The Black Legal Action Centre has published a report analyzing human rights applications filed against police services in Ontario between 2017 and 2020.

The study finds that almost 270 applications were filed during this period but only one application resulted in a public decision in favour of the applicant. Also, police services were almost always represented by a lawyer or paralegal while applicants were mostly self-represented.

A number of recent studies have documented that police are more likely to stop, search, charge, use force against, seriously injure, and kill Black people. In theory, people who have been discriminated against by police have a number of legal avenues available to them, including the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The findings of “Access Obscured” demonstrate that having access to the Tribunal very rarely results in a finding of wrongdoing against the police officer or service, or a remedy for the applicant.

“This report highlights how difficult it is for members of the public to hold police officers and services accountable,” said Moya Teklu, executive director and general counsel of BLAC. “We know that internal police complaints processes are not transparent. We also know that the Office of the Independent Police Review Director rarely finds that complaints filed against police officers are substantiated. And now, thanks to this report, we see that applications filed at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario lead to similar results. How can anti-Black racism in policing be so rampant but findings against individual officers be so rare?”