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Disproportionate Cannabis Possession Arrests for Blacks in Toronto
Author: Jon Hiltz  22/09/2017 - 20:38:00

On July 6th, the Toronto Star published the results of an investigation which revealed a serious racial bias within the Toronto Police Service. 

The data showed that between the years of 2003-2013, Black people with no history of criminal convictions were three times more likely to be arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana than White people of similar backgrounds. 

The results of this news caught the attention of former Toronto Mayor John Sewell, who is now the coordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition (TPAC). Sewell subsequently released a memo to the Toronto Police Services Board: 

Toronto Police Accountability Coalition 

c/o Suite 206, 401 Richmond Street West,

Toronto ON

M5V 3A8

416 977 5097


July 13, 2017

To: Toronto Police Services Board

The Toronto Star reports that for a decade before 2014 (the latest data available), Toronto arrested three times as many Black people per capita as white people for simple possession of marijuana. The data used showed that all arrests were of individuals were with no previous involvement with the criminal justice system.

The same report shows Black people were more likely to be held without release, or with restrictive bail conditions.

There is no reason to believe that what occurred before 2014 is still not occurring.

The discrimination by Toronto police on the basis of race is reprehensible, as well as being contrary to law. The public needs assurances that Toronto police officers will no longer discriminate, and that if they do, they will be removed from service.

The Board and the service have ample policies against racial discrimination, but these policies are not reflected in practice. This must change – discriminatory activities must be punished by management, as occurs in other public agencies.

Racial discrimination by police has gone on for far too long. It must stop. The Board must take effective action to ensure it no longer occurs on a systemic basis and ensure it is punished when it occurs on an individual basis. The Board must act now to ensure racial discrimination does not continue and it must demand management makes the necessary changes.

Yours very truly,

John Sewell for Toronto Police Accountability Coalition.

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