A new report highlights a “disturbing pattern of discrimination” in policing in British Columbia, says the province’s human rights commissioner.
Black and Indigenous people in British Columbia are either “grossly or significantly overrepresented” in arrest statistics while other racialized groups are also overrepresented, according to the report, which was funded by the human rights commissioner and submitted to a committee dedicated to reforming the province’s Police Act.
Data in the report “points to a significant trend of overpolicing of racialized people in B.C.,” commissioner Kasari Govender said.
The study examined policing data from five communities — Vancouver, Surrey, Prince George, Nelson and Duncan/North Cowichan.
It found Indigenous people were “highly overrepresented in arrests or chargeable incidents” in all five police jurisdictions.
In Vancouver, Indigenous men are 17.3 times more likely to be arrested than their representation in the population would indicate.
Black people are highly overrepresented in arrests or chargeable incidents in Vancouver, Surrey and Nelson while Hispanic and Arab/West Asian people are also overrepresented in many police jurisdictions, the report said.
Indigenous and Black people are also “grossly overrepresented” in strip searches and mental-health incidents in some of the jurisdictions studied.
“These are far more than numbers,” Govender said. “The statistics represent real harm to real people.”
Recommendations outlined in the report include realizing B.C.’s obligations to Indigenous Peoples, implementing a human rights-based approach to the collection of disaggregated data, reforming the practice of street checks, improving police accountability, and delegating some tasks done by police to agencies that are better suited to handle them.
“The time for debate about whether systemic racism exists in policing is over — particularly, but not exclusively, as it affects Indigenous and Black people in British Columbia,” the report reads.
“It is time to act.”