Timeline of racial discrimination and racial profiling of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service, and OHRC initiatives related to the Toronto Police
Note: With the exception of Sammy Yatim, all of the victims included below were Black.
This is not an exhaustive list of incidents and activities.
- Andrew “Buddy” Evans, 24, was killed by a Toronto Police officer at a nightclub on King Street West. A coroner’s inquest did not find wrongdoing on the officer’s part.
- Albert Johnson, 35, was shot and killed in his apartment by two Toronto Police officers. The officers were both charged with manslaughter, but were acquitted in November 1980.
- Michael Sargeant was killed by Toronto Police officer.
- Leander Savoury, was killed by Toronto Police officer.
- Lester Donaldson, 44, was shot and killed in his rooming house by a Toronto Police officer. The police said they were responding to a call of a man holding hostages, but found Donaldson alone in his room. He was shot for allegedly lunging at the officer with a knife. The officer was charged with manslaughter, but was later acquitted.
- Dudley Laws, Charles Roach, Sherona Hall and Lennox Farrell founded the Black Action Defence Committee, in response to police shootings of Black people.
- The Ontario government created the Race Relations and Policing Task Force in response to the killing of Lester Donaldson and Michael Wade Lawson. Clare Lewis, then Public Complaints Commissioner of Metropolitan Toronto Police, was appointed to head the task force. The task force was empowered “to address promptly the very serious concerns of visible minority communities respecting the interaction of the police community with their own.” The taskforce recommended that officers whose performance indicates that they have difficulty addressing race relations issues be required to attend training and that their performance be formally monitored and they create an award for officers who exhibit skill in identifying race relations in the course of their duties.
- Sophia Cook, a 23-year-old Black woman, was temporarily paralyzed after being shot in the back by a Toronto Police officer while sitting in a car. Cook had taken a ride in an allegedly stolen car after she had missed her bus. The officer was acquitted in 1994 of the charge of careless use of a firearm.
- Marlon Neil, an unarmed 16-year-old, was shot and seriously injured by a Toronto Police officer. Neil was pulled over after fleeing a radar trap and was shot for holding what appeared to be a gun. He was holding the emergency brake. The officer was found not guilty in 1991 of charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, attempted murder and aggravated assault.
- The Police Services Act was amended to create the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The SIU was responsible for carrying out “criminal investigations into circumstances involving police and civilians that have resulted in serious injury, death or allegations of sexual assault.”
- Jonathan Howell, 24, was shot and seriously injured by a Toronto Police officer. The shot left Howell with permanent brain damage. The officer was found guilty of the charge of careless use of a firearm, and was given an absolute discharge.
- Royan Bagnaut, 21, was shot and seriously injured by a Toronto Police officer. The officer was charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, but was acquitted in 1993.
- Raymond Lawrence, 22, was shot and killed by two Peel Regional police officers.
- Two days after Lawrence’s death, several hundred Canadians took to Yonge Street to protest police brutality. The media referred to the event as the Yonge Street Riot or the Yonge Street Uprising.
- The Ontario government established the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System. The Commission’s mandate was to study and make recommendations on all facets of Ontario’s criminal justice system.
- The Ontario government appointed Stephen Lewis to investigate the root causes of the uprising by a multi-racial group of people following the death of Raymond Lawrence. The resulting Report of the Advisor on Race Relations to the Premier of Ontario, Bob Rae, concluded that visible minorities, particularly African Canadians, experienced discrimination in policing and the criminal justice system.
- Ian Coley was killed by a Toronto Police officer.
- Albert Moses, 41, was shot and killed in his room in downtown Toronto by Toronto Police officers. The SIU did not lay charges.
- The Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System released its 450-page report. One of its recommendations was to develop guidelines for the exercise of police discretion to stop and question people, with the goal of eliminating differential treatment of Black and other racialized people. The Commission recommended that the guidelines be enforced by monitoring (through feedback from the community).
- Tommy Anthony Barnett, 22, was shot and killed by a Toronto Police officer for allegedly unsheathing a sword. Barnett was shot four times in the chest. The SIU did not lay charges.
- Andrew Bramwell, 24, was shot and killed by a Toronto Police officer.
- Henry Musaka, 26, was fatally shot. Musaka was shot twice in the head and once in the chest by Toronto police officers with the emergency task force, who were responding to an allegation that Musaka had taken a St. Michael hospital doctor hostage. An unloaded pellet gun was later recovered from the deceased.
- The Toronto Star’s “Singled Out” series was first released. The series used crime data from 1996-2002, obtained through a freedom of information request, to identify differential treatment of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service. The Star’s investigation also uncovered the “Driving While Black” phenomenon where Black persons were disproportionately charged for “out-of-sight” driving offences.
- In response to the Toronto Star’s findings, then-Chief of Toronto Police Julian Fantino stated: “We do not do racial profiling. We do not deal with people on the basis of their ethnicity, their race or any other factor. We’re not perfect people but you’re barking up the wrong tree. There’s no racism… it seems that, according to some people, no matter what honest efforts people make, there are always those who are intent on causing trouble.”
- On the eve of International Human Rights Day, the OHRC announced that it would conduct an inquiry into the effects of racial profiling on individuals, families, communities and society as a whole.
- The OHRC’s inquiry into the effects of racial profiling was officially launched. The inquiry report, Paying the Price – The human cost of racial profiling, raised public awareness about the social cost of racial profiling and recommended action for police. The report recommended, among other things, that persons in positions of leadership in Ontario, including government officials, accept and acknowledge the existence of racial profiling and show a willingness to take action to combat it. Further, it recommended that where anecdotal evidence of racial profiling exists, the organization involved should collect data to monitor its occurrence and to identify measures to combat it.
- The Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE) acknowledged the existence of racial profiling, stating: “A.B.L.E. acknowledges that the vast majority of Law Enforcement Officers in our Country perform their duties in a professional, honourable and ethical manner. We believe this because we are also these Officers. At the same time, we accept the presence of the Law Enforcement phenomenon known as Racial Profiling. As Black and Minority Officers, we live in two worlds that allow us to intimately understand the issues that affect our Community and our profession.”
- Then-Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino continued to deny the existence of racial profiling.
- The OHRC released its Policy and guidelines on racism and racial discrimination. The OHRC defined racial profiling and highlighted factors that pointed to racial profiling.
- Roger Shallow, a 37-year-old Black crown attorney, was arrested for causing a disturbance and resisting arrest by Toronto Police officers. Shallow filed a discrimination/racism-related complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, against the Toronto Police Services Board and five officers.
- Human Rights Project Charter: The OHRC, Toronto Police Service and Toronto Police Services Board agreed to embark on the Human Rights Project Charter. This agreement arose from a proposed settlement of several human rights complaints against the TPS. The three-year project was designed to help the TPSB and the TPS identify and eliminate discrimination in the hiring and employment of TPS members and in the services the TPS delivered to the public. The OHRC’s role included providing advice to the TPS and TPSB on their ongoing human rights organizational change initiatives, working with sub-committees to develop human rights organizational change recommendations, and monitoring and reporting on progress.
- Then-Premier Dalton McGuinty appointed former Chief Justice and Attorney General Roy McMurtry and former Speaker of the Legislature Alvin Curling as Co-Chairs to conduct a Review of the Roots of Youth Violence.
- The five-volume report of the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence was published. This report outlined the societal conditions that are root causes of violence involving youth. It also identified key barriers to thriving, including poverty, racism, inaccessible and inadequate community design, failures of the education and justice systems, health issues, family issues, a lack of youth voice, and a lack of economic opportunity.
- Phipps v Toronto Police Services Board, 2009 HRTO 877: The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found a Black letter carrier was racially profiled by Toronto Police while delivering mail.
- Abbott v Toronto Police Services Board, 2009 HRTO 1909: The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that a Black woman experienced discrimination because of her race and gender during an encounter with a Toronto Police officer. The Tribunal found that a routine traffic stop would not have escalated to a physical confrontation with seven tickets being issued had the woman been White.
- R v Ahmed,  OJ No. 5092 (SCJ): The Ontario Superior Court of Justice found the evidence of two Toronto Police officers unreliable and that the defendant, Mr. Ahmed, was investigated and arbitrarily detained because of his race.
- Then-Toronto Police William Blair acknowledged that racial bias exists within the Toronto Police Service.
- The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) was established under the Police Services Act.
- Alexander Manon, 18, died in custody of Toronto Police officers. A coroner’s inquest found that the “cause of death was positional asphyxia after the chase and exertion.” The SIU did not lay charges.
- Human Rights Project Charter: The OHRC, TPS and TPSB’s Human Rights Project Charter agreement ended. The TPS and TPSB did not follow the OHRC’s advice on accountability for racial profiling, which included the recommendation that there be race-based data collection on stops. Among other things, the OHRC also recommended providing human rights, equity and diversity training and on-going professional development for all employees, to give employees with the skills and knowledge to create a working environment that fully complies with norms established by the Human Rights Code, and that is anti-racist, non-discriminatory, professional, respectful, diverse and inclusive.
- Reyal Jensen Jardine-Douglas, 25, died after being shot several times by a Toronto Police officer. Jardine-Douglas had mental health issues, and it was his family who had called the police for help to get him admitted to the hospital. The SIU did not lay criminal charges.
- Eric Osawe, 26, was killed in his Etobicoke apartment by a Toronto Police officer. Following the SIU investigation, the officer was charged with manslaughter, which was later upgraded to second-degree murder. In 2013, the charge was dismissed at the preliminary hearing.
- At its September Board meeting, the TPSB passed a motion that removed a prohibition, instituted in 1989, on collecting and analyzing police service data relating to race and other Code grounds.
- The OHRC released Human rights and policing: creating and sustaining organizational change, built on the experience gained from the Toronto Police Service, Toronto Police Services Board, and OHRC’s Human Rights Project Charter initiative. The guide provides, among other things, a foundation for fostering and sustaining inclusive police services and preventing human rights violations before they happen. It recommends various steps related to police service delivery, such as collecting human rights-based data on service delivery, and including human rights considerations in performance management.
- Then-Toronto Police Chief William Blair directed the Chief’s Internal Organization Review (CIOR) to examine all aspects of the Toronto Police Service related to community engagement, and specifically the Field Information Report (FIR) process. This review was the foundation for Phase II of the Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER). The PACER report focused on how the Toronto Police Service could enhance public trust and safety, while delivering bias-free service.
- Michael Eligon, 29, was fatally shot by a Toronto Police officer. Eligon was being held at the Toronto East General Hospital for mental health concerns, and was killed while holding a pair of scissors. The SIU did not lay criminal charges.
- Frank Anthony Berry, 48, was fatally shot by Toronto Police officers. The officers discharged two bullets, hitting Berry in the torso, because they believed that he was approaching them with a knife. The object was later discovered to be a pair of scissors. The SIU did not lay criminal charges.
- The Toronto Star’s “Known to Police” series was first released. The series used crime data, obtained through a freedom of information request, to show that Black people are grossly over-represented in the Toronto Police Service’s carding data, among other things. The investigation also revealed that Black persons are more likely to be carded in affluent, mostly White areas of Toronto.
- Maynard v Toronto Police Services Board, 2012 HRTO 1220: The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that race was a factor in suspect selection and the takedown at gunpoint of a Black man. The Tribunal found that the explanations the TPS officer offered did not fully address his conduct toward Mr. Maynard, and that the incident happened in part because Mr. Maynard was a young Black man. The OHRC was a party in this claim.
- The OHRC made a deputation to TPSB, and sent letters to the TPSB Chair outlining recommendations on carding. The OHRC recommended that the Board stop the practice of carding until policies and procedures were fully developed and completely and transparently assessed against the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Claybourn v Toronto Police Services Board, 2013 HRTO 1298: Based in part on the OHRC’s submissions, the HRTO found that filing a complaint about a police officer’s conduct with the OIPRD does not prevent someone from also filing a human rights application alleging discrimination.
- The Toronto Star released another analysis of Toronto Police Service data, as part of its “Known to Police” series. Between January 1, 2013 and November 13, 2013, Black people remained more likely to be carded in each of the city’s patrol zones. In July 2013, there was a 75% drop in the number of contact cards filled out. This was at the same time that the TPS required officers to provide receipts to people who were carded. However, the proportion of contact cards filled out for Black persons went up to 27.4%, compared to 23.3% before the drop in 2013.
- Then-TPSB Chair Dr. Alok Mukherjee submitted a report (Mukherjee Report) to the board on “police carding and the issue of profiling.” The report included an overview of several decades’ worth of reports and studies on racial profiling and tension over police stops in Toronto. The report also made 18 recommendations for the board to direct to then-Chief William Blair.
- The TPSB invited public comment on the Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER) and Mukherjee reports. The OHRC made a deputation to the TPSB and restated its position that the TPS must stop carding until policies and procedures are fully developed and assessed against the Code and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The OHRC was critical of the PACER report because, among other things: there was a lack of information about how contact card data was being used; there was no indication that individuals stopped would be told that they were free to leave; and it appeared that being in a high-crime neighborhood was enough to justify a street check.
- Sammy Yatim, 18, was fatally shot by a Toronto Police officer. Yatim was brandishing a three-inch knife while in an empty streetcar. The officer shot him eight times, six of which reportedly occurred once Yatim had already fallen to the ground. The SIU laid charges and the officer was later convicted of second-degree murder.
- The OHRC delivered several deputations to the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) on carding. The TPSB passed a Policy on Community Contacts.
- The OHRC began a public education initiative on human rights systems, carding and racial profiling through a series of events with community and advocacy groups.
- R v A.K., 2014 ONCJ 374: The Ontario Court of Justice found that a Black youth, who was arbitrarily detained, carded, dropped face first to the ground and searched, had his Charter rights breached, specifically sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Charter. The Court acquitted him of all charges.
- Human Rights Project Charter: Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute conducted an independent evaluation of the Human Rights Project Charter. Forty-six Project Charter participants and key stakeholders were interviewed. Many interviewees noted the absence of a targeted strategy to combat racial profiling. The Diversity Institute recommended, among other things, that the Toronto Police Service improve overall data collection and analysis systems, including taking steps to improve self-identification rates and collecting demographic information on respondents on both internal and external surveys.
- The Toronto Police Services Board retained Logical Outcomes to provide a report measuring the impact of the Board’s “Community Contacts” policy. The report entitled A Community-Based Assessment of Police Contact Carding in 31 Division (CAPP Report), found, among other things, that African Canadians were over-represented in stops in 31 Division; African Canadians did not feel free to leave or assert their right to leave when stopped and questioned by TPS officers, and that people in 31 Division overwhelmingly believed that TPS officers engage in racial profiling.
- The OHRC delivered a deputation to the Toronto Police Services Board on the findings of the CAPP Report. The OHRC stated that the TPS and TPSB’s work on racial profiling must: recognize that reform is long overdue; be transparent and provide the community with meaningful information; advance a rights-based approach to community policing that improves public trust and cooperation with the TPS; and demonstrate real accountability, up to and including dismissal, when officer behaviour is consistent with racial profiling.
Daniel Clause, 33, was killed by a Toronto Police officer after being shot four times. The officer who stopped Clause at a community housing complex thought he matched the description of an armed individual who had committed robbery. At the coroner’s inquest, the officer testified that he shot Clause after he had reached and pointed a gun in the officer’s direction. The gun was later discovered to be a pellet gun. The SIU did not lay charges.
- Then-Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair suspended carding on January 1st. The move came after the December 2014 TPSB meeting where the board passed a motion asking the Chief to finalize carding procedures by February 2015, in line with the board’s community contacts policy – which emphasized citizens’ rights, including the right to walk away from the encounter if the person was not being investigated for a specific crime. At the June 18, 2015 TPSB meeting, newly-appointed Chief Mark Saunders confirmed that the suspension meant that contacts were not being entered from memo books into the police database. The TPSB passed a revised carding policy. The OHRC provided a deputation in advance of the Board’s decision to pass the revised policy, citing various concerns.
- R v Smith, 2015 ONSC 3548: The Ontario Superior Court found that Mr. Smith was stopped by Toronto Police officers because he was a young Black male driving a Mercedes in an area known for gangs, drugs and guns. The Court found the stop was racially motivated, amounting to violations of Smith’s ss. 8 and 9 Charter rights. The evidence against Smith was excluded, and he was acquitted of all charges.
- The OHRC sought intervener status in a matter before the Toronto Police Service Disciplinary Tribunal. In this case, often called the “Neptune 4 case”, two officers were charged with misconduct in the high-profile gunpoint arrest of four Black teens on Toronto Community Housing property. The OHRC requested to intervene to make sure the Disciplinary Tribunal considered racial profiling – an issue, the OHRC contended, was a clear factor in the officers’ alleged misconduct.
- Andrew Loku was shot and killed by a Toronto Police officer. Loku was shot in the hallway of his residential building, seconds after the officer saw him holding a hammer. The apartment complex Loku lived in was affiliated with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
- Kwasi Skene-Peters, 21, was killed by Toronto Police officers in Toronto’s entertainment district. At the time of his death, Toronto police had a Canada-wide warrant out for Mr. Skene-Peters who was wanted in connection to a crime committed less than a month before his death. The SIU found the two Toronto officers to have acted in self-defence, and that Skene-Peters fired on the officers first. A coroner’s inquest will examine the events surrounding and leading up to his death.
- The OHRC began a year-long consultation to learn more about the nature of racial profiling across Ontario, and help organizations, individuals and communities identify, address and prevent racial profiling.
- The Ontario government announced it will standardize and regulate police street checks. The OHRC provided submissions to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services on street checks.
- In March, the Government of Ontario released a new regulation on street checks, O. Reg. 58/16: Collection of Identifying Information in Certain Circumstances – Prohibition and Duties.
- Alexander Wetlaufer, 21, was shot and killed by Toronto Police officers, who were responding to a report of a man armed with a gun. Wetlaufer was found in possession of a gun, and was shot three times by three officers after not responding to their request to put it down. After his death, the police found that Wetlaufer’s weapon was a BB gun. The SIU did not lay charges.
- In April, Black Lives Matter-Toronto organized a community protest outside of the Toronto Police Service headquarters and Queen’s Park, to call for an inquest into the death of Andrew Loku after the SIU did not find grounds to lay criminal charges against the subject officer.
- The OHRC’s motion to intervene in the Toronto Police Service disciplinary hearing in the “Neptune 4” case on the gunpoint arrest of four Black teenagers on Toronto Community Housing property was denied on jurisdictional grounds.
- The provincial government announced its review of the Police Services Act as part of its Strategy for a Safer Ontario (SSO). The OHRC provided a series of recommendations to the government that were endorsed by over 20 community and advocacy groups.
- The United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent expressed serious concerns about systemic anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system in Canada.
- The OHRC provided a submission to the Independent Review of Police Oversight Bodies commissioned by the Government of Ontario. The subsequent report submitted to the Ministry of the Attorney General by the Honourable Justice Michael H. Tulloch put forth a series of recommendations aimed at building public trust in law enforcement, and ultimately increasing public safety.
- R v Ohenhen, 2016 ONSC: The Superior Court of Ontario found no legal basis for Toronto Police officers’ detention, arrest, and search of a Black man. The Court found the officers had breached the man’s ss. 8, 9 and 10(a) and (b) Charter rights, excluded the evidence against Mr. Ohenhen, and acquitted him of all charges.
- R v Thompson,  OJ No. 2118: The Ontario Court of Justice found the stop of a Black man was racially motivated, and a result of racial profiling. The evidence from the illegal stop was excluded, and the charges against Mr. Thompson were dismissed.
- Dafonte Miller, 19, suffered serious injuries after being beaten in Durham region by an off-duty Toronto Police officer and his brother. Despite the involvement of an off-duty officer, neither the Toronto Police Service nor the Durham Police Service notified the SIU. Miller’s lawyer later notified the SIU who laid charges against the officer and his brother.
Andrew Henry, 43, was arrested after allegedly assaulting Toronto Police officers. While he was face-down on the pavement, he was Tasered twice and repeatedly stomped on by a Toronto Police sergeant. The OIPRD investigation found misconduct by several officers including excessive use of force by the sergeant, neglect of duty for failing to activate in-car camera systems and microphones upon arriving at the scene, and discreditable conduct for how officers spoke to a bystander who was filming the event. A Discipline Hearing will be held for the sergeant who used excessive force.
- The OHRC released Under Suspicion: Research and consultation report on racial profiling in Ontario. The report confirmed that racial profiling is a daily reality that damages communities and undermines trust in public institutions. For this report, the OHRC combined social science research with lived experiences gained through consultations with over 1,600 individuals and organizations.
- Elmardy v Toronto Police Services Board, 2017 ONSC 2074: In a civil proceeding, the Superior Court of Ontario found that a Toronto Police officer committed battery against Mr. Elmardy, and violated his ss. 8, 9 and 10 constitutional rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He was awarded $25,000 in punitive damages for the police conduct. Elmardy appealed the decision and argued that the trial judge should have made a finding that he was racially profiled and the damages were not enough to deter and punish police officers who engage in racial profiling. The Divisional Court agreed and awarded Elmardy damages of $80,000. To date, this is the largest damage award in history for a victim of racial profiling.
- The Ontario government introduced the Safer Ontario Act, 2017, comprehensive public safety legislation that, if passed, would represent the largest policing transformation in a generation. The proposed legislation would modernize the police accountability system in the province, among other things.