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Racial profiling: 10 years later

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In 2003, the OHRC released its landmark reportPaying the price: the human cost of racial profiling. This report told the stories of individuals and communities that experienced the harmful effects of racial profiling by the police, by educators and by other people in authority. People spoke about being stopped for “driving while Black,” being pushed towards athletics instead of academics in school and, in the case of some Asian Canadian students, being suspected of cheating because they excelled in English instead of math.

The report also highlighted the unique context, experiences and negative impact of racial profiling on Aboriginal communities.

When the report came out, there was outrage and heated denials that racial profiling existed. Today, many police services, educators and other authorities acknowledge that profiling exists, and are taking steps to eliminate it.

Over the past decade, the OHRC has worked with police services, school boards, the Ministry of Education and other key players to find and remove the barriers caused by racism and racial profiling. But the problem is still there. Examples in the past year include the HRTO cases of Rawle Maynard and Chad Aiken, and the controversy of “carding” by the Toronto Police Service (see details below).

Ending racial profiling and racism continues to be a priority for the OHRC, and will be the focus later this year when the OHRC reports on where we are today, 10 years after Paying the price caused such a storm.

I’ve had a few experiences. When I was about 10 years old, I grew up near the Guild. So I was coming from a friend’s house and the police came around and they started asking me questions about, “Have you been near the railroad tracks?” And they started asking me, “Where did you just come from?” and all these questions that really had nothing to do with me because I still had my backpack on ‘cause I just came from school.

-  Delorean Klien, Marketing Coordinator, Ontario Black History Society
Racial profiling a fact of life

Rawle Maynard awarded $40,000

In June 2012, the HRTO awarded Rawle Maynard $40,000 in a racial profiling case involving the Toronto Police Service. Mr. Maynard, who is Black, was driving home from his office in November 2005, when he was followed by an officer in a police car. Mr. Maynard was later put, at gunpoint, in the back of a police car. The police officer had received a report of an incident involving a Black man with a gun at the Malvern Town Centre. Once new information over the radio indicated Mr. Maynard was not a suspect, he was released.

The African Canadian Legal Clinic represented Mr. Maynard at the HRTO, while the OHRC, which handled the original complaint, continued as a party in the case. We sought both individual and public interest remedies, including bringing the HRTO decision, and the circumstances of this complaint, to the attention of the Toronto Police Service’s Charter project work to consider related policy changes. This three-year project, which involved adding a human rights lens to all facets of the Toronto Police Service, has now been completed and is being evaluated.

In her decision, HRTO Vice-Chair Leslie Reaume said that Mr. Maynard had been “stereotyped as a person with some probability of being involved in a gun-related incident” because he was a young Black man:

I do not believe that if the suspect had been a Caucasian man in the same circumstance, with no other defining characteristics, particularly age…[that the officer]… would have chosen to investigate the first Caucasian man he saw driving the same car at the same intersection. It is consistent with a finding of racial profiling that all black men, or all black men of a certain age, driving along in the area in a black car were possible suspects at the moment that Officer Baker decided to commence his investigation of Mr. Maynard.

Aiken settlement requires race-based data collection

An April 2012 settlement between the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) and the OHRC set the stage for the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) to collect race-based data on traffic stops by OPS officers. This settlement followed a human rights complaint by Ottawa resident Chad Aiken. In 2005, Mr. Aiken was pulled over by OPS officers while driving his mother’s Mercedes-Benz. In a complaint against the police, Mr. Aiken alleged he had been stopped because he was African Canadian. He was 18 at the time of the incident.

The parties reached a partial settlement in the summer of 2010. This 2012 settlement focuses on using data collection on traffic stops as a way to help provide bias-free police services. The OPSB and the OHRC have agreed the data will be used in a way that respects Ontario’s Human Rights Code. The settlement requires the OPS to collect data for at least two years, starting within 12 months. At the end of two years, the OPS will share the collected information with the OHRC. The OHRC will analyze the data and may make recommendations.

Collecting race-based data about police stops is recognized around the world as one of the major tools available to help police services address allegations of racial profiling, and is an important step forward in Ontario. People in every community need to feel confident in their police services. Collecting data can help police operate in an open way that can help earn the trust of the communities they serve.

The OHRC and the OPSB agreed that data collection will be important to help address concerns and perceptions in minority communities. The settlement requires significant consultation with affected communities.

There have been so many complaints surrounding minority, visible minorities and the cops. There have been problems with the police. The perception is – and one doesn’t have to completely resolve the dimensions of the problem in order to be satisfied that it’s important to address this perception, because that perception makes for an unhappy community, makes for frustrated, troubled people.

- Alan Borovoy, former General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
On human rights and police

Concerns about carding

Not all data collection is appropriate. Over the past year, reports in the Toronto Star have sparked community concerns about the Toronto Police Service practice of filling out “contact cards” after interactions with members of the community. The statistics showed that the police were filling out cards, which stay in police records, for Black people (young men especially) in numbers far greater than the proportion of Black people among Toronto residents. This led the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) to direct police to collect and analyze data from contact cards, and to look at the pattern of contact between the police and members of the community in general, including young people from certain racialized communities

Collecting and analyzing human rights-based data for a Code-consistent purpose itself does not violate the Code. But there are human rights issues that must be considered. In March 2013, Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall wrote to the TPSB to support their closer look at contact cards – and to remind them of their human rights obligations while doing so.

There are perceptions in the community that race is being used in a discriminatory way in carding. The OHRC recommended that if carding continues in any form, then human rights-based data should be collected and analyzed to identify, monitor and remove potential systemic barriers, including possible patterns of behaviour that are consistent with racial profiling.

We will continue to offer guidance to the Toronto Police Service and the TPSB as they move forward with this data collection initiative.

During the time that I was on the [Toronto] Police Board, it was very interesting the amount of public response and resistance to what I had to say because frankly, I was saying what had always been said and written by academics, criminologists who knew lot more than I did about the process of policing. I just said those things out loud.

And it struck me after the fact that why was there such a resistance? It seemed to me that anybody sitting in this position saying these things would get the same kind of reaction. Somebody else suggested, and I wonder if it was true, that the fact that I was Chinese and female saying these things made it far worse for the people that didn’t like what I had to say.

- Susan Eng, Vice President of Advocacy, CARP
Female, Chinese, challenging police

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