TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian human rights official has launched an inquiry into the practices of the police department in Toronto, the country’s most populous city, seeking to quantify what she characterized as racial profiling against black people.
Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane said on Thursday she has asked Toronto Police for data on arrests, use-of-force and street-stop tactics, expecting it will show that police have been discriminating against black people for years.
She said statistics show black people are over-represented throughout the criminal justice system, meaning they are more likely to be stopped, more likely to be arrested and more likely to be kept in jail than white counterparts.
Toronto Police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said the agency would cooperate with the commission but that some of the requested data is not available.
“If the inquiry by the commission brings forward ways that we can be better at what we do ... we would welcome those suggestions,” she said.
“I think these issues of how implicit bias or anti-black racism have played into the delivery of police services by the Toronto Police has been an issue that we’ve been addressing for quite some time.”
While Canadian politicians frequently praise the nation’s diversity, data shows economic and criminal-justice disparities make life harder for people who are not white.
Racial profiling “is the underbelly of the multiculturalism we celebrate,” Mandhane said at a Thursday press conference. “This is the lived reality of many people in our community today.”
Black people in Ontario spend longer in jail awaiting trial than white people charged with the same crimes, and are over-represented among those who spend more than a year behind bars awaiting trial, Reuters reported on Oct. 19, citing Ontario government data. (For a graphic see http:/tmsnrt.rs/2z18vS7)
Black people, whose communities are heavily policed, are less likely to be released on bail in part because they have a harder time finding someone without a criminal record and with the resources to pledge money and monitor them throughout their trial, according to some of the dozens of people involved in the criminal justice system that Reuters interviewed.
On Oct. 30, Ontario’s Attorney-General ordered the province’s prosecutors to grant bail more readily with fewer conditions, except in exceptional circumstances.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission conducts inquiries and pursues litigation, but does not have authority to compel people and entities.
Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Jim Finkle and Chris Reese