The latest data released by Canada’s Tracking (In)Justice project suggests that the average annual number of police-involved deaths between 2011 and 2022 increased by two-thirds compared to the average annual figure for the previous decade. Project members Andrew Crosby, Alexander McClelland and Tanya L. Sharpe believe that this increase, along with the racial disparity and jurisdictional variations in these numbers, support the need to call for greater accountability, transparency and scrutiny of police conduct in Canada.
According to the authors of the project, it is clear that fatal encounters with police are increasing year after year in Canada. The number of civilians killed in incidents with police where force was used has steadily been increasing since 2000. This is leaving families and communities with little support or resources to hold them accountable.
But one of the main problems is that there is no Canadian or foreign agency or institution working on, for example, an up-to-date, centralised data set or a mechanism to track fatalities and provide information on the victim, the location, the police service involved, the type of force used and many other contextual details.
This is carried out solely by members of the Tracking (In)Justice project, which documents and analyses police-involved deaths where force was used in Canada. Tracking (In)Justice is a partnership between academics and advocates who aim to shed light on police violence to help inform demands for accountability, transparency and change in policing institutions.
Collecting this information provides the possibility to ask new questions, such as why some police forces have more frequent deaths under their belt than others.
There have long been calls for police and governments to collect and share data on incidents in which the use of force results in civilian injuries and deaths. Journalists, academics, civil society groups and victims’ families have been engaged in this work for a long time now.
Preliminary findings indicate that incidents involving the use of force are on the rise, with the highest number being from 2022. Part of this long-term trend may be due to increased access to information about police-involved killings and deaths. But access to information alone does not explain the remarkable increase in recent years.
According to data from Tracking (In)Justice, there was an average of 22.7 police-involved deaths per year between 2000 and 2010. In comparison, an average of 37.8 people died each year between 2011 and 2022. This represents a 66.5% increase.
Gunshot deaths also seem to be occurring more frequently. Tracking (In)Justice documented 704 involving the use of police force deaths in Canada between 2000 and 2022.
The data include deaths from police shootings, as well as deaths involving other types of police weapons (e.g. Tasers) or physical intervention.
These data were collected by using publicly available information from the media and official reports. The data contains information related to the victim, including name, age and race (if available). The location of the death, the police involved and the highest level of force used are also documented.
According to long-standing patterns of inequality, there are significant racial disparities in the overall increase in police-involved fatalities when force is used.
Black and indigenous people represent about 10% of the population in Canada, but account for 27.2% of police-involved shooting deaths when the victim’s race is identified.