The Intersection of Racism and Policing in Canada

Canada prides itself on being a multicultural mosaic, celebrating diversity, and promoting inclusivity and equal opportunities for all.

However, beneath the surface of this seemingly perfect image lies a deeply-rooted issue of systemic racism that permeates various aspects of society, most notably the policing system.

While it might be tempting to assume that racism in policing is a problem unique to our neighbours south of the border, the reality is that systemic racism in Canadian policing is a persistent and pervasive issue that warrants equal attention and a commitment to change.

Systemic Racism: A Definition

Before delving into the issue, let us first establish what we mean by systemic racism. Systemic racism, also known as institutional racism, refers to how racial discrimination is embedded within institutions’ policies, practices, and procedures. Ultimately resulting in unfair treatment and unequal outcomes for racialized individuals.

This type of discrimination is not necessarily intentional or overt. Still, it is often unconscious and can be perpetuated by well-intentioned individuals who may not even be aware of their own biases.

The Evidence

In recent years, numerous studies and reports have brought attention to the issue of systemic racism in Canadian policing. For example, black people in Toronto are “20 times more likely to be shot and killed by the police than White people.”

This report also highlighted that Black people were disproportionately represented in cases of police use of force, which resulted in serious injury or death. Similarly, a 2020 study by the CBC found that Indigenous people in Canada were disproportionately affected by police violence.

These statistics are just the tip of the iceberg when unveiling the extent of systemic racism in Canadian policing. However, they provide a stark reminder that racial disparities exist in our country and that urgent action is needed to address them.

The Impact

The consequences of systemic racism in policing are far-reaching, and impact racialized individuals and the broader Canadian society.

For racialized communities, the impact of systemic racism in policing can manifest in various ways, such as increased feelings of fear, mistrust, and alienation from law enforcement, which can lead to reluctance to report crimes or cooperate with police investigations.

Moreover, racial profiling and excessive use of force can criminalize and overrepresent racialized individuals in the criminal justice system. This perpetuates harmful stereotypes and exacerbates existing social inequalities.

This is particularly concerning given that the overrepresentation of racialized individuals in the Canadian prison system has been well-documented, with Indigenous and Black individuals being significantly overrepresented in federal and provincial correctional institutions.

Addressing the Issue

Given the deeply-rooted nature of systemic racism in policing, addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach that involves various stakeholders, including governments, police services, communities, and individuals.

At the government level, this could involve the implementation of policy reforms, such as increased oversight and accountability measures for police services, the reallocation of resources from policing to social services, and the development of legislation that explicitly addresses racial profiling and discrimination.

For police services, this could involve the adoption of community-based policing models that prioritize building relationships and trust with racialized communities, as well as the implementation of comprehensive training programs that address issues of implicit bias, cultural sensitivity, and the historical context of racialized communities in Canada.

Moreover, the involvement of communities and individuals in the process of change is crucial. This could involve the creation of community-led initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of crime, such as poverty, mental health, and addiction, as well as the amplification of voices of racialized individuals in discussions about policing and public safety.


It is essential to recognize that systemic racism in policing is not an isolated issue but is intricately connected to broader issues of systemic racism in Canadian society.

As such, addressing this issue requires a collective commitment to dismantling the structures that perpetuate racial inequality and injustice in all aspects of our lives.

By working together, we can move towards a more just, equitable, and inclusive Canada that truly reflects the values of diversity and inclusivity that we hold dear.

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