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The all-party committee, focused on addressing systemic racism entrenched in the Police Act, was created by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth last year in the wake of Black Lives Matters rallies in B.C. and across the world in response to high-profile police brutality cases.
Of the 127 people who died while in police custody or within 24 hours of contact with police between 2013 and 2017, 26 of them — or 20 per cent — were Indigenous, according to the findings of a B.C. Coroners Service death review panel published in 2019. Indigenous people make up six per cent of B.C.’s population. Of the 127 deaths investigated, 21 involved police use of force, 56 involved suicides shortly after police involvement, 24 were drug or overdose deaths, and 16 deaths were accidental, such as vehicle crashes or drownings.
“For me, it says that Indigenous people are more at risk for a negative outcome if they interact with police,” Lapointe said. At the request of the First Nations Health Authority, the B.C. Coroners Service and the Ministry of Health collect data on Indigenous people who die or come in contact with the health system, but the same standard doesn’t exist for other racialized communities, which Lapointe said leaves a major gap.
The B.C. government has come under fire for not collecting race and ethnicity data during the pandemic to measure whether racialized communities — many of whom work front-line jobs in factories, the health-care sector, the service industry, trucking and farming — are being disproportionately infected. Unlike the U.S., neither the federal nor B.C. governments collect race or ethnicity data in the health-care system, the labour market or education, making it impossible to see which communities are falling behind.