Human rights problems affect black Vancouver residents

Written by Merren Warfield, CNN Written by Jen Scheer, CNN

Amid the sea of anti-police protests that have characterized the United States over the past year, it’s hard to see any other argument so thoroughly outdated as one that suggests police are generally good guys.

It’s an argument that has also largely vanished in B.C., Canada, where in the wake of the fatal shooting of a young black man by two white officers in the suburb of Abbotsford last year, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, along with the League of Women Voters of Greater Vancouver, B.C. Human Rights Commission and many organizations made a persuasive case that cops are not so great for everybody. In response, police in the province were required to train more officers in how to act when a member of the public comes forward with information that could help solve a crime.

The commission issued its first-ever racial justice report on Friday, detailing the immediate challenges in policing black people in B.C. A human rights tool for those who want to make sure the rights of all of the province’s citizens are being protected, the report made concrete recommendations — such as increasing training and increasing the sharing of information between community and police — to lessen the systemic challenges that have created racial bias across B.C.’s justice system.

One of the biggest problems faced by black B.C. residents is difficulty accessing justice. According to the B.C. Human Rights Commission, black people make up just 9% of the population, yet account for more than 30% of criminal cases reviewed by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), an independent agency which investigates police-involved deaths and serious injuries. The IIO is conducting the investigation into the death of Ashley Smith, an 18-year-old high school student who died in police custody in 2007. Two weeks ago, a coroner’s inquest jury found that Smith’s death had been caused by “physical restraint, lack of appropriate medical care, distress, and inadequate supervision.”

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