VANCOUVER — Indigenous and civil rights activists seeking an investigation of the Vancouver Police Department's use of random street checks want to amend their complaint based on new data showing Aboriginal women are checked more often than other groups.
In June, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs asked the province's police complaint commissioner to investigate a significant racial disparity in the use of street checks.
During the checks, also called carding, police stop a person, obtain their identification and record personal information, even though no particular offence has occurred.
The association says in a news release that recently obtained data show Indigenous women accounted for 21 per cent of all checks of women in 2016, despite only making up two per cent of Vancouver's female population.
The data was supplied by the Vancouver Police Department following a Freedom of Information request and was received after the original complaint was sent to the complaint commissioner.
A further amendment asks the commissioner to examine police stops in which personal information is elicited but the stop is not recorded as a street check so it doesn't show up in police department data.
The original complaint was based on data from a Freedom of Information request that shows 15 per cent of street checks conducted between 2008 and 2017 were of Indigenous people, yet they make up just two per cent of the population.
The news release says during that period, Indigenous men formed one per cent of the city's population, yet accounted for about 12 per cent of total street checks, while three per cent of checks involved black men, although they form just half a per cent of Vancouver's population.
When the complaint was filed in June, Chief Bob Chamberlin of the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs said the disproportionate rate of checks on Indigenous people was "staggering," and he is angered by the newest data disclosed by police.
"We will not accept this example of institutionalized racism and we demand an immediate independent investigation," he says in the release.
"How can we speak about true reconciliation when Indigenous peoples, and particularly women, are being targeted by the police on a daily basis?"
The Vancouver Police Department said in a statement that it will respond to the complaint at a police board meeting in September.
It said street checks are done to ensure public safety and to prevent crime.
"However, well-being checks conducted by our officers are also classified/counted as street checks in our statistics," the department said.
"Engaging and interacting with vulnerable people, especially at-risk, Indigenous women in the Downtown Eastside, is a significant priority for the VPD. We know that historical issues have led to increased vulnerability of Indigenous women and girls and that Indigenous women experience higher rates of violent victimization than non-Indigenous women."
The department said it participates in many community initiatives including the SisterWatch committee, which began in 2010 and provides a safe place for women of the Downtown Eastside to voice their concerns and learn about police progress in ensuring safety.
The Canadian Press