New Online Database Launched to Track Police-Involved Deaths in Canada
OTTAWA – NEWS – A newly launched online database tracking police-involved deaths in Canada shows that at least 704 people have been killed or died during police use of force encounters since 2000. The database is part of a collaborative project between researchers and front-line organizations and includes information on date, location, police service, level of force used, and when known, age, race, and gender of the victims. The information is based on publicly available sources, including government reports and reliable Canadian media sources.
According to Alexander McClelland, an Assistant Professor at Carleton University and leader of the project, “due to ongoing systemic issues with a lack of access, transparency, and consistency in reporting data on police-involved deaths and killings across Canada, tracking this issue is an imperfect and challenging process. While our data is limited, our findings indicate a steep rise in deaths. Police killed 69 people in 2022, setting a grim record with the highest number of known police use of force deaths in one year.”
The database fills a critical gap in the information available to people in Canada and allows for the identification of troubling statistics. For example, there has been a 66.5% increase in deaths associated with police use of force when comparing 2011-2022 with the previous ten-year period. Black and Indigenous people, who comprise around 8.7% of the population, account for 27.2% of police-involved shooting deaths. The RCMP, the OPP, and the Sûreté du Québec are implicated in a high number of deaths.
Joanne McIsaac, an advisor on the Tracking (In)Justice project, has been calling for a national database of police-involved deaths since her brother was killed during an interaction with Durham Regional Police in 2013. Tanya L. Sharpe, a lead on the project and Founding Director of The Centre for Research & Innovation for Black Survivors of Homicide Victims, notes that a “historic and persistent lack of transparent data is one of the key factors that have prevented researchers, policymakers, advocates, and communities most impacted by police violence from effectively calling attention to police use of force and police-involved deaths.”
The project’s goal is to document all deaths that occur during police operations, as well as all deaths that occur in Canada’s jails, prisons, immigration detention, or forensic psychiatry centres. The database is a living project, and efforts are underway to expand the information available to help call for greater transparency and accountability from those on the front lines of the criminal justice system.