Police forces across Canada are still overwhelmingly white and male, new report shows

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By: Angelyn Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Canada’s police forces are far behind in being representative of the  populations they serve, new data from Statistics Canada shows. 

According to data on police resources in Canada for 2019 released Tuesday,  police services across the country are overwhelmingly white and male. They still  have low numbers when it comes to officers identifying as women, visible  minorities and Indigenous.

The population of older police officers has also been climbing since data on  age was first collected in 2012. Officers over the age of 50 made up 18 per cent  of officers in 2019.

The amount of women police officers has been on the rise since 1986, when  gender data was first collected and they accounted for just 4 per cent of  officers. 

Between 2018 and 2019, the amount of women rose by 325, making them a total  of 22 per cent of all police officers. That is still behind considering women  account for half of the total population. 

Representation of Indigenous police officers across the country was  approaching parity with the total population: four per cent of officers and  three per cent of recruits self-identified as Indigenous. Five per cent of the  country’s population is Indigenous. 

Meanwhile, visible minorities are drastically under represented, accounting  for just eight per cent of officers and 11 per cent of new recruits in 2019.  Visible minorities are 22.3 per cent of the population according to the 2016  census.

Among the police services where the percentage of visible minority officers  was higher, it was still about half as much as the region’s entire population of  visible minorities.

The percentage of visible minority officers was 26 per cent in Vancouver, 26  per cent in Toronto and 19 per cent in York Region, while the 2016 census shows  the overall population of visible minorities is 48 per cent, 51 per cent and 49  per cent, respectively. 

In August, the Ontario Human Rights Commission declared that based on  investigations into the Toronto Police Service, Black people were  disproportionately likely to be arrested, charged, injured or killed by police,  despite being only eight per cent of the city’s population. 

The Commission called  on the service, the police board and the city to formally establish a process  with Black communities and the OHRC “to adopt legally binding remedies” to  change the practices and culture of policing, and “eliminate systemic racism and  anti-Black racial bias in policing.”

The new data from Statistics Canada did not specify how many Canadian  officers identified as white, but subtracting Indigenous and visible minorities,  the proportion of officers that remain is 88 per cent and 86 per cent of  recruits. 

The race of police officers can have an impact on the experience of members  of the communities they police. For example in the U.S., researcher Mark Hoekstra examined  more than two million 911 calls in two U.S. cities and found that white officers  dispatched to Black neighbourhoods fired their guns five  times more often than Black officers sent on similar calls in similar  neighbourhoods.

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