The Edmonton Police Commission has decided to lobby the Alberta government to add a person’s race to their government-issued identification.
The idea came up at a meeting Thursday as the commission received a report from Statistics Canada.
The federal group is working with police services across the country to decide how to best collect and use race-based data.
According to the Edmonton Police Service, having such data could help in multiple ways, including identifying whether certain groups are more likely to be subjected to certain crimes.
“It allows us to actually problem-solve some of the issues in relation to it. Plus it gives us a better, accurate reflection of what we’re actually dealing with in a community,” Chief Dale McFee told reporters Thursday.
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Commissioner Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse spoke in favour of the change, saying it could help make sure a community gets the services and supports it needs.
“So if we see a spike in a particular community, then we can make sure that the services that are necessary… are allocated there,” she explained.
Currently, the Edmonton Police Service does not have a mandatory method of collecting and saving race-based data.
Occasionally, that information will be recorded by officers or gathered from victims or witnesses.
McFee said the inclusion of race information would be self-identified and would be voluntary. He said that would make the data more effective than relying on assumptions.
“People are going to get it wrong a lot of times because if you just say ‘Black Canadian, Black African Canadian,’ that doesn’t divide Somali with relation to everything else,” the chief explained.
“People want to be identified of what their origins are, for the most part. So given the ability to do that and making it voluntary for them to do it just makes a whole lot of sense.”
Concerns were raised that the move could be controversial, something Calahoo Stonehouse disputed.
“Treaty status Indians in Canada have been carrying a race-based card their entire lives for over 100 years,” she told Global News.
“This is equity in so far as being able to identify our race and in relation to services that we can provide citizens within our jurisdiction.”
Ultimately, the decision would be up to the Alberta government so there is no guarantee race will be added to identification or when.
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