About the Issue
Canada’s history is full of examples of discrimination against human beings, including policies to restrict the immigration of people from China and later from Asia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; denial of the vote to visible minorities for decades; the internment during the second world war of Canadian citizens of Japanese descent, and the confiscation of their property; the exclusion of minorities from taverns and other publically accessible spaces – exclusions that were upheld by the courts; private covenants restricting the sale of land to Jewish or black persons; discrimination in employment; the inadequate provision of basic services such as education, health, and clean drinking water to Aboriginal people; an array of discrimination against individuals with disabilities; and racial profiling by police.
Regrettably, many of these types of discrimination persist today, despite the equality guarantees in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the anti-discrimination provisions in the Canadian, provincial and territorial human rights laws.
CCLA works to protect and promote the legal rights to equality for all across the country.
Why This Matters
Discrimination on the basis of race, national and ethnic origin colour, and disability is a violation of people’s dignity, it can affect their ability to access basic services and the opportunities available to others, it negatively impacts the ability of individuals to live their lives freely and can infringe numbers of other rights. Thus, for example, racial profiling by police may violate people’s rights to privacy, dignity, liberty, and right to be free from arbitrary detention. Refugee laws that provide for an inadequate refugee determination process risk sending refugees back to danger or persecution, thus violating the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The intersection of different forms of discrimination, and the impact of additional rights violations may further marginalize individual and communities.
- CCLA’s Youth Rights and Policing (YRAP) project engaged with racialized youth in various communities on the issue of racial profiling by police. CCLA has appeared numerous times before the Toronto Police Services Board to oppose racial profiling and urge the Board to implement accountability measures. CCLA has also participated in numerous panels and media opportunities to increase public engagement and awareness on this issue.
- CCLA has undertaken a number of advocacy and public engagement initiatives with respect to temporary migrant workers in Canada. We held a conference that addressed questions of immigration and citizenship; we intervened in a case concerning the forced removal of a temporary migrant worker from Canada by his employer (the case did not proceed to a hearing on the merits); we participated in a consultation concerning the actions of Canada Border Service Agency officers in randomly stopping racialized persons and asking for identification; and we submitted a brief to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director concerning a DNA testing sweep of migrant workers.
- CCLA intervened in a case in which a complaint alleging underfunding of social welfare services to First Nations children on reserve had been denied by the Human Rights Tribunal for not meeting the definition of “discrimination.” CCLA’s intervention focused on the need for a purposive understanding of “equality” and “discrimination,” in order to ensure access to the human rights system. This access is particularly critical for marginalized people.
- CCLA’s Youth Rights and Policing (YRAP) project worked with youth to learn about their experiences of racial profiling by police, consult with them on strategies for change, and provide legal information about their rights. The project proved to be empowering for youth, and informed CCLA’s advocacy on this issue.
- CCLA’s advocacy and public engagement efforts – together with the work of numerous other individuals and organizations – led to numerous meetings of the Toronto Police Services Board and resulted in the creation of a Board policy aimed at ending the random stopping, questioning and carding (recording data in police databanks) of racialized youth. Recently, the Toronto Police Chief was reported to have suspended the practice of carding.
Racial profiling involves the disproportionate targeting of black, First Nations, and other racialized people by police and other authorities. This could involve police disproportionately stopping racialized people, questioning them, and recording their personal information in police databanks. Racial profiling today is not necessarily the result of deliberate policies to target racialized people. It may be caused by policies intended to obtain information about individuals in neighbourhoods with high crime rates (though data suggests that racialized individuals are stopped even more often in “white” neighbourhoods). It also may result from longstanding police culture, bias (in the form of “hunches”), and from institutional programs whose aim is to measure police productivity. Performance assessments of an officer based on the number of entries they made in a databank may well increase unnecessary and discriminatory stops.
CCLA has been deeply involved in the effort to effect positive change in Toronto, but this is not an issue isolated to one city. We will continue to advocate on this issue in different communities, and are developing information materials on racial profiling that are broadly relevant across the country.
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