Yet minority groups who seem different than the majority or mainstream on the basis of their race, ethnicity or religion have to deal with various forms of discrimination in Canada. For example, Black, Indigenous, and other racialized individuals may experience racial profiling and disproportionately harsh treatment by police and the criminal system including higher rates of use of force through to disproportionate placement in solitary confinement. Religious minorities – and in particular Muslim women who wear hijab and niqab –may experience suspicion and harassment not just on the street, but also through legal channels, such as when trying to testify as a witness, or go to work as teachers or judge in Quebec.
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, along with provincial and territorial human rights laws provide for the right to equality and prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and religion.
Jason Hill Case: A Supreme Court Victory
We were present in the case of Jason Hill, who was investigated by the police for suspicion that he had committed 10 robberies. Although the evidence against Jason was flimsy and partially constructed by police, he was arrested and spent over 20 months in jail before he was acquitted.
While two Hispanic men were identified by witnesses as having committed the crimes, police arrested Jason, an Aboriginal man who insisted he was innocent.
During a suspect line up, Jason was put beside 11 Caucasian “suspects” and identified as the culprit, as the persons suspected of the crime were also people of colour. As a result of negligent investigation practices, racial profiling and institutional racism, Jason was arrested, tried, and wrongfully convicted.
After he was acquitted, Jason sought to hold the police accountable for his treatment and we stood with him. We argued that the police are not immune from liability under the law of negligence and that police officers owe a duty of care to suspects. The Supreme Court found the police department negligent in their investigation and in breach of Jason’s rights as the evidence in support of his innocence was ignored and led to his wrongful conviction.
We believe that profiling and the targeting of visible minorities is discrimination and against our fundamental human rights.
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