Data Collection Under the Anti-Racism Act, 2017
Racism can be overt and easy to recognize, or it can be more subtle and pervasive. Systemic racism occurs when institutions create or perpetuate racial inequality through policies, procedures or practices that have the effect of privileging or disadvantaging people based on race. This can occur even where policies, procedures or practices appear neutral.
On October 1, 2020, the Special Investigations Unit began collecting personal information from complainants and subject officers about their age, Indigenous identity, ethnic origin, race, religion and gender identity. This collection of personal information is part of the Ontario government’s initiative to address systemic racism within the justice sector. Other agencies such as those involved in bail and policing will be collecting similar data.
Race-based data collection, analysis and reporting is authorized under the Anti-Racism Act, 2017, which has the goal of eliminating systemic racism and advancing racial equity.
The SIU’s objectives when collecting race-based data are to:
- Identify and monitor potential racial disparity in access to the SIU’s services and outcomes,
- Increase transparency and accountability through public reporting,
- Identify and remove barriers within the SIU, and
- Publish de-identified data for the purpose of informing the evaluation, management and improvement of policing in Ontario.
Eliminating racial disparity first requires acknowledging and tracking its existence. By gathering this information, the SIU will gain insight into the identity of complainants and subject officers and be able to track access to the SIU’s services and outcomes. The data will be analyzed to identify if there is racial disparity among incident types, charging outcomes or access to the SIU’s Affected Persons Program. This information may be combined with other information the SIU collects, including personal information, to perform this analysis.
If racial disparity is identified, then remedial action can be taken to remove barriers within the SIU. This action may include reviewing and developing policies, increasing training for SIU staff, performing targeted public outreach and increasing the representation on the SIU’s Director’s Resource Committee, a group of community members that provide feedback on policy matters within the SIU. Other remedial actions may be identified depending on the results of the analysis and community input.
Finally, public reporting of the analysis and de-identified data serves a dual role. First, it enhances transparency which keeps the SIU accountable and helps build public trust. Second, it recognizes that SIU data may be valuable when used to inform changes outside the SIU, especially in police services.
Collection of Personal Information
All complainants and subject officers in the SIU’s investigation will be provided with an opportunity to participate in the SIU’s collection of race-based data.
All participation is premised on voluntary and express consent. This means there is no legal obligation requiring complainants or subject officers to provide the SIU with this information. Participation, or lack thereof, will have no impact on the availability of the SIU’s services or the outcomes of its investigations. Consent to the use of personal information for future analysis can also be withdrawn at any time.
In most instances, personal information will be collected directly from the individual to whom it relates; however, the SIU may collect this information indirectly from other persons where:
- That person has legal authority to act on behalf of the individual (i.e. a parent with custody of a minor, a legal guardian or a power of attorney);
- The individual authorizes the other person to act on their behalf; or
- The individual is deceased, and the other person is the estate trustee or individual’s next of kin.
Individuals who have provided personal information under the Act to the SIU may access, correct or change it at any time in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”).
Respecting the privacy of individuals takes precedence at all stages of the SIU’s data collection, analysis and reporting under the Act.
Personal information provided will be stored physically in a secure location and electronically in a manner that is consistent with security steps taken to preserve other sensitive information gathered by the SIU. Personal information will only be accessible on a “need to know” basis by those who require it for a purpose consistent with the Act.
The SIU Director, who is responsible for decision-making in SIU investigations, will not have access to personal information provided under this Act.
Analysis and Reporting
The information provided will be analyzed to determine if there is racial disparity in access to the SIU’s services, such as the Affected Persons Programs, and the outcomes of its investigations. Personal information may be combined with other information the SIU collects to fulfil this purpose.
The outcome of this analysis will be published in a report which will be made available to the public. If racial disparity is identified the SIU will take remedial steps after consulting with affected communities.
Pursuant to open data principles, de-identified data relied on to conduct this analysis will also be made available to the public. The SIU will suppress the release of analysis and data if it could reasonably identify any individual.
Data Collection Requests and Questions
Requests to access/correct information provided under this Act or to withdraw consent to its use, along with any other questions related to the SIU’s race-based data collection, may be directed to the Affected Persons Program by emailing SIUDataCollection@ontario.ca or by calling 416-641-1897 (toll free: 1-800-787-8529).
Questions from the media should be directed to Monica Hudon, Communications Coordinator by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 416-622-2342.