News / Edmonton

'Now we have proof': Data shows Edmonton police disproportionately stop Indigenous and black people

FOIP request shows Indigenous, black Edmontonians significantly more likely to be subject of street checks, or 'carding.'

Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women CEO Rachelle Venne.

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Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women CEO Rachelle Venne.

Indigenous and black people are significantly more likely to be stopped and questioned by Edmonton police, according to new data.

Some are calling on the province to end street checks, commonly known as carding, after new numbers showed police are four times more likely to target Indigenous Edmontonians than white Edmontonians.

A street check, in police terms, is when an officer stops someone and collects their information but does not have right to arrest or detain them.

Police are also 3.6 times more likely to target black Edmontonians, particularly men, while Indigenous women are 6.5 times more likely than white women to be subjected to street checks.

Black Lives Matter obtained the data through a freedom of information request filed in April.

“Black Edmontonians, Edmontonians that are carded at these high amounts, we already knew this was an issue. But now we have the stats to back it up,” said the group’s policing co-chair Bashir Mohamed.

“Now we have proof.”

Mohamed said the data clearly shows street checks are indicative of systemic discrimination and racial profiling.

Black Lives Matter Edmonton and the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women are calling on the province to ban street checks by Jan. 1, 2018 and for all personal information collected during street checks to be purged.

Rachelle Venne, CEO of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, said the numbers are “alarming” and carding further marginalizes Indigenous women.  

“It reinforces that attitude that aboriginal women are not worthy of the human rights that most Canadians enjoy,” she said.

The numbers are somewhat incomplete.

Edmonton police are not required to enter race data when reporting a street check, so when the numbers were collected between 2012 and 2016, not all reports included race.

The majority had previous contact with police, however, and their racial information was on file.

Black Lives Matter also had to make some assumptions for population growth, with 2011 numbers being the most recent available.

Edmonton Police Service Staff Sgt. Warren Driechel said Tuesday that officers conduct street checks based on geographical locations, focusing on high-crime and high-density areas in an effort to prevent, suppress and solve crimes.

“Members of the Edmonton Police Service are not racially profiling or stopping people based on bias,” Driechel said.

EPS launched a review in early 2016 to examine street check practices, which led to a new requirement for officers to articulate their reasons for conducting each check in a report.

No one is legally required to provide information to police during a street check.  

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley issued a statement saying the province is finalizing a plan to launch community consultations on carding, after forming a working group in February 2016. 

MLA David Shepherd said he needs more information before taking a position on banning the practice, but he wants to ensure all Albertans are treated equally.

“Certainly some of the numbers that we saw today indicate that there are some changes that need to be made,” he said.

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