Indigenous women over-represented in Vancouver street checks, new data shows

Indigenous women in Vancouver are being stopped on the street by police in numbers many times their percentage of the population, data obtained by the B.C Civil Liberties Association from the city’s police department shows.

The freedom of information request, which lists the number of street checks by the police department for men and women between 2008-2017, says Indigenous women made up 21 per cent of all women stopped by police in 2017 even though they make up less than two per cent of the city’s female population. Indigenous men made up 16 per cent of all street checks on men in the city.

Police checks, also known as carding, happen when officers stop a person, record their personal informatoin and check their ID —  even though no criminal offence occurred.

As a result of this release of data on the treatment of Indigenous women, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association along with the Union of B.C Indian Chiefs have filed initial joint complaint to B.C’s police commissioner against the Vancouver Police Department. This follows similar complaint made more than a year ago after receiving data showing racial disparity in street checks. 

To us it raises the question of systemic discrimination,” Josh Paterson, executive director of the B.C civil Liberties Association, told iPolitics in an interview. “We see the over-representation of Indigenous peoples at all stages of the criminal system.”

Under the province’s Police Act, the police complaint commissioner refers the complaint to the Vancouver Police Department. The force will then decide whether a study or an inquiry should be launched.

A spokesperson from the provincial government confirmed the police commissioner received the complaint and look forward to hearing from the Vancouver Police Department about their next course of action.

Paterson said the department is expected to decide on a course of action at a meeting next week.

After the original claim was filed in June, Chief Bob Chamberlin of the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs called the rate of carding on Indigenous people in Vancouver “staggering.”

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