrests and charges by the TPS and forms and conditions of release applied by the TPS in relation to certain categories of offences:

  1. Out-of-sight driving offences;
  2. Simple drug possession;
  3. Obstructing a police officer, assaulting a police officer, assaulting a police officer to resist arrest, and uttering threats against a police officer;
  4. Loitering, causing a disturbance and trespassing; and
  5. Failing to comply with a bail condition or undertaking to a police officer.

d. The OHRC will inquire into the possible disproportionate impact of the above activities on Black persons and communities.
e. The inquiry will examine the TPS’s and Toronto Police Services Board’s (TPSB) culture, training, policies, procedures and accountability mechanisms relating to racial profiling and racial discrimination.
f. The OHRC will also examine whether the TPS and TPSB have developed systems to review whether stop and question, use of force, arrests and charges, and release practices disproportionately impact racialized people.

  1. The OHRC will inquire into how the TPS and TPSB respond to findings by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, civil courts, and criminal courts that its officers have engaged in racial discrimination or racial profiling.
  2. The OHRC may examine and report on any other circumstance relevant to potential racial profiling of and racial discrimination against Black persons by the TPS that may arise during the course of the inquiry.
Inquiry Process
  1. To carry out the inquiry, the OHRC will:
    1. seek documents and data including from the TPS, TPSB and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU); 
    2. Conduct research, including interjurisdictional research;
    3. Retain experts;
    4. Consult with key stakeholders; and
    5. Receive information from affected individuals, interested groups and organizations.
  2. The OHRC will report publicly on the inquiry process, its findings and recommendations. The OHRC will provide an opportunity for the TPS and TPSB to respond to the inquiry’s findings and recommendations before making the report public.
  3. The OHRC will also assess the need to take further steps available to it under the Code to address any issues identified.
  4. Any revisions to these Terms of Reference will be posted publicly.
  1. The OHRC recognizes the potential vulnerability of affected individuals and the sensitivity of the information it will receive during the course of the inquiry.
  2. The OHRC will take all reasonable steps to conduct any interviews in a manner that protects the security of the person interviewed and respects their confidentiality. The OHRC will not disclose personal information of affected individuals without informed consent.
  3. The OHRC will take all reasonable steps to ensure that personal information that is gathered from individuals, the TPS, the TPSB or the SIU is treated confidentially and in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).
  4. The OHRC will be governed by its Protection of Personal Information and Privacy Safeguards Policy and will take all reasonable steps to prevent unauthorized access, use or disclosure of personal information as directed by FIPPA.
  5. The OHRC will destroy any personal information as soon as reasonably possible after it is no longer required.

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