Peel police, Ontario Human Rights Commission launch survey to help tackle systemic racism in force

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Patricia DeGuire, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, says addressing community concerns about Peel Regional Police is 'critical.' (Submitted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission - image credit)
Patricia DeGuire, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, says addressing community concerns about Peel Regional Police is 'critical.' (Submitted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission - image credit)

Peel Regional Police is hoping a 15-minute anonymous survey will help the police force tackle systemic racism and discrimination.

The survey, which went online earlier this week and will remain open for submissions until Sept. 30, is a joint effort between the police force, the Peel Police Services Board and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

The triad signed a memorandum of understanding in 2020 agreeing to work together to address the problem. The urgency of the task, according to the OHRC, was made clear in a 2020 corporate risk management report that revealed 35 per cent of Black people living within the Peel police jurisdiction have been stopped by police, despite making up merely 10 per cent of the population — a discrepancy the commission called "deeply disturbing."

Still, OHRC Chief Commissioner Patricia DeGuire told CBC News the steps taken since then have been positive.

"[Peel police] are listening to their communities and they are trying to respond to their communities," DeGuire said. "They're very committed."

Peel police officers have come under fire repeatedly over concerns around racism and discrimination. In one high-profile case, a six-year-old Black girl was handcuffed at school. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal found race factored into the officers' actions and awarded the young girl $35,000 in damages. Earlier this year, a family called the mistaken arrest of a Black teenager a case of racial profiling.

Addressing community concerns is "critical," DeGuire said, and she's hopeful the survey can help in outlining next steps.

"The hope is to foster trust in policing," she said.

So far, Peel Police Insp. Joy Edwards said the response has been good.

"We're still in the early stages," she said. "But we wanted this opportunity to get the community to share their experiences and perspectives so that as a service we could better understand how to improve."

The questions allow for community members to contribute with as much or as little detail as they wish. The confidential survey asks about the demographics of respondents, as well as their perceptions of and experiences with Peel police.

The survey is available via the commission's website, as well as the Peel police website.

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