Race / Ethnicity / Religion

Race / Ethnicity / Religion is part of the Equality program. You can find more information about it on its main program page.

CCLA addresses the Toronto Police Services Board on “carding” and racial profiling

By on April 9, 2014

On April 8th, 2014, CCLA presented submissions to the Toronto Police Services Board on the issue of police carding and racial profiling. To its credit, the Board is working to develop its first-ever policy regarding “community contacts” – officers stopping and engaging members of the community in the course of day-to-day policing. Unless the police suspect that an individual is connected to a particular crime, the individual is under no legal obligation to speak with police. However, many “contacts” have taken place for years based not on consent or voluntary participation, but based instead on individuals’ lack of information about their rights; feelings of fear, intimidation and threat; power imbalances; and police conduct. At the TPSB meeting on April 8th, almost 20 activists and community members gave deputations before the Board, describing the devastating impact that random police stops have had on marginalized communities in Toronto, and urging the Board to end such stops.

CCLA presented a deputation and written submissions to the Board, focussing on ways the draft policy should be strengthened and clarified. In particular, we emphasized that informal interactions between police officers and community members (such as a greeting) cannot include questioning as to a person’s identity, address, where they are coming from or going, associates, and other personal information, and must be based on consent and voluntariness. We also highlighted the need for robust accountability mechanisms.

Read CCLA’s written submissions.

CCLA’s Opposition to the Quebec Charter of Values: Read our Brief

By on December 20, 2013

CCLA has submitted a brief to the Quebec National Assembly’s Committee on Institutions’ as part of its general consultation and public hearings on Bill 60.  Bill 60, or the Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests, is a deeply troubling law that would infringe basic rights and cannot be justified in a free and democratic society.  In our submissions, CCLA argues that the Bill infringes freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the right to equality and to be free from discrimination.  CCLA also points out some concerning inconsistencies in the proposed law which would have a disproportionate impact on individuals from minority religious groups and, in particular, women from these groups.  We are urging the Quebec government not to move forward with the proposal and hope to have an opportunity to address the Committee in person in their public hearings, which are scheduled to start in mid-January, 2014.

Read CCLA’s brief here (English submissions follow French).

CCLA concerned about DNA testing of Migrant Workers

By on December 13, 2013

According to recent reports, a large number of migrant workers were approached by police and asked to provide DNA samples as part of an investigation into a sexual assault.  Although police reportedly had a description of the suspect, the group of individuals asked to give a DNA sample was diverse, ranging in age “from 21 to 61, with heights from five feet to six-foot-five, weighing between 130 pounds and 310 pounds.” The individuals’ only common feature, according to reports, is the colour of their skin.

CCLA is concerned about policing on the basis of racial characteristics and the use of random DNA tests, which are a highly invasive measure – and is looking into this matter.

To read more about CCLA’s work on racial profiling, click here.

To read more about CCLA’s work concerning random DNA testing, click here.

CCLA Calls on Police Services Board to Stop Racial Profiling and Carding

By on December 13, 2013

On November 18th, 2013, CCLA participated in a special community meeting held by the Toronto Police Services Board on racial profiling and carding.  The Board heard from 23 deputations on the Toronto Police Service’s PACER report, and on the response to it by Board Chair Dr. Mukherjee.

CCLA’s submissions called for an end to the practice of carding (or “street checks”) and the implementation of concrete measures to address race-based harassment.  Concrete measures should include:

  • a policy that sets out specific guidelines a to when police may stop and question individuals;
  • a policy that recognizes power imbalances between police officers and the individuals they stop;
  • accountability tools such as providing a carbon copy of (most of the) data recorded to the individual stopped; and
  • the creation of an independent external civilian oversight body.

To read CCLA’s submissions to the Board, click here.

CCLA McGill Law Chapter Presents Discussion on Charter of Quebec Values

By on November 25, 2013

WHERE: Moot Court, New Chancellor Day Hall, 3644 Rue Peel

WHEN: Monday, December 2nd, 2013, 5:30 PM


The Canadian Civil Liberties Association chapter at McGill Law is co-sponsoring a December 2nd round table discussion on the Charter of Quebec Values (also known as Bill 60). The event, organized by Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), will focus on legal and civil rights issues as they pertain to international and domestic human rights instruments, citizenship and labor relations. The panel will include legal and labor relations practitioners who have litigated or actively participated in legislation and public policy on these issues.

Alexa Conradi, President of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, will be the Opening Speaker.


The panel will include:

Vrinda Narain
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University

Shahad Salman

Dave Douglas
President, Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association

David Birnbaum
Executive Director, Association of English-Speaking School Boards of Québéc

For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/events/579766118745869/?source=1.


CCLA Writes an Open Letter to Quebec Premier Pauline Marois

By on September 13, 2013

Read CCLA’s letter to Premier Pauline Marois on the proposed Quebec Charter of Values here.  Read the French version here.

Proposed Quebec Charter of Values Would Violate Fundamental Rights

By on September 11, 2013

The CCLA is deeply disturbed by the proposed Quebec Charter of Values introduced yesterday by the Quebec government.  The proposal includes a prohibition on public servants wearing overt or conspicuous religious symbols, including teachers, staff in hospitals and daycare workers.  It would also require that individuals have their faces uncovered when seeking or providing a state service.  The proposed changes would, in CCLA’s view, violate fundamental constitutional rights including freedom of expression, freedom of religion and the right to equality.  It is difficult to believe that if the proposal were passed into law, it could survive a challenge before the courts.   While governments may place reasonable restrictions on rights of expression, religion and equality, the proposed Quebec Charter fails to meet this standard.

The proposal purports to have as its purpose ensuring state neutrality, but the consequences of the proposed changes appear to do little to achieve that goal.  While CCLA is a supportive of ensuring that government is neutral with respect to religion, this requires that government not prefer one religious group over others and that it not endorse religious beliefs as those of the state.  Treating all public servants equally by allowing them to comply with their own religious beliefs and requirements, or simply wear something based on their cultural background, does not offend the state’s neutrality.  Unless there is a compelling reason to believe that the wearing of cultural or religious symbols interferes with a public servant’s ability to do their job, there is no basis for prohibiting them from doing so.  The proposed Quebec Charter is also telling for what it does not include.  In particular, the large crucifix that hangs in the National Assembly would be retained as part of Quebec’s “heritage” and the ban on those in the public service wearing conspicuous religious symbols would not apply to elected officials.

In a free and democratic society like Quebec, individuals are guaranteed the right to express themselves and manifest their religious beliefs.  The Quebec government’s proposal is a violation of these principles and cannot be supported.  CCLA will be engaging on this issue as it moves forward.

Quebec religious symbols ban: CCLA responds

By on September 11, 2013

The Quebec government announced yesterday that, under its proposed Charter of Values, “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols and religious garments would be banned from public service offices.

This would mean no burkas, turbans, hijabs, and other such religious wear permitted amongst those providing or receiving service in schools, courts, daycares, and other government-run workplaces.

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of CCLA’s Equality Program spoke to the Canadian Press to provide our stance on the issue. “If we want to have diversity and equality in our society, we need to have diverse leaders, we need to have diverse role models… This proposal would essentially say that’s not possible, a person has to hide aspects of their diversity and certain people won’t be able to fill those roles at all,” she said.

Read the full Canadian Press article for more of Noa’s take on the Quebec Charter of Values.

As a leading voice on rights and freedoms in Canada, we here at CCLA expressed our concerns with a religious symbols ban when it was first proposed back in August. Check out Director of CCLA’s Fundamental Freedoms Program Cara Zwibel discussing the risks of the ban with CTV News.

And read Cara’s website post on the issue.

Check back here on our blog, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook, for more updates on the religious symbols ban as they develop.

Click here to learn more about our work on freedom of religion.


CCLA Urges Toronto Police Services Board to End Random Street Checks and Reject Delays

By on July 4, 2013

CCLA has provided submissions to the Toronto Police Services Board, urging the Board to put a stop to the police practice of random “street checks” (also known as carding).  In addition, CCLA objected to delays in the provision of data and reports on these topics to the Board, given that this information is needed for transparency and accountability with respect to police practices and concerns about racial profiling.

CCLA has been before the Toronto Police Services Board numerous times in the past year to address concerns about racial profiling, and continues to call for an end to random stops, and better tools for transparency and accountability with respect to police conduct.

To read CCLA’s latest submissions, click here.

World Refugee Day June 20 2013

By on June 20, 2013

World Refugee Day was established by the UN General Assembly in late 2000 and is marked each year on 20 June.

The following statement was made by António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees in honour of World Refugee Day 2013

“I have come to Jordan on this World Refugee Day to stand by the people of Syria in their time of acute need. I also want to salute Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and all the countries in the region for being generous havens that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

In all the years I have worked on behalf of refugees, this is the most worrying I have ever witnessed. The needs of these people are overwhelming; their anguish is unbearable. Today, there are over 1.6 million registered Syrian refugees. More than one million of them arrived just in the last six months, and thousands more come every day, seeking places to stay, sustenance, someone who will listen and help them heal.

Inside Syria, the scale of human suffering is beyond comprehension. The Syria we once knew is no more. In the heart of a turbulent region, the country was host to over one million Iraqi and half a million Palestinian refugees. I think of the Syrians I met over the years during many visits to see Iraqi refugees. Never could they have imagined that such violence would overtake them – that they would become refugees themselves – desperate, destitute and forsaken.

I worry that an entire nation is being left to self-destruct as it empties itself of its people. I am dismayed to hear of the trauma children face. Nightmares define their waking lives as much as they haunt their sleep. School is a distant memory.

Here in Jordan, over 500,000 registered Syrian refugees live in safety now. The Zaatari Refugee Camp has become Jordan’s fifth largest city and the second largest refugee camp in the world. There is hardly a town or a city in Jordan that is not host to Syrians. It is much the same in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. This hospitality is a remarkable demonstration of humanity against a backdrop of depravity.

With no clear political resolution in sight, this civil war is in real danger of sliding into a regional conflict. It is no longer fantasy to foresee an explosion in the Middle East that the world would not be able to cope with.

We will continue to do everything we can to aid and alleviate the suffering of Syrians. But the cascade of death and destruction is spreading fast, and I repeat my call on those with political responsibilities to overcome their divisions and come together to do everything in their power to stop this war.”