Exclusive: New data shows race disparities in Canada's bail system

October 20, 2017
Article Source

Black people in Canada’s most populous province spent longer behind bars awaiting trial than white people charged with many of the same categories of crimes in each of the past five years, according to data obtained by Reuters. 

Between April 2015 and April 2016, the most recent period in which data is available, black people awaiting trial in Ontario jails were there longer, on average, than white people charged with the same crime in 11 of 16 offense categories Reuters examined. There were approximately 6,000 black people and nearly 26,000 white people remanded to pre-trial detention during the period.

The data showed similar patterns in the four prior years. (Graphic: Racial disparities in pre-trial detention - tmsnrt.rs/2z18vS7)

Among the categories examined, black people spent almost twice as long in remand in 2015-2016 for weapons offenses, equivalent to an additional 38 days. They also spent 46 percent longer for serious violent offenses and 36 percent longer on charges of obstructing justice.

In three categories, white people awaiting trial were held longer in remand during the same period. Those included drug possession, theft and traffic offenses. In two categories, the difference was 1 percent or less.

The data also showed black people arrested and held in custody between 2011 and 2016 were more likely than white people to spend more than a year in pre-trial detention.

Reuters obtained the previously unreported data through access-to-information requests from Ontario, which asks inmates to indicate their race when they enter jail. Other provinces do not collect this data or categorize it differently.

A spokesman for Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said the province “takes systemic racism seriously and is working to address racial inequities,” but declined to comment on the data. 

Read more: Exclusive: New data shows race disparities in Canada's bail system