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A collective impact: Remarks by Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane (2018)

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Launch of A collective impact: Interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service

December 10, 2018 | Remarks by OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane

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Introduction

Good morning. I want to start by thanking the media and community members who have joined us here today to mark International Human Rights Day.

On this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And in 1961, the Human Rights Code was introduced in the legislature to make the rights protected in the Universal Declaration a reality in Ontario.

From the beginning, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has actively worked to end racial discrimination.

Fifteen years ago today, we released Paying the Price, our inquiry into the human impact of racial profiling.

So it is fitting that today, we launch A collective impact, the Commission’s interim report on its inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service.

This inquiry is different from past initiatives. We will examine racial disparities in how police services are provided in Toronto, and will marry hard data with lived experience and case law,

The goal of the inquiry is to build trust in law enforcement and make our communities safer. Because when diverse communities trust the police, they see themselves as allies of law enforcement rather than targets.

Each person in Toronto, regardless of their race or the neighbourhood they live in, should be able to go about their daily life free from discrimination or harassment. 

The essence of freedom is being able to fulfill our full potential and contribute to society.  

And racial profiling is an affront to this freedom.

Interim Report findings

A Collective Impact includes analysis of quantitative data received from the Special Investigations Unit. It also includes a review of SIU director’s reports, which have never before been released to the public. It highlights legal decisions that have found discrimination against Black persons by the Toronto Police.

A Collective Impact also summarizes our engagement with Black people across the city.

This interim report is the latest in a body of reports, findings and recommendations ‒ over the past 30 years ‒ that point to persistent concerns about anti-Black racism policing in Toronto.

Our interim findings are disturbing and call for immediate action.

The results

The data analyzed by Dr. Scot Wortley confirms that Black people in Toronto are far more likely to have police use force against them that results in serious injury or death.

Between 2013 and 2017, a Black person was nearly 20 times more likely than a White person to be involved in a fatal shooting by the Toronto Police.

Despite representing only 8.8% of Toronto’s population, Black people made up approximately:

  • 30% of police use-of-force cases that resulted in serious injury or death
  • 60% of deadly encounters with Toronto Police
  • And 70% of fatal police shootings.

During the same time period, Black men were complainants in a quarter of SIU cases alleging sexual assault by Toronto Police officers.

The SIU Director’s reports reveal instances where there was a lack of a legal basis for police stopping Black civilians in the first place, inappropriate searches and unnecessary charges or arrests.

The reports also raise broader concerns about officer misconduct, transparency and accountability. 

Court and independent oversight bodies have found incidents where officers:

  • Provided biased and untrustworthy testimony,
  • Inappropriately tried to stop the recording of incidents,
  • And failed to cooperate with the SIU.
Lived experience

The data proves over-representation of Black people in use of force cases that result in serious injury or death.

And the situation hasn’t changed since the early 2000s.

We can only truly understand the meaning and impact of this data by listening to and accepting the lived experiences of Black communities.

For example, in 2013, the SIU Director found that:

  • A Black man was stopped by TAVIS officers.
  • The officers held each of the man’s arms and asked him whether he had anything on him.
  • After he replied in the negative, an officer pulled down his shorts and underpants, leaving his genitals exposed to the public.
  • The officers laughed at him.
  • The SIU director found that the strip search was unnecessary.

The Commission learned more by speaking with Black people directly about their experiences with the Toronto Police. We heard first-hand about the resulting fear, trauma, humiliation, mistrust and expectations of negative treatment. And we heard about the damage that one person’s negative experience can have on entire Black communities.

For example, one person told us…[and I quote]:

  • The Dafonte Miller matter affects everyone in the community because it was so egregious and it was hidden…
  • It’s a collective experience…
  • It’s a collective impact.
Next steps

The next phase of the Commission’s inquiry will analyze:

  • Lower-level use of force incidents,
  • Carding,
  • Charges and arrests,
  • And conditions and forms of release.

Thirty years of reports and recommendations tell us that data collection is the foundation to combat racial discrimination in law enforcement. Yet the Commission’s work is necessary because the Toronto Police does not consistently collect race-based data, and the Board has not required them to do so.

The Commission will also examine police culture, training, policies, procedures and accountability mechanisms. We will engage with police leaders, officers, associations and organizations. And we will continue to learn from Black communities about their first-hand experiences.

All of this work will lead to a final inquiry report, with findings, recommendations and next steps.

Call to action

The Commission recognizes that policing is vital to public safety and that it is challenging and sometimes traumatic. We also know that the Toronto Police are committed to building trust with diverse communities to make us all safer. 

But trust cannot be built without first addressing persistent concerns about racial profiling and racial discrimination.

The Commission’s findings in A Collective Impact are disturbing and demand an explanation.

We call on the Toronto Police to acknowledge these very serious concerns.

We call on the Board to mandate the collection and public release of race-based data.

We call on the City of Toronto to implement the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism.

And we call on the Government of Ontario to continue ongoing efforts to strengthen police oversight.

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