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The number of people who have been shot by police has increased by nearly 25% in 2022 in Canada, according to data obtained by The Canadian Press, which worries some experts.
The investigation conducted by The Canadian Press reveals that 87 people were hit by police bullets between January 1 and November 30, 46 of whom died. This data was compiled using information provided by police forces, as well as by independent sources.
The number is a quarter more than in 2021, a year in which police targeted 70 people, 37 of them fatally. In 2020, 60 people were affected, and 36 of them died.
For the professor of criminology at the University of Alberta Temitope Oriola, this increase in confrontations with the police which lead to deaths is worrying.
Several factors may explain this trend, he said, including lack of training, too little accountability and a system that relies too much on the use of force.
“So we have all the elements for a perfect storm that will lead to these kinds of events,” he explains.
Although many social movements have been calling for a change of culture in the police in recent years, the number of times police draw and fire has been on the rise since 2020.
In December, at least five shootings could be added to the data compiled by The Canadian Press. Among them, police fatally shot the suspect in a Toronto-area apartment building, and another incident occurred over Christmas at a Calgary gas station.
Young men more targeted
Young men continue to make up the strong majority of people who have been targeted by police firearms.
Ethnicity was reported in 23 cases. Of these, 40% concerned members of the First Nations, while about a quarter were racialized people.
The initial calls made to the police mainly concerned possession of weapons, assault or warrants. In almost 80% of these events, the person had a weapon. In 62% of these cases, it was a firearm.
Many of those shot and killed aren’t hardened, violent criminals, but rather people in the throes of a mental health or addiction crisis, says University of Toronto assistant professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, who studies the work of the police.
In one case, Allan Andkilde was ‘not well’ and had contemplated suicide in August when he was shot and killed by police, according to a report by the Special Investigations Unit, the watchdog the police in Ontario. The 70-year-old called 911 himself before walking down a street to brandish a machete he had just bought.
The responding officers used a stun gun to try to immobilize Mr Andkilde. They ordered him to drop his gun, but he continued to walk towards them and was shot. The Special Investigations Unit concluded earlier this month that there were no reasonable grounds to bring criminal charges against the officer involved in the case.
Mr. Owusu-Bempah, from the University of Toronto, stresses the need for the public to be able to understand how the police interact with civilians and use force. But to do this, you have to have the right data, he argues.
“Why do we still not have a national database? he wonders. They are state agents, acting on behalf of the state and enforcing state laws. They are empowered by the state to use force and kill people.”
In 2022, the RCMP was involved in 35 shootings, compared to 26 in 2021 and 15 the year before.
Increases across the country
British Columbia is the province with the most shootings, with 23. This is up from 13 in 2021 and five in 2020. The Vancouver Police Department was involved in six of the shootings this year.
Ontario followed with 22 shootings and Alberta with 15, two slight decreases from the previous year.
In Quebec, seven shootings involving police officers took place in 2022, five of which led to deaths. There had also been seven in 2021, four of which were fatal. For 2020, we are talking about nine shootings, seven of which were fatal.
Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and the Yukon have all seen an increase in the number of people killed by police this year.
Police shootings remain rare in Canada compared to other countries, including the United States. But criminology experts say the increase remains a cause for concern.
“Excessive use of force makes policing more dangerous,” said Oriola of the University of Alberta.
Four officers have been killed this year while responding to situations that resulted in a police shootout.
According to Mr. Oriola, there will always be situations where officers must use force.
“I firmly believe that police officers have the right to return home safely with their families at the end of their shift,” he said.
“But, equally, civilians have the right not to have excessive force applied to them.”
The number of shootings involving the police increased in 2022 in Canada
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