December 6, 2007

Racialized Communities and Police Services Report Released

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission has released the final report on the first phase of the Racialized Communities and Police Services Project (RCAPS Project). This project, which began a year and a half ago, is a partnership with researchers from the University of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.

In June of 2005, representatives of a neighbourhood safety committee brought their concerns about policing in their area to the Commission’s attention. They believed that there was racial profiling on the basis of Aboriginal ancestry in the provision of police services to area residents. They did not want to file a human rights complaint at that time, but asked the Commission to look into their concerns.

In July 2005, the Commission met with faculty members of the University of Winnipeg to discuss possible research projects to examine the concerns raised by the neighbourhood safety committee. The faculty members expressed an interest in carrying out a research project. The RCAPS Project began with community consultations to determine the scope of any problem of racial profiling and provide information about the concerns citizens have regarding the provision of police services to members of racialized groups.

At the first consultation, held in October 2006, nearly 20 community groups and neighbourhood associations spoke of the importance of anti-racism education, the need for more Winnipeg Police Service resources for cross-cultural training, a more effective public complaints mechanism than the Law Enforcement Review Agency, and the fear that many of their members have of the police. The Winnipeg Police Service was also represented at this meeting.

Three community consultations followed during the winter, spring and summer of 2007. They took place in the West Broadway Neighbourhood, the Centennial Neighbourhood and the Lord Selkirk Park Neighbourhood.

At all four of these consultations, participants shared stories and observations with respect to the provision of police services to themselves and others in racialized communities. At the community based consultations, individual stories were not investigated by the Commission and the confidentiality and anonymity of the participants were respected. The report documents these stories and observations.

The major themes that emerged from the community consultations include the lack of police services to the Aboriginal community, the abusive treatment by police based on Aboriginal ancestry, the need for community-based policing, the systemic nature of racial bias in the Winnipeg police service, the perception by police and media that groups or members of racialized groups are gang members, and sexually abusive treatment of Aboriginal women by police.

The Commission Chairperson Jerry Woods says “It is important to note that the project was not intended to attack the Police Service and the underlying message is that most people want to feel safe in their communities. They want to develop a mutually respectful relationship with the police.” He adds that “both the Commission and the University of Winnipeg look forward to working together with the Winnipeg Police Service and its new Chief on the next phase of the RCAPS Project, which includes developing strategies that support bias-free policing services.”

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission is responsible for ensuring compliance with The Human Rights Code, as well as promoting human rights and educating about human rights. Services, including police services, are activities protected under The Human Rights Code. Ancestry, including colour and perceived race, is one of the protected grounds. The Commission can accept and investigate human rights complaints that allege discrimination in the provision of police services on the basis of ancestry.

For more information please contact;

Patricia Knipe
Communications Director