Police-involved Deaths are on the Rise, as are Racial Disparities in Canada
For some people, information on police-involved deaths can be emotionally challenging to read. If you’d like to connect to our support and resource page, click here.
Our initial data currently covers deaths that followed from any intentional police use of force, from 2000 to the present day. This means that the data includes deaths from police shootings and instances where a person died after being subjected to other types of police weapons (e.g., guns, tasers, batons) or physical interventions (e.g., punches, kicks, physical holds).
The number of individuals who have died during use of force interactions with Canadian police has increased over the last twenty years. 2022 set a grim record – 69 people died during police use of force interactions1 – more than any other year in the last two decades. Some 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 striking increase in the past 4 years.
According to our data, an average of 22.7 people died in association with a police use of force encounter from 2000- 2010. In comparison, from 2011-2022, an average of 37.8 people died each year. This represents a 66.5 percent increase.
Although some may expect rates of crime and police violence to rise in tandem with increases in population, the increase in deaths occurring during police use of force encounters far surpasses population growth. When considering an increase in the rates of deadly force encounters relative to population growth, the mean annual deadly use of force rate in Canada was 0.070 per 100,000 between 2000 and 2010. By comparison, the mean annual rate rose to 0.103 per 100,000 between 2011 and 2022, representing a 46.5 percent increase. What this means is that rates of fatal encounters when police force is used far outstrip increases in population growth.
Within the overall increase in deaths there are persistent and deeply disturbing racial disparities. Black and Indigenous peoples are over-represented in police use of force-involved deaths in Canada.2
While a significant number of unknowns exist when it comes to identifying the race of the victim, Black and Indigenous peoples are over-represented in the numbers of police use of force-involved deaths. Although, according to the 2016 census data, Black people make up only 3.8 percent of the total population, they are represented in 8.1 percent of police-involved deaths. While Indigenous peoples comprise 5.1 percent of the population living in Canada, they are represented in 16.2 percent of police-involved deaths.
Racial disparities are further reflected in the numbers specific to police-involved shooting deaths. In these figures, Black people represent 8.7 percent of the total number, while Indigenous peoples represent 18.5 percent. Taken together, Black and Indigenous people comprise around 8.7 percent of the population in Canada, yet account for 27.2 percent of the police-involved shooting deaths, when and where the race of the victim has been identified by police authorities.
* up until June 30, 2022
When further comparing police use of force-involved deaths by racial group, Black people die at almost six times the rate compared to White people. Indigenous people die at almost eight times the rate compared to White people. Although there are changes on a year-to-year basis, the racial disparities have remained largely consistent over the past two decades.
To learn more on the social and historical context of policing, justice, and race, click here.
- Variable definitions and data dictionary
- Population numbers are based on estimates derived from the 2016 census.