The ministry, which oversees police and fire departments across the province, presides over a police culture that all but winks at police shootings of unarmed civilians. The department acknowledged in mid-2007 that 53 civilians had died in police actions across Quebec since the start of 2005 – an annual average of 20. That’s right, 20.
Aubin was, of course, writing about the riot in Montreal North last Sunday. Like Aubin, I was struck by the number of police incidents where someone ends up dead. Twenty deaths per year at the hands of cops seems like a lot, so I did a little digging to find out what the figures were like elsewhere in the country. To my surprise, the figures in B.C. and Ontario are no less shocking.
The death toll cited by Aubin works out to roughly 0.28 deaths per 100,000 people per year at the hands of police. By comparison, between 1995 and 2006, Ontario averaged 0.29 deaths per 100,000 people per year. And in B.C., the average rate between 1992 and 2007 was a comparatively staggering 0.45 deaths per 100,000 people per year.
Now, my sample size is admittedly quite small—and my intent certainly isn’t to get anyone off the hook. But the numbers do seem to show that getting arrested by Quebec police isn’t an inherently more dangerous proposition than getting arrested in Ontario or B.C. Whether it should be dangerous at all is a whole other matter.