Racial profiling and police brutality claims have increased throughout the Canadian Prairies, where Indigenous people represent a growing subset of urban populations and often make up the largest minority populations. These claims are often dismissed as isolated incidents by police.
We asked police departments in Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver to provide racial data related to public intoxication and drug possession by submitting Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. The requests were made as part of a 2015-2016 collaboration between Discourse Media and Maclean’s magazine looking into the disproportionate incarceration rates of Indigenous people in the Canadian justice system. Not one of the eight FOI requests we sent turned up a viable source of data. The Edmonton police estimated that preparing the data would cost Discourse Media $7,693, a figure out of the reach of a small journalism startup.
Discourse Media designed, administered and analyzed an original survey to collect data that was not provided by police through the FOI process. The survey sought to explore whether the experiences of Indigenous university students mirrored racial profiling claims in the Prairies and to better understand student perceptions of police. Data researchers studying racial profiling by Canadian police forces are limited by their ability to carry out quantitative analysis because police statistics either are not consistently collected by Canadian police organizations or are actively suppressed.
Discourse Media and Maclean’s magazine collected responses from postsecondary students in Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg over a six-month period. Download the technical summary to find out more about the survey and its findings.