Toronto Police Admit Systemic Racism: Damning Statistics Show Police Targeting of Black Torontonians and Other Racialized Communities

(pictured: 2018 Human Rights Commission Report on Racial Discrimination at TPS — Dafonte Miller, victim of assault by TPS officer — 2020 Human Rights Commission Report on Use of Force by TPS)

Toronto, ON –

For the first time in its 188-year history, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) has issued a formal apology for systemic discrimination against the Black community and other communities of colour.

Speaking at a press conference where the TPS released damning statistics illustrating how Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour are subject to disproportionate enforcement measures, use of force tactics, and strip searches, Chief James Ramer offered an “unreserved” apology. As Chief Ramer admitted, “our own analysis of our data from 2020 discloses that there is systemic discrimination in our policing. There is a disproportionate impact experienced by racialized people, particularly those of Black communities.”

The report and Chief Ramer’s remarks are yet another confirmation of what has long been one of Canada’s poorly kept community safety secrets: that racialized communities in Canada’s largest city are habitually targeted by violent and intrusive police enforcement measures. It also comes on the heels of two previous reports – a 2018 Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) report on racial profiling, and a 2020 OHRC report on use of force – which both confirmed over-policing of Toronto’s Black community.

Unfortunately, early signs for any hope of reform are not promising. Despite its role as the civilian oversight body for Toronto policing, the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) has remained strikingly silent in the wake of these revelations. The TPSB has a responsibility to ensure accountability for the failings of this systemically racist police service, yet it remains to be seen whether it will take on a more active role. The TPSB must be at the forefront of initiating changes that are long overdue and have caused immeasurable harm to racialized communities.

Responding to the report and Chief Ramer’s comments, Julian Falconer commented:

“There’s a lot that’s newsworthy here, but nothing that’s surprising. Sadly, speak to any Black Torontonian, or Indigenous Torontonian, or anyone from a racialized group and they will tell you this is their daily life. Whether it’s themselves, a friend, a family member – again and again, these communities are unfairly and violently targeted by racist policing. From Lester Donaldson to Sammy Yatim to Dafonte Miller: it’s an old, sad story. You’ll forgive anyone’s skepticism if they don’t trust Chief Ramer’s promises of reform – especially not when we have a Police Board that can’t even be bothered to issue a statement in the hours following the release of these disturbing statistics.”

TPS data confirms that the police deploy use of force tactics on Black Torontonians at a rate 4 times higher than other groups, and that the TPS are 5 times more likely to use force against Black individuals than their white neighbours. Black residents are over-represented in enforcement actions relative to the overall Toronto population, and are subject to twice as many police enforcement actions as other groups. Toronto police officers are 50% more likely to point a firearm at a Black person than a white person.

Similarly, the statistics reveal the extent of over-policing and police violence against Indigenous persons in Toronto. Indigenous persons in Toronto are subject to more strip searches than any other group: if you are Indigenous, you are 30% more likely to be strip-searched than the general population. Indigenous members of the Toronto community are 40% more likely to be subjected to use of force by the police. Indigenous persons are 60% more likely to be involved in a police enforcement action in Toronto.

The unprecedented behind-the-scenes account also paints a stark picture of conditions for other racialized and vulnerable communities in Toronto. Middle Eastern individuals are over-represented in both the number of enforcement actions against members of their community, as well as use of force by police during enforcement actions. Latinx individuals are 50% more likely to be involved in police use of force incidents. For persons in crisis (i.e., requiring a mental health intervention), Black individuals are 90% more likely to be subject to police use of force, while Indigenous individuals are 40% more likely to have force used against them.

These startling statistics are only a snapshot of a billion-dollar police service plagued by systemically racist practices and policies that see marginalized communities continue to suffer from police violence. In response to these revelations, the TPS has announced a “38-point” list of items – including “conversations” with affected communities – but without a concrete action plan. As communities again reckon with racist policing in Toronto, the question remains: will anything really be done?


TPS’s 2020 Race-Based Data Reports can be found online here.

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