police brutality canada

This is how police brutality differs in Canada vs the United States

Anger over police brutality in Canada and the United States has sent thousands into the streets to protest since the death of George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

Interaction with police proved deadly in these instances and many more across both countries. But how does police brutality differ in Canada and the United States?

The police use of lethal force is much higher in the U.S. than in Canada on a per capita basis, said Rick Parent, a retired associate professor of police studies at Simon Fraser University.

“In Canada the cops kill about 20, maybe two dozen people a year....In the United States they kill about 1,000 people a year,” Parent said.

In the United States 1,099 people died in police interactions in 2019, according to Mapping Police Violence. Of those killed 24 per cent were Black people, despite making up 13 per cent of the population.

Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people in the United States but are 1.4 times more likely to be unarmed.

Statistics on police use of force in the U.S. and Canada aren’t easily accessible, Parent said. In Canada, researchers must request data from each provincial police oversight organization — such as the Special Investigations Unit in Ontario.

But there are a few studies showing Canada is no better when it comes to racialized people in police interactions.

In a recent investigation, the CBC spent six months gathering and assembling data on violent police interactions. They found 461 people had died or were killed in police interventions form 2000 to 2017. They found only 18 cases where criminal charges were laid in these cases.

Similar to the U.S., racialized people have a much higher chance of dying in police encounters. In Toronto, 37 per cent of the people killed were Black yet they made up only eight per cent of the population in 17 year period CBC reviewed.

An Ontario Human Rights Commission report found that Black Ontarians were over-represented in police use of force cases (28.8 per cent), shootings (36 per cent), deadly encounters (61.5 per cent) and fatal shootings (70 per cent).

In 2017, University of Toronto criminologist Scot Wortley, looked at the CBC data and found Indigenous people had a “police-related civilian-death” rate of more than three times the national average.

In 2019 a report found Indigenous people were disproportionally killed by police. More than one-third of the people shot by RCMP were Indigenous.

“We’re 5 per cent of the [overall] population – of course it’s surprising. Thirty-six per cent of the fatalities from the RCMP are First Nations people? That’s totally unacceptable,” Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, told The Globe and Mail.

There are several factors behind why police brutality is much higher in the U.S., said Parent.

There are higher rates of violent crime and it is more dangerous to be a police officer in the U.S. In Canada we lose about one police officer a year in the line of duty but in the U.S. about 50 police officers are shot and killed, said Parent.

The U.S. also has different gun laws. They also have Castle doctrine and stand-your-ground legislation, which can be used to provide a murder charge legal defence in some states.

The bottom line is — while your chance of encountering police brutality is higher in the U.S. — racialized people on both sides of the border are grossly over represented in police involved killings.

Lead photo by

George Talusan

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