Ignoring Canada’s Minorities in Police Statistics

A new study finds that a majority of police agencies don’t track race in immigrant-rich country.

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Reuters

It’s an interesting milestone for a city, but one Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is proud to tout.

“For the first time in our history, the majority of people in Vancouver speak a first language other than English, and that’s a view into the much wider world, a diverse world that it is,” Robertson said, speaking at the Cities Summit convention in Vancouver this week.

The immigrant population in Vancouver is booming, as it is in much of Canada. The 2006 Census counted 6.1 million foreign-born residents in Canada, accounting for 19.8 percent of the population. All of this makes it odd to see a new report looking at how the majority of police agencies are not tracking race in their official reports.

"Whitewashing Criminal Justice in Canada: Preventing Research through Data Suppression" appears in the Canadian Journal of Law and Society and finds that most police agencies don’t keep track of race, and when they do it’s inconsistent. This lack of information is in the face of recent studies showing that blacks are over-represented in local police stops and that Aboriginals are over-represented in Canadian prisons.

"Suppressing race statistics makes quantitative anti-racism research impossible. Further, failure to collect data does not prevent racial profiling. Stigmatization may still occur but without public knowledge of it," the authors write.

And as in Vancouver, the immigrant population in most Canadian cities is on the rise. In most Canadian cities, the amount of immigrants is slightly higher than the amount of "visible minorities" – a classification defined by the Employment Equity Act as "persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour." This chart shows the minority population as a percentage of the whole in the ten most populous cities in the country. (All of this is based on figures from the 2006 Census. 2011 figures are not yet available.)

These numbers will certainly increase when the 2011 figures become official. For a country with such a large minority population, not tracking race in crime statistics not only creates the potential for misuse of police power, but also a major lapse in understanding how crime functions in rapidly changing communities.

Photo credit: Mark Blinch/Reuters

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.