Archive for the ‘Systemic Racism’ Category

human rights watch

Posted: April 1, 2013 by alishakhan13 in Systemic Racism

The Human Rights Watch is an independent leading organization that is devoted to defending and protecting human rights (Human Rights Watch, 2013). According to a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch specifying claims such as police threats, torture and sexual assault, reported calls on the federal government to launch a national inquiry (CBCnews, 2013). There has been an alleged issue regarding RCMP officers partaking in abuse allegations in British Columbia, involving aboriginal women and girls (CBCnews, 2013). The RCMP has taken serious action against their officers for mistreating aboriginal women and girls, but they claim that individuals making the statements must come forward to allow police to conduct a proper investigation (CBCnews, 2013). Human Rights Watch had interviewed 50 aboriginal women and girls and specified that police had pepper-sprayed, tasered and were strip searched by male officers. Five months later into the investigation none of the allegations came forward for investigation, as it is impossible to investigate further when there is no method to determine who the victims or the accused are (CBCnews, 2013).

There were various comments that people had posted in regards to this article, but some stood out from the rest. There were people that were against the RCMP and the Human Rights Watch and there were some that were against the Human Rights Watch but some were in favour of the RCMP. For example, a lady commented, “It’s astounding how many people are ignorant of their rights in this province. It is everyone’s responsibility to know their civil and legal rights. Unfortunately that doesn’t prevent abuse from the RCMP” *CBCnews, 2013). It is clear that this individual has been through scrutiny with the RCMP which has allowed her to go against the RCMP, blaming the allegations of abuse on them rather than looking at the jist of the issue. Another commenter commented in favour of the RCMP stating, “This is a disgrace to our sense of fair play and justice. Human Rights Watch is making serious charges against a group of people without any proof to back up its allegations. If the RCMP did this, Human Rights Watch would be howling at the injustice and demanding the very proof they don’t want to give to others” (CBCnews, 2013). It is obvious from this comment that the human rights watch is covering up for their lack of investigation into the national inquiry by bringing allegations of abuse made by officers against the aboriginal community. In regards to the aboringinal community some indivudals commented blaming the aboriginal community which in my opinion is immoral.  They stated that they were “Surprised the First Nations didn’t blame our “colonial” forefathers in their statement along with their lack of supporting evidence” (CBCnews, 2013). This has yet to establish the relationship between the RCMP and the aboriginal community, and if the aboriginal community will build strong bonds if any with the RCMP.

A comment that I would like to make is “why has the Human Rights Watch made allegations towards the RCMP without any proof.” It is unfair to accuse an organization with a motto to serve and protect their community, since it does distort the public’s perception towards the police. Without any proof it is essentially wrong to accuse a person let alone an organization of such an effective and impacting issue. In addition, in my opinion it is not right for one organization to accuse another without any proof when they themselves are not putting in the effort to bring justice to their citizens.

Resources:

 

CBCnews. (2013, February 12). RCMP accused of rape in report on B.C. aboriginal women: Force takes claims ‘very seriously,’ but stresses complainants must come forward. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/02/12/bc-human-rights-watch-abuse-report.html

 

Human Rights Watch. (2013). About us. Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org/about

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This post is a response to the following article:

Oh No They Didn’t! (2013). Those Who Take Us Away, a Human Rights Watch report (TW) Mission, vision and values. Retrieved March 1, 2013 from http://ontd-political.livejournal.com/10445760.html

The article begins with the story of how Summer Star (C.J.) Fowler’s murdered body was found. The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) mentions the statistics of how many indigenous women and girls have been murdered or gone missing since the 1960s. Based on the statistics international and national human rights authorities have advised that changes need to be made. However, the article notes that no such changes have been made by Canada. The article also summarizes some of the main points from the Human Rights Watch report ‘Those Who Take Us Away’. Not only have indigenous women and girls received little protection from the RCMP but they have also suffered abuse at the hands of the RCMP. Additionally, the report mentions the lack of accountability for police misconduct. This has led the Human Rights Watch to advise for a civilian led investigation of these cases to ensure accountability for the RCMP officers involved. Although, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), which is a provincial civilian led investigations office, has been created, their authority is limited to cases involving dead or serious bodily injury. The article concludes that clearly further measures are required.

The comments responding to this article are limited however, of the comments there are, the general consensus seems to be that what is going on is “utterly disgusting” and something needs to be done. A couple of the commenters are very disappointed in the governments’ lack of action, one commenter stating that “the government is essentially shrugging their shoulders” at the problem (ONTD, 2013). This very same commenter goes further and criticises the actions that have been taken by the government, “Wow, studies and tasks forces. Yeah, that’ll fix it” (ONTD, 2013). Additionally, another commenter is not surprised by the RCMP’s attitude towards indigenous women and girls, and suggests this attitude is not limited to the RCMP. This commenter mentions a “recent report on a serial killer in Vancouver who was ignored by police for years stated that it continued because the women were poor, indigenous, addicts and sex workers” (ONTD, 2013).

My response to this article would be that the Human Rights Watch is right, something needs to be done. Additionally, I do not understand why it is taking so long for the government to take action. The statistics mentioned by the NWAC demonstrate that this is a big problem and government action is needed. The government needs to look into why indigenous women and girls are not receiving protection from the RCMP as well as why the RCMP are the sources of abuse for these women. Reading the cases of abuse the indigenous women and girls suffered at the hands of the RCMP, I am disgusted especially since the RCMP is suppose to uphold the law not violate it. Part of the RCMP’s commitment to communities is to provide “unbiased and respectful treatment of all people” (RCMP). Do RCMP officers forget this when they interact with indigenous communities?

References

Oh No They Didn’t! (2013). Those Who Take Us Away, a Human Rights Watch report (TW) Mission, vision and values. Retrieved March 1, 2013 from http://ontd-political.livejournal.com/10445760.html.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (2006). Mission, vision and values. Retrieved March 4, 2013 from
http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/about-ausujet/mission-eng.htm.

Canada has been reputed to be a multicultural nation that supports human rights and freedoms, free from distinction based on race or ethnicity. This reputation emerged out of parliamentary statutes and legislation to secure a commitment for the protection of individual and group rights and freedoms for all Canadian citizens. Historically the passing of the Royal Proclamation in 1763, an implied Bill of Rights (BNA Act 1867), the passage of the Bill of Rights in1960, and in 1982, under the Trudeau administration, Canada’s rights and freedoms were entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteeing certain civil and cultural liberties to recognized citizens of Canada in sections 15 (1) & (2). The Canadian government went further when, the Multiculturalism Act was tabled in 1985 and enacted in 1988, which provides for equality, rights and freedoms for all males, females, aboriginals, all Canadians by birth or choice, and all ethnic groups.

Upon closer scrutiny and observation of Canada’s history, we find that in the 19thcentury there were thousands of Klu Klux Klan members located within the Canadian borders in such areas as Vancouver, B.C. and Toronto, Ontario. It was a crime for Chinese restaurant owners to hire white women and after the bombing of Pearl Harbour (December 1941) thousands of Canadian Japanese were ordered into internment camps all across Canada. This was historically one of the “worst incidents of racial profiling when Japanese Canadians were classified as traitors and as security threats. Approximately 22,000 Japanese men, women and children were designated as “enemy aliens”. The majority were forced to live in settlement camps similar to prison complexes. They were uprooted from their homes in British Columbia and approximately 4,000 were forcibly deported” (Tanovich, 2006, p.57). Black Canadians maintain that they have been pulled over by the police in stop and search procedures without reasonable grounds and have given this procedure the name of “Driving While Black” (DWB). Aboriginals have been mistreated, abused and segregated through reserves and residential schooling, and have been overrepresented by all government levels and branches, especially within Canada’s criminal justice system, and which includes as the power to uphold the law, the Royal Canadian Moun

As a nation that is founded on democratic values of social and legal equality, and political freedom, “there is an expectation that law enforcement will follow both the rule of law and due process, and should abide by the law and be accountable for their decisions and failures” (Punch, 2000, p.301). Maurice Punch notes that the “history of policing is fraught with scandals of misconduct and corruption in which officers have broken the law and also in which the police organization failed to detect the deviance, colluded in it or tried to deflect investigations by defensive opposition” (Punch, 2000, p.301).

Although racial profiling is not an act that is subject to criminal legislation and sanctions, it is an act of police deviance, and police misconduct as the violation of lower level rules and regulations of the police organization, and of corruption, as the abuse of police power and authority, and a violation of the public trust.

Despite legislative enactments that have entrenched the rights and freedoms of citizens in Canada, reports of covert and overt racism are found in media articles, commentaries, and academic debates and in public protests of differential treatment by the police. David Tanovich a leading academic in the area of racial profiling and director of Windor’s Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP), “states that despite widespread denials the targeting of racial minorities for criminal or security related investigation solely or in part on the basis of their skin colour is a real and serious problem in many Canadian jurisdictions” (Tanovich, 2004, p.907).

Tanovich defines racial profiling as “occurring when, law enforcement or security officials consciously or unconsciously subject individuals at any location (e.g. airports, neighbourhoods), to heightened scrutiny based solely or in part on race, ethnicity, aboriginality, place of origin, ancestry or religion or on stereotypes associated by any of these factors rather than on objectively reasonable grounds to suspect that the individual is implicated in criminal activity” (Tanovich, 2006,p. 13). Racial profiling most often occurs in stop and search practices during police patrols where visibility is low thus shielding the police from accountability. Racial profiling can occur during undercover activities or sting operations which target particular ethnic groups and therefore “operates as a system of surveillance and control which creates racial inequalities by denying people of color, privacy, identity, place, security, and control over their daily life” (Tanovich, 2006,p. 13).   Under this definition racial profiling is an act of discrimination that is engaged in by the RCMP and results in the abuse of their discretionary power to target minorities and thought to be dependent on the hierarchy of credibility. The RCMP have enormous  discretionary powers in relation to motor vehicles, and persons, to explore for anything in or on the vehicle for certain items, but are required to have reasonable grounds for suspecting what they will find. This power permits them to bypass accountability and operate under the guise of legitimacy.

Tanovich notes that racial profiling is a manifestation of systemic or institutionalized racism (Tanovich, 2006).  In the context of the police organization, systemic racism refers to the collective production of racial inequality within the organization, and is accomplished through a combination of entrenched norms, processes, cultural, and institutional ideologies of the actions, decisions and policies of the people who work within the criminal justice organization (Commission on systemic Racism, 1995).  It is within this organization that decisions about people and the treatment they receive become institutionalized. It is revealed by specific consequences, incidents and acts that indicate differential decisions or unequal treatment, but it is the underlying processes of the structural system that make such events “systemic”(Ontario Human Rights Commission 1995).

These processes cannot be reduced to individual prejudices but are reproduced through institutional practice and the organizational culture, which have a particular shared purpose and political structure. Institutionalized racism means that the practice of racial profiling has become an established custom or an accepted part of the structure of a large organization or society because of having existed for so long and is part of the cultural and by extension political life. (Ontario Human Rights commission, 1995) As Maurice Punch notes it is sometimes “not the apple or even barrel that is rotten but the system, that is deviance that has become systemic is in some way encouraged and perhaps event protected by certain elements in the system, referring to both to the formal system, of the police organization, the criminal justice system and the broader socio-political context” (Punch, 2003, p. 172), and by such actions as cover ups as a means of protecting the actions of police officers.      The fact is that in order to keep the official paradigm intact racial profiling by the police is often denied to protect the organization.

In 2002 the Toronto Star, reported denials of racial profiling by Police Association president, Graig Brommel, by local politicians, the Mayor of North York, Ontario Mel Lastman and even chair of Toronto’s civilian police oversight board, which made public pronouncements that the police did not, nor do they engage in racial profiling. Additionally racial characteristics such as color and ethnicity were not factors and had no influence on police decisions in case dispositions and treatment of individuals of a minority group (Wortley &Tanner. 2003). Tanovich reported that “Toronto’s Chief of Police Julian Fantino angrily stated that the report was “totally divorced from the reality of today. Chief Fantino also stated that “I don’t believe our police are so corrupt, so dishonest, so racist, that we need to have body packs on them, cameras on their back and watchdogs at everything they do”(Tanovich, 2004, p.909). The president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police “described the report as predictably disappointing and unfair” (Tanovich, 2004, p.909). As Closs & McKenna point out “whenever elements of race or ethnicity are discussed in the context of the police, these organizations have become exceedingly cautious ad in many instance highly defensive about their methods, means, and motivations” (Closs & McKenna, 2006, p145).

According to David Tanovich in large part as a result of the Toronto Star’s crime series in October of 2002, issues of racial profiling by the police of African-Canadians in Toronto were exposed, and resulted in denials of racial profiling from political and police officials, and public outcries for accountability of police discretionary powers (Tanovich, 2006). Additionally this issue resulted in academic and government debates and controversy over of the collection of justice statistics by race. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah & Paul Millar state that “many minority groups are now advocating for the collection and publication of this data as a means to redress racial discrimination in the administration of justice” (Owusu-Bempah & Millar, 2010, p.97).

In Canada with the exception of the Kingston Police Project and federal justice statistics on aboriginals very little race relevant justice data on the social characteristics of victims or offenders is readily available or collected within the system. As a result we cannot know how prevalent racial profiling is within any given visible minority group that is processed by the criminal justice system, nor the extent of involvement of lower levels of policing (Owusu-Bempah & Millar 2010;Tanovich, 2004).

Procedures for the collection of racial data have been established in both in the United States (50 out of 54 states) and in Great Britain (Tanovich, 2004), in which the compilation of racial data is either voluntary or pursuant to legislation and, “requires that the police and security officials record information either electronically or in writing of those whom they stop and investigate, and would include perceived age, gender, racial and ethnic background, where the stop takes place the reasons for the stop and investigative measures taken and the results” (Tanovich, 2004 p. 175).

In Canada there has been vehement denial of racial profiling by law enforcement and government officials and by extension there has been a great reluctance to create legislation or policy for the collection of racial data.  Satzewich & Shaffir note that, generally speaking, police chiefs, police union representatives, and police boards deny that racial profiling is practised in this country and are explained as either as a form of democratic racism or hierarchy of credibility, by those in power in order to protect their prestige and authority” (Satzewich & Shaffir, 2009, p. 200).

Owusu-Bempah & Millar note that the police organization is part of the larger government structure and “their data is therefore publicly owned; however, the data is made available only for the purposes that the agencies themselves deem appropriate” (Owusu-Bempah & Millar, 2010, p.103).

In 1989 the Toronto police services Board reacted to an incident when a Toronto police inspector made comments that black people accounted for a disproportionate amount of crime in a particular area of Toronto, the TPSB adopted a policy banning the collection and publication of statistics relating to race. Their reasoning was that this type of statistical data would encourage stereotyping. The “Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics proposed the collection of racial and ethnic data and sent requests to every police department in Canada. Some forces refused to comply and three weeks after the initial proposal was made Statistics Canada announced that the plan had been abandoned due to large numbers of people (police) claiming it was unwarranted and too sensitive of an issue” (Owusu-Bempah & Millar, 2010,p.99).
The question is why is there such reluctance on part of the police organization to create a policy or legislate for the collection of racial data? Owusu-Bempah & Millar offer the explanation that the “prospect of increased transparency and accountability is likely a contributing factors in the criminal justice system’s seeming reluctance to collect and publish criminal justice statistics disaggregated by race” (Owusu-Bempah & Millar, 2010,p.102). It may be an issue where the legitimacy of the organization will be less effected by blaming a few bad apples rather than the whole orchard. Additionally the results of collecting racial data in the United States and Britain have proven to be beneficial to minority groups in establishing   they are victims of racial profiling.  (Owusu-Bempah & Millar, 2010, Tanovich, 2004).

Racial profiling has also been related to the war on drugs and anti-terrorism, intrusively so after 911 with the latter issue. In the mid 1980s Canada followed the lead of the United States in its war on drugs, and Canada’s “weapon of choice became a creation of a profile of the drug courier, which ultimately became fixated on race” (Tanovich, 2006, p.87). As a result of this profile visible minorities were targeted as drug dealers and drug couriers by law enforcement officials. “Blacks became overrepresented in drug arrests in Canada as well as the United States” (Tanovich, 2006, p.87) and there was an increase in surveillance, aggressive front line crime control, periods of incarceration, and imprisonment for black people (Tanovich, 2006, ). The Ontario Systemic Racism Commission concluded that it was clear from their findings that in Ontario the increases were due to “the product of intensive policing of low income areas in which black people live” (Tanovich, 2006, p.88). Ironically in Wortly & Tanners study in 2000 a much higher rate of drug use was found among white students not black students (Tanovich, 2006).  “If the police devote their resources and focus to detecting a particular offence, which is prevalent in society, among a particular community, they are likely going to find what they are looking for” (Tanovich, 2006, p.89).

Racial profiling does not just occur in low levels of policing. There is an impact on high levels of policing in Canada, mostly with issues of terrorism. Brodeur describes, “High policing as a paradigm for political policing; it reaches out for potential threats in a systematic attempt to preserve the distribution of power in a given society” (Brodeur, 1983, p.513). High policing encompasses all government branches, legislative, judiciary and executive and uses methods of surveillance, information gathering, use of undercover agents and informants and tries to maintain a low visibility. The police are used as a means for the protection of political activity not for the protection of society (Brodeur, 1983).

Liban Hussein a 31 year old Somalian Canadian was put on a Bush terrorist financing list as well as other terrorist lists. He was considered a security threat after being racially profiled based on his ethnicity and religion, the result of intelligence and information gathering. Two years later he was exonerated but after much disruption to his life economically and socially. Tanovich points out that the use of racial profiling will have only a negative impact on intelligence gathering” (Tanovich, 2006, p.115) because it is fraught with unsubstantiated information.  Since September 11 there is extensive media reporting in favour of using some form of racial profiling in screening and security intelligence that can only be accomplished through high policing procedures and methods (Tanovich, 2006).(Also see  Maher Azar).

Tanovich notes that the “use of race by the police as a basis to target visible minorities for criminal investigation, is not only a manifestation of systemic racism and an unreliable enforcement tool” (Tanovish, 2004, p.933), but it has resulted in a lack of accountability of the police, extensive use and misuse of police discretionary powers and negatively effects the reputation of Canada as a democratic, multicultural nation that promotes equal treatment under the law.

As a multicultural nation the provisions contained in the charter not only entitles every Canadian citizen to the freedoms and rights set out in it, but specific to this issue is the freedom from  discrimination, arbitrary detention, and illegal search and seizure. When the police target certain areas, stop motor vehicles and individuals, i.e. as in stop and search procedures, based on race, it becomes a system of surveillance and control and infringes the rights of minority groups.  The use of police discretionary power is in direct contradiction to the rights and freedoms contained within the charter when engaging in racial profiling. The police organization make claims that officers  need the freedom to use their judgment in making decisions about potential offenders, but the police line is crossed when they specifically target an individual based on the color of their skin, ethnicity, or religion for investigation.

Despite denials by and within the legal and political realms to claims of racial profiling, the research conducted by the Toronto Star and Wortley & Tanner, and credible statistical evidence from police jurisdictions in the United States, and Britain, this presents evidence that visible minorities are targeted by law enforcement officials in stop and search procedures, based on racial characteristics.  “Tanovich notes that the breeding ground for racial profiling is the day-to-day crime detection policing that occurs through vehicle and pedestrian stops” (Tanovich, 2004, 905).  The Ontario Human Rights Code also proposed that “data collection is necessary for effectively monitoring discrimination, identifying and removing systemic barriers, ameliorating historical disadvantage and promoting substantive equality” (Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2010). “Data collection and analysis should be undertaken where an organization or institution has or ought to have reason to believe that discrimination, systemic barriers or the perpetuation of historical disadvantage may potentially exist” (Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2010).

Academics such a David Tanovich, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, Paul Millar, provincial and federal commissions (Ontario Human Rights Commission), and a number of organizations such as the Canadian Law and Society Association (CLSA), and the African Canadian Legal Clinic, have written on and advocated for the essentiality of justice statistics by race. Their agendas have been to call for anti- racial legislation and policy formation that would require the police to collect racial data in stop and search procedures and compel them to document racial and ethnic characteristics.  Additionally they have also called for oversight bodies such as national commissions on racial profiling, civilian oversight bodies, a transparent police complaint system and advisory boards for provincial law enforcement (Tanovich, 2004,2006, Owusu-empah & Millar, 2010).

Owusu-Bempah & Millar point out that social-science research on justice in Canada largely depends on data that is under the auspices of organizations within the criminal justice system, and government bodies charged with collecting statistics and information, an example of which was the CIPS data used by the Toronto star in their crime series (Owusu-Bempah &Millar, 2010). This type of data can best be described as subjective, and as the debate over the Toronto Star articles showed academics for hire can often manipulate the data and by virtue of their expertise sway public opinion, but most of all deflect culpability away from the police organization and accusations of systemic racism.

Specific recommendations have been made directed at the police organization, such as training and education in anti-racial profiling, public awareness campaigns designed to ensure that the public and police understand how discriminating against visible minorities affects communities, improving efforts at changing police culture and making the public complaints process more objective, fair, and accessible (Tanovich, 2004, 2006, Owusu-Bempah & Millar, 2010).  Ultimately the effects on the community where there is a lack of accountability of the police results in mistrust, overrepresentation within the criminal justice system and minorities feel that they are being unfairly targeted and discriminated against.

The issue of racial profiling, systemic racism and collection of racial data would appear cyclical in process. In the sense that policy implementation and change in procedure is in large part the result of research conducted by social scientists, but this requires access to reliable data, both qualitative and quantitative. When the police organization, especially the hierarchy is in denial or reluctant to collect or release racial data for fear of damaging the image they present to the media and the public, the data, which provides the evidence of racial profiling, may be tainted, manipulated or unreflective of the true nature of discrimination when targeting minorities. The cycle continues when police organization blames the few bad apples but often use justifications, rationalizations and neutralization techniques to explain the actions and behaviour of their officers while deflecting the true systemic nature of racism. Once again the cycle starts as the organization continues to refuse to collect or process racial data. So when the media or visible minorities make denouncements of racial profiling by the police does the organization not have a responsibility to make their actions accountable to the public, to the media, and everyone that is affected? If there are no means by which law enforcement officials can be made to be accountable how are we to view them as legitimate? As Kersten states “the police as the legitimate agent of the sovereign state’s capacity to use force against citizens ought to form the very foundation of the states legitimacy in a democratic society” (Kersten, 2000, p.238).

References

Brodeur, J.P.(June 1983). High Policing and Low Policing: Remarks about the Policing of Political Activities. Social Problems. Vol.30. No.5. p. 507-520.

Closs, W.J. and McKenna, P.F. (2006).  Profiling a problem in Canadian police leadership: The Kingston Police data collection project. Canadian Public Administration. Vol. 49 . No.2. p.143-160.

Kersten, J. (2000). Police Powers and Accountability in a Democratic Society: Introductory Report. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research. Vol.8, p. 237-245.

Owusu-Bempah, A. and Millar, P. (2010). Research Note: Revisiting the Collection of “Justice Statistics by Race” in Canada. Canadian Journal of Law and Society. Vol. 25, No. 1. p.97-104.

Punch, Maurice. (2009). Police Corruption Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Willan Publishing. Devon, UK.

Punch. M. (2000). Police Corruption and it’s Prevention. European Journal on Criminal  Policy and Research. Vol.8,  p.301-324.

Ontario Human Rights Commission. (2010). Racism and Racial Discrimination – Data Collection. Retrieved from:  http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/resources/factsheets/data/view

Satzewich, V. and Shaffir, W. (April 2009). Racism versus Professionalism: Claims and counter-claims about Racial Profling. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Vol. 51. p. 199-226. Doi:10.3138/cjccj.51.2.199

Tanovich, D. (2006). The Colour of Justice Policing Race in Canada. Canada. Publisher Irwin  Law.

Tanovich, D. (2004). E-Racing Racial Profiling. Alberta Law Review. Vol.41, p. 905-933.

Toronto Star.(2002).  Race Matters Series.  http://www.thestar.com/racematters http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/publications/files/reports/harveyreport.pdf

Wortley, S. and Tanner, J. (2003). Data, denials and confusion: The racial profiling debate in  Toronto. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Vol.45.p. 367–389.

     Despite legislative enactments that have entrenched the rights and freedoms of citizens in Canada, reports of covert and overt racism are found in media articles and commentaries and in public protests of differential treatment by the police. In 1995 the Ontario Human Rights Commission stated that “the current challenge is to grapple with the systemic dimension of racism in Canada” (Ontario Human Rights Commission, 1995, p.24). In Canada, systemic racism has become an issue of debate and discussion amid government officials, commissions, academics and the media (see Toronto Star series “Race Matters 2002), who have defined systemic racism in the context of accusations of racial profiling by law enforcement officials.

     In the context of the police organization, systemic racism refers to the collective production of racial inequality, within the organization through a combination of norms, processes, cultural, and institutional ideologies of the actions, decisions and policies of the people who work within the criminal justice organization. (Commission on systemic Racism, 1995) It is within this organization that decisions about people and the treatment they receive are institutionalized, . It is revealed by specific consequences, incidents and acts that indicate differential decisions or unequal treatment, but it is the underlying processes of the structural system that make such events “systemic”(Ontario Human Rights Commission 1995).

     These processes cannot be reduced to individual prejudices but are reproduced through institutional practice and the organizational culture, who have a particular shared purpose and political structure. Institutionalized means the procedure of racial profiling having become an established custom or an accepted part of the structure of a large organization or society because of having existed for so long and is part of the cultural and by extension political life. (Ontario Human Rights commission, 1995).

     Satzewich and Shaffir state “that a number of commentators have also noted that, generally speaking, police chiefs, police union representatives, and police boards deny that racial profiling is practised in this country and are explained as either as a form of democratic racism or hierarchy of credibility, as outright lies told by those in power in order to protect their prestige and authority” (Satzewich and Shaffir, 2009, p. 200).

     Since the entrenchment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, the recommendations of human rights commissions should have more effect and authority in curtailing the actions of public officials, specifically the actions of the RCMP who engage in racial profiling. As a multicultural nation the provisions contained in the Charter specifically sections 7-14, legal rights and section15, equality rights) not only entitles every Canadian citizen to the freedoms and rights set out in it, but specific to this discussion is the freedom from discrimination, arbitrary detention, and illegal search and seizure. When the police target certain areas, stop motor vehicles and individuals, i.e. as in stop and search procedures, based on race, it becomes a system of surveillance and control and infringes the rights of minority groups. According to Satzewich and Shaffir ,“this type of surveillance operation creates racial inequalities by denying people of color, privacy, identity, place, security and control over their daily life” (Satzewich and Shaffir, 2009, p.199).

     The provisions in the Charter should be of such force to ensure that the police are accountable for any deviance, discriminatory actions, and abuse of legal rights, specifically when racially profiling individuals for the purpose of stop and search procedures that is based on the color of their skin. In “2003, 36 black police officers were asked to recount their lived experiences with having been the subjects of racial profiling, and a majority indicated that they had been stopped and questioned by other police officers ‘‘for no other reason than the colour of their skin’’ (Satzewich and Shaffir, 2009, p.203).

     Although racial profiling is not an act that is subject to criminal legislation and sanctions, it is an act of police misconduct, as the violation of lower level rules and regulations of the police organization, and of corruption, as the abuse of police power and authority, and a violation of the public trust. These acts can be subject to judicial rulings in cases of racial profiling, (discrimination) resulting in an infringement of rights and to political and institutional disciplinary measures by which the public are purportedly led to believe make the police accountable.

The fact is that in order to keep the official paradigm intact racial profiling by the police is often denied to protect the organization. In 2002 the Toronto Star, reported denials of racial profiling by Police Association president, Graig Brommel, by local politicians, the Mayor of North York, Ontario Mel Lastman and even chair of Toronto’s civilian police oversight board, which made public pronouncements that the police did not, nor do they engage in racial profiling. Additionally racial characteristics such as color and ethnicity were not factors and had no influence on police decisions in case dispositions and treatment of individuals of a minority group (Wortley and Tanner. 2003). In this way a relationship is created between police deviance and accountability (Wortley and Tanner. 2003). In this way a relationship is created between police deviance and accountability.

      RCMP Watch reports that “the RCMP is the only major Canadian Federal police force without a truly effective and independent oversight body. The senior management has repeatedly demonstrated it prefers the RCMP remain a closed organization” (RCMP Watch http://www.rcmpwatch.com/about/ . The RCMP has enormous powers but in order for them to be accountable they must be seen to exercise those powers within the rules of law, and due process, and where there is an excessive abuse of power they are subject to judicial scrutiny.

      Drawing from this foundation three key issues emerge. First are the wide discretionary powers of the police. “Most allegations of racial profiling often arise “out of circumstances in which the decision of police to target someone for investigation is called into question” (MacAlister, 2011, p.95). Some such circumstances in which stop and search procedures occur are often with low visibility and include, driving a motor vehicle, walking down the street, or patronizing a particular establishment, (i.e. just “hanging out”). These are circumstances “where police have a high level of discretion and are free from having to account for the decisions they make” (MacAlister, 2011, p.95). The accountability of the police is overshadowed by their wide powers of discretion to stop and search the only requirements being is that they must have a sufficient and reasonable grounds or reasonable suspicion to stop and search any individual. These requirements are determined by the judiciary who are not only determining the accountability of the police but who themselves are often not accountable to any parliamentary institution.

     The second issue revolves around the” lack of available data on racial and ethnic statistics in the Canadian justice system (Owusu-Bempah and Millar, 2010, p. 97). It is not only the lack of data but the reluctance on part of the police organization and politicians to “refrain from examining themselves in a meaningful, methodical, or measurable manner to determine whether they were in fact engaging in bias-free policing “(Closs and McKenna, 2006, p. 146). In May 2003 the Kingston Police began an experiment in operational research that dealt with the issue of racial profiling, and was similar to procedures that had already been instigated in the United States and Britain for collecting data. The project consisted of the police collecting data on an individual’ race and ethnicity on the individuals which the police came into causal contact. (Closs and McKenna, 2006). The end result of the project was that no police jurisdiction made an effort to launch a data collection policy and claims of racial profiling were outright denied by the Kingston police. “Whenever elements of race or ethnicity are discussed in the context of the police, these organizations have become exceedingly cautious and in many instances highly defensive about their methods, means, and motivations “(Closs and McKenna, 2006, p. 145).

     The third issue is the key findings of Wortley and Tanner in their survey of approximately 3,400 Toronto high school students, which provided further evidence of racial profiling (Wortley and Tanner, 2003). Additionally Wortley and Tanner discussed the debate between the findings of the Toronto Star and the expert, Edward Harvey, hired by the Toronto police Chief Fantino to conduct a re-analysis of the Star’s data” (Wortley and Tanner, 2003, p.368). What Wortley and Tanner found was Harvey’s findings were fraught with methodological problems, such as excluding particular offenders, multiple offenders and those charged with a crime on more than one occasion, “thus by excluding the very population that is targeted and who experienced the greatest degree of police discrimination” (Wortley and Tanner, 2003, p. 375). It is evident that much more research and study needs to be undertaken by social scientists, and data collection procedures must be instigated and made transparent for true accountability of our policing organization.

References Blog 2

 

Closs, W.J. and McKenna, P.F.  (2006).  Profiling a problem in Canadian police  leadership: The Kingston Police data collection project. Canadian Public Administration. Vol. 49 No. 2. P.143-160.

Commission on Systemic Racism.  (1995). Report of the Commission on Systemic  Racism in the Ontario Criminal justice System. Toronto. Queen’s Printer for
Ontario. Retrieved from: http://www.archive.org/details/reportracismontOOcomm

 Commission  on Systemic Racism Retrieved from: http://www.cfdp.ca/ontrac.html.

Henry, F.  and Tator, C. (2000). Racist Discourse in  Canada’s English Print Media. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation.Toronto,
Ontario. Retrieved from: http://www.crr.ca/divers-files/en/pub/rep/ePubRepRacDisMedia.pdf

MacAlister,  D. (2011). The Law Governing Racial Profiling: Implications of Alternative Definitions of the Situation. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal  Justice. Vol. 53, No.1. p.96-103. DOI: 10.3138/cjccj.53.1.95

 Melchers, R. (2006). Inequality before the Law: The Canadian  Experience of “Racial Profiling”. University  of Ottawa. Research and Evaluation Branch. Retrieved from: http://cpc.phippsinc.com/cpclib/pdf/60756e.pdf

Ontario Human Rights Commission. (2003). Paying The Price: The Human  Cost of Racial  Profiling Inquiry Report. Toronto,  Ontario. Retrieved from: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/resources/discussion_consultation/RacialProfileReportEN/pdf

Owusu-Bempah,  A. and Millar, P. (2010). Research Note:  Revisiting the Collection of “Justice Statistics  by Race” in Canada. Canadian Journal of Law and Society. Vol. 25, No. 1. p.97-104.

 Satzewich, V. and  Shaffir, W. (April 2009). Racism versus Professionalism: Claims and counter-claims about Racial Profling. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal  Justice. Vol. 51. p. 199-226. Doi:10.3138/cjccj.51.2.199

 The Toronto Star.(2002). Race Matters Series. Retrieved from: http://www.thestar.com/racematters

 Walker, S. (2007).  Police Accountability: Current Issues and Research Needs. Washington, DC. Unpublished Paper. Retrieved from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/218583.pdf

 Wortley, S. and Tanner, J. (2003). Data, denials and confusion: The  racial profiling debate in Toronto. Canadian
Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice
. Vol.45.p. 367–389.

 Wortley, S. and Tanner, J. (July 2005). Inflammatory Rhetoric?  Baseless Accusations? A Response  to Babor’s Critique of Racial Profilin Research in Canada. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Vol.47 No. 3.p. 581-609.

 

 

Systemic Racism in Canadian Policing

Posted: October 12, 2011 by rtatla in Systemic Racism

Systemic Racism in Canadian Policing

Systemic racism, although vehemently denied by various public figures, such as Police Chiefs and even government officials, has become an increasingly notorious issue within the context of police deviance in Canadian policing. The issue comprises of the mistreatment and discrimination of individuals simply based on their skin colour, race, or ethnic background, with those of African descent seeming to be of main focus.

Visible minorities are more likely to be arbitrarily pulled over, stopped and questioned while merely walking down the street, or detained, just to name a few examples of this type of discrimination. For example, in an article written by Wortley & Tanner (2003), focusing on the Toronto Police Services response to the Toronto Star’s series on race and crime, it is noted that black offenders are often treated more harshly after arrest, are more likely to be detained and taken down to the station, and are also more likely to be held in custody for bail hearings; just to name a few.  Blacks alone are often over represented in many charge categories and come into contact with police officers far more frequently than those individuals of a Caucasian background, and are likely to continue to come into contact with officers based entirely on their skin colour – regardless of age and social class (Wortley & Tanner 2003)

Individuals of ethnic minority communities are being forced to face the challenges of systemic racism on a day to day basis through objectionable cultural biases, ignorance, insensitivity and racist stereotyping imposed on them by their local police. And yet, the issue of systemic racism seems to yield various opinions amongst our society, with some in complete disagreement of it even being an existing or serious issue. I quote Toronto’s Police Chief, Chief Fantino “we do not do racial profiling… There is no racism… We don’t look at, nor do we consider race or ethnicity, or any of that, as factors of how we dispose of cases…” (Wortley & Tanner 2003).

Entering this topic into a public online search engine as “systemic racism in Canadian policing”, more specifically, in Google, yielded high search results (1, 940, 000 to be exact). Of these results, none were government websites, a couple of sites lead to purchasable books based on the Canadian justice system and racism, and several sites which discussed institutional racism in various different organizations  as opposed to just policing. Wikipedia defines institutional racism as “…racial bigotry by the existence of institutional systemic policies, practices and economic and political structures which place non-white racial and ethnic groups at a disadvantage in relation to an institution’s white members”.  I found some of the results to be very useful, well referenced, and simple to understand whereas others were not much use at all as they were too broad and focused on racism in Canada as a whole, and not specifically on the policing aspect. On the other hand, what I found to be the most interesting were a couple of sites that discussed racism in policing and were based out of Ontario – one in specific which was from The Toronto Star which ran a series of articles on race and crime –articles that were seen to be quite controversial.

To narrow down my search to focus more on racism in policing only, I typed in “racism + Canadian policing” into Google which yielded around six million results with the first link leading to an article in the Toronto Star titled “Police racism alleged”. The top results were mainly various foundations within Canada which focus on racism and racial profiling, while latter results were more newspaper articles and the last of these results, an article on police brutality by Wikipedia.

From a bit of background reading and from other courses, I have found that systemic racism in policing is an enormous issue in Ontario and more specifically in Toronto, concerning the TPS. The Toronto Star had published a series of articles based around race and crime in October of 2002 that initiated a vast response from various sources, the most attention grabbing source being the TPS and the comments made by their Chief, as noted above, which I will discuss in a future blog.

Systemic Racism and the Canadian Police

Posted: October 1, 2011 by krobel2001 in Systemic Racism

Canada has been reputed to be a multicultural nation that supports human rights and freedoms, free from distinction based on race or ethnicity.  This reputation emerged out of parliamentary statutes and legislation to secure and commit to the protection of individual and group rights and freedoms for all Canadian citizens. Historically the passing of the Royal Proclamation in 1763, the passage of the Bill of Rights in1960, and in 1982, under the Trudeau administration, Canada’s rights and freedoms were entrenched in Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteeing certain civil and cultural liberties to recognized citizens of Canada in sections 15 (1) & (2). The Canadian government went further when, the Multiculturalism Act was tabled in 1985 and enacted in 1988 and provides for equality, rights and freedoms for all males, females, aboriginals, all Canadians by birth or choice, and all ethnic groups.

Upon closer scrutiny and observation of Canada’s history, we find that in the 19th century there were thousands of Klu Klux Klan members located within the Canadian borders in such areas as Vancouver, B.C. and Toronto, Ontario. It was a crime for Chinese restaurant owners to hire white women, and after the bombing of Pearl Harbour thousands of Canadian Japanese were ordered into internment camps all across Canada. Aboriginals have been segregated, mistreated and abused by all government levels and branches, especially Canada’s criminal justice system, and which includes as the power to uphold the law, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police force was created in 1920 by an act of parliament and legislated to enforce the laws and act as peacekeepers for and of the public with integrity and trust. Their commitment to each other, to the group and to the organization is unprecedented due to the nature of the occupation. Despite their reputation there have been numerous examples and incidents reported by the media of differential treatment of minority groups based on race and culture, where the police have misused and abused their powers.  Maurice Punch notes “ that police corruption is viewed in part as abuse of police authority, power and trust and manifests itself in many ways ,two such frequent ways are in discrimination against certain groups, and infringements of the rule of law and due process” (Punch, 2009, p. 31).

Racial profiling is one such act of discrimination engaged in by the RCMP and results in the abuse of power targeted at minorities. The CBC news reported that “some black Canadians have a name for the practice. They say they are frequently pulled over for no other reason than being guilty of “DWB”- driving while black” (In-depth: Racial Profiling, 2005). Further the report went on to say that racial profiling inthe law enforcement context was “defined in a study, published in the Canadian Review of Policing Research, as racial disparity in police stop and search practices, customs searches at airports, in police patrols in minority neighbourhoods and in undercover activities, or sting operations which target particular ethnic groups” (In-depth: Racial Profiling, 2005).

RCMP officers may engage in such deviant acts individually or with group members but can further result in systemic racism. Where racism is systemic in the context of policing is the metaphor presented by Maurice Punch “that the metaphor of rotten orchards indicates that it is sometimes not the apple or even barrel that is rotten but the system, that is deviance that has become systemic is in some way encouraged and perhapsevent protected by certain elements in the system, referring to both to the formal system, of the police organization, the criminal justice system and thebroader socio-political context” (Punch, 2003, p. 172),  and by such actions as cover ups as a means of protecting the actions of police officers.

In conducting a web search, using the Goggle search engine I entered in racial profiling and the Canadian police, approximately 763,000 results came up.  The results showed a definition of racial profiling from Wikipedia- the free encyclopaedia. What was interesting was that this site, contained in the resource section, included a link to the work of Dr. Jeff Shantz, who is a faculty member in the department of criminology atKwantlen Polytechnic University, and who wrote on racial profiling. Wikipedia also included a definition of racial profiling from Canada and from the United States. Other Web site links were to the media, institutions and organizations such as Ontario council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, (OCASI), www.ocasi.org/index.php?catid=117 and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, introductions to books and even a report from the RCMP. Additionally there is a web site where the link was broken and could not be reached.

My impression of the first page of the web search was that it was limited by a lack of links to academic articles and there were few links to critical commentaries about the relationship between racism and police deviance and corruption and to any relationship within the structural hierarchy of the police organization. The report issued from the RCMP was written by Ron Melchers, Ph.D., but the limit of the report was that it was pro-RCMP. Quite obviously any meaning given to this construct of racial profiling would appear to be questionable and possibly biased.  A link to Imdiversity appeared to be a community service that discussed cases of racial discrimination and unfair treatment by the RCMP, http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/ccaps-spcca/ineq-eng.htm . http://canada.metropolis.net/pdfs/WortleyTanner_e.pdf.   There were also a number of media sources that reported on cases of racial discrimination and the mistreatment of minority groups perpetrated by the RCMP.cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2009/10/31/11588966-sun.html.    www.cbc.ca/news/background/racial_profiling

When I conducted a second web search using the key words systemic racism in Canadian policing, this yielded different results with respects to racism within the structure of the criminal justice system.  Ten results appeared on the first page ranging in dates from 2000-2008. There were links to Canadian government agencies most of which discussed racism in the Canadian court system, and the police structure. The definition under Wikipedia used the
term institutional racism as being interchangeable with systemic racism. Additionally there were links to human resources in Ontario, media reports on racism within the justice system and links to books that discuss systemic discrimination.

References

Punch, Maurice. (2009). Police Corruption Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Willan Publishing. Devon, UK.

Punch, Maurice. (2003). Rotten Orchards:”Pestilence”, Police Misconduct and System  Failure.  Policing
and Society
, Vol.13 (2). P.171-196.

In-depth: Racial Profiling. Frequently asked questions. (2005, May25). CBC News Online. Main Page. http://www.cbc.ca/news/backgroun/racial_profiling/