Report Showing Disproportionate Police Violence Against Black People No Surprise

By: Dwain Wellington Rattray

The idea that a post-racial Canada is a reality for the reportedly diverse Great White North is a myth perpetrated by either the woefully misinformed, or the deliberately deceptive.

“Between 2013 and 2017, a Black person in Toronto was nearly 20 times more likely than a White person to be involved in a fatal shooting by the Toronto Police Service (TPS). Despite making up only 8.8% of Toronto’s population, data obtained by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) shows that Black people were over-represented in use of force cases (28.8%), shootings (36%), deadly encounters (61.5%) and fatal shootings (70%). Black men make up 4.1% of Toronto’s population, yet were complainants in a quarter of SIU cases alleging sexual assault by TPS officers.”

This is the first paragraph of the Executive Summary of a November 2018,  137 page reportby the Ontario Human rights Commission (OHRC) “A Collective Impact: Interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service.”

The damning, succinct conclusion of said report is this: “A Black person is 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police than a white person [in Toronto].”

For the myriad men and women daily affected by systemic and systematic racism in a nation touting inclusion, disproportionate hardship is only one conversation, one interaction, one conflict away.

This report then is no surprise. This report is not breaking news. This report is not even solace that what has long been widely known by Afro-Canadians is now finally confirmed by the OHRC. On the contrary, this report—while long overdue—is an insult to the intelligence of a tired and disenfranchised cross-section of society.

The numbers may be staggering, but Black people always knew that an interaction with the police was literally a life-or-death situation. The percentages and the ratios may be shocking, but Black people always knew that they were the minority that made up the majority. The statistics may be appalling, but Black people always knew that there was no such thing as a “simple interaction” with the police.

A people accustomed to blatant acts of discrimination and subtle acts of micro aggression, does not even find surprise in the vitriol spewed by those who would contend that the report is invalid, inconsequential, and or inaccurate. It is to be expected, after all, that a majority—who are not subjected to injustices, indignities, and inequities—would find it difficult to grasp a reality that does not apply to their existence, and quite frankly, seems fanciful.

The logical mind cannot comprehend a society which continues to treat its citizenry with hostilities reserved for times of war. For the Black man, for the Black woman, for the Black teen, this is not only logical, it is expected.

Whether the hostilities are from the tips of eager fingers on a keyboard, from the edges of sharp tongues in our communities, or from the muzzles of black pistols aimed at Black bodies, here is the succinct point: Violence visited upon Afro/African Canadians is not a new phenomenon—nor did it cease to exist at any point.

For more than a decade, one iteration or another of this information and/or report has existed, yet the problem persists. This “new” Interim Report ends with “next steps.” The final bullet point (no pun intended) reads as follows:
“The final report will conclude by: 1) Outlining a number of explanatory models that may help explain racial disparities in police use of force; 2) Outlining study limitations and future research needs; and 3) Providing recommendations that could reduce police use of force incidents, reduce racial differences in police use of force and improve public confidence in policing services.”

Here is the recommendation—stop killing Black people.

The OHRC online reportmay be found here; the PDF versionmay be found here.