Frequently Asked Questions: Collection, Analysis and Reporting of Race-Based Data
Below is a list of answers to address many frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the race-based data collection.
Race Based Data
Prior to October 1, 2020, the Special Investigations Unit was collecting and maintaining data about the age and gender of SIU complainants. This information was being collected because it had investigative value and served identification purposes.
Collecting race-based data was recognized as an important function of police oversight in the Report of the Independent Police Oversight Review led by the Honourable Justice Michael H. Tulloch, who emphasized that strong data collection initiatives play an important role in making better policy decisions and increasing transparency and accountability.
On October 1, 2020, pursuant to the Anti-Racism Act, 2017, the SIU began collecting data with respect to age, gender identity, Indigenous identity, ethnic/cultural origin, racial background/race, and religious/spiritual affiliation.
The data is being collected on a voluntary basis from complainants in SIU cases, namely, persons who have been seriously injured, alleged sexual assault or (via their next-of-kin) died. The information will also be collected voluntarily in relation to subject officers, that is, the officers who appear to have caused the serious injury or death in question.
On October 1, 2020, the SIU was required by a regulation under the Anti-Racism Act, 2017 to collect data regarding the race, ethnicity, religion and Indigenous identity of complainants and subject officers in SIU investigations.
This requirement is consistent with the Ontario government’s commitment to help create an inclusive and equitable society for all Ontarians. By identifying and monitoring systemic racial disparities, public sector organizations will be better able to close gaps, eliminate barriers, and advance the fair treatment of everyone.
The SIU will continue to collect data regarding age and gender identity from complainants and also collect this data from subject officers.
The systematic collection, analysis and public reporting of this data will help the SIU identify and monitor racial disparities within the SIU. The first step to addressing systemic racism is to track its existence.
This is an unprecedented initiative and the SIU is initially rolling-out data collection with a focus on its two primary services: criminal investigations and the Affected Persons Program.
The intention is to consider other performance measures after the SIU has a broader understanding of the types of issues that might arise during collection, analysis and reporting.
The Anti-Racism Act, 2017, requires race-based data to be collected by the SIU with respect to the functions of the SIU, including its investigations. Other Ministries and agencies, including police, are similarly required to collect data pertaining to their functions.
The SIU will not be commenting on systemic issues in policing because its mandate is limited. The SIU does not have the expertise to analyze systemic issues or the authority to make recommendations for police services. In addition, its data is limited in that it only captures a very small percentage of the police interactions that occur every day.
The SIU recognizes that its data is of value in evaluating and informing policing, and not just the operations of the SIU, and will accordingly be making it available to the public, the Anti-Racism Directorate, police services and researchers, subject to privacy laws.
In January of 2020, the SIU struck a committee that diligently worked to determine how the Unit would go about collecting this data in a respectful and sensitive manner, all the while ensuring the information gathered is presented in a way that does not identify any individuals.
The committee members consulted with:
- SIU staff
- Director’s Resource Committee
- Law enforcement agencies also working to collect similar data
- Anti-Racism Directorate
- Ontario Human Rights Commission
- Police Associations
- Indigenous Affairs Office
- Information and Privacy Commissioner
The SIU will publish de-identified data for the purpose of informing the evaluation, management and improvement of policing in Ontario. The analysis of de-identified data will be posted on the Unit’s website and in the Annual Report after consultation with affected communities and SIU legal counsel. The frequency of information release is to be determined and will be dependent on ensuring the sample size is enough so that no individuals can be identified. For instance, if there was one firearm death case in a given year, the SIU would be unable to release data pertaining to this incident because it would result in identification of the individual(s) who were involved.
In addition to releasing the de-identified data, the SIU will report on how many surveys were distributed and how many of those were completed.
This is yet to be determined and will likely be dependent on the quantity and quality of the surveys the SIU receives.
Consideration is being given to having a third party involved who would have expertise in the analysis of data.
With respect to the complainants in SIU investigations, they will have the option of
- filling out a survey and submitting it to an investigator in a sealed envelope,
- filling out the survey with the assistance of an investigator,
- filling out the survey in private and then mailing it to the Affected Persons Program (APP), or
- having the APP call them to complete the survey over the phone.
Subject officers will be provided with the survey when they are designated as subject officers and again be given an opportunity to complete the survey when/if they are interviewed. Like complainants, collection of data from subject officers is completely premised on voluntary and informed consent.
Steps will be taken throughout the data collection process to minimize who has access to personal information, even within the SIU, to ensure that collected data is kept separate from the investigation. Personal information will not be shared for investigative purposes.
At the collection stage, the investigator will not know the answers to the survey unless they are required to assist in filling out the survey. The hard-copy of the survey is to be provided in a sealed envelope to the APP and will be stored in a secure facility that only APP staff have access to. APP staff will input the data into a secure electronic database which only they, and our Systems Analyst, can access.
Information collected may be shared with other individuals who are required to access it for a purpose consistent with the Anti-Racism Act, 2017. For example, information may be shared with SIU legal counsel to ensure privacy laws are complied with or an analyst to comment on the data. All individuals provided access to the information will be required to comply with the Anti-Racism Act, 2017 and its related laws.
When information is requested from individuals, they will be told the following:
- That the data is being collected on a voluntary basis;
- Why the data is being collected;
- How the data will be used;
- The benefits of volunteering data; and
- The privacy and confidentiality steps that will be taken to protect their information.
The SIU is required to release the data on a regular basis. The SIU intends to release the data and the analysis on a annual basis but anticipates there may be delays if there are low response rates or if the release of information may cause privacy concerns.