Deadly Force

The most comprehensive publicly available dataset on police killings in Canada is the Deadly Force database was collected by the Canadian Boradcast Corporation (CBC). Initally published in 2018, it was updated July 23, 2020.

  • “There is no government database listing deaths at the hands of the police available to the public in Canada, so CBC News created its own. The CBC’s research librarians have collected detailed information on each case, such as ethnicity, the role of mental illness or substance abuse, the type of weapon used and the police service involved, to create a picture of who is dying in police encounters.”

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Police-Involved Deaths Data

The numbers I am showing are based on my personal interpretation of the CBC data and updates I have made to fill missing records.

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Racial Breakdown

To highlight the uneven distribution of deaths across demographic groups, I’ve calculated the police-involved death rates for each group using 2016 census data. Specifically the Visible minority and Aboriginal identity variables.

  • The victims’ race is Unknown in 210 (34%) of the incidents, this means the numbers for across racial groups are likely higher than reported.

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Comparing to the United States

The total police-involved death rate in the United States is higher than in Canada.

  • The census data for each country use different demographic groupings so we can’t directly compare between all groups. Three demographic groups: White, Black, and Indigenous are recorded by each.
  • The death rates for Indigenous and Black people are much higher than for White people in both Canada and the United States.

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The Racial Disparity is Greater in Canada than the United States

Dividing the rates for the three demographic groups by the total rate for each country will tell us how many times more likely a Black or Indigenous individual is to die in a police encounter than is “typical” for the country.

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Mapping Police-Involved Deaths

Nunavut has the highest police-involved death rate of any sub-national division in Canada or the United States. It is also the only majority Indigenous (85%) sub-national division.

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A Brief History of Policing in Canada

Racism is ingrained in the history of policing in Canada since the founding of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in 1873. If you want to learn more about the history of the RCMP, I suggest you listen to these podcasts by The Secret Life of Canada and Commons.