• July 17, 2014 9:00 AM

Allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers troubling: OHRC

TORONTO, July 17, 2014 /CNW/ - The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) took another step to eliminate racial profiling in Ontario by speaking out in the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) systemic review of the OPP practices for obtaining voluntary DNA samples. The OHRC is troubled by allegations that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) engaged in racial profiling when requesting DNA samples from migrant workers near Vienna, Ontario as part of a sexual assault investigation in October and November 2013.

"Racial profiling in any form causes great harm to individuals and in many cases entire communities. We will continue to speak out when we see it happening anywhere in Ontario," said OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall.

In December 2013, "Justicia for Migrant Workers" (J4MW), a non-profit group that promotes the rights of migrant farm workers, filed a complaint with the OIPRD alleging that the police collected DNA samples from approximately 100 "Indo and Afro-Caribbean" male migrant workers who did not match the suspect description apart from their dark skin colour. On March 3, 2014, the OIPRD announced that it was conducting a systemic review of the OPP's practices for obtaining voluntary DNA samples from specific groups. Racial profiling is a key allegation in J4MW's complaint, and a key component of the OIPRD's review.

The OHRC is concerned that the allegations are consistent with racial profiling, and has delivered a submission to the OIPRD sharing its expertise in racial discrimination and profiling. In particular, the OHRC is concerned that:

  • The workers were targeted mainly because of race and stereotypes that Black men and migrant workers are prone to criminal behaviour
  • The requests were coercive, as migrant workers are particularly vulnerable and rarely seek to assert their rights for fear of being sent home
  • The OPP practice of seeking voluntary DNA samples in investigations has a disproportionate impact on racialized groups and marginalized communities.

Racial profiling is prohibited under Ontario's Human Rights Code but remains a daily reality for Aboriginal Peoples and members of racialized, particularly Black, communities in Canada. The OHRC continues to hear about racial profiling that includes unreasonable questioning, requests for identification, retaining personal information, intimidation, searches, aggression – and now, potentially, DNA sampling.

The OHRC has been involved in many cases addressing racial profiling, as well as partnering with various police services and boards in Ontario, including a multi-year Human Rights Project Charter with the Toronto Police Service, and similar ongoing partnerships with the Windsor Police Service and Ontario Police College. These efforts aim to embed human rights in all aspects of operations so that police services can meet the changing needs of an increasingly diverse population.

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SOURCE Ontario Human Rights Commission

For further information: Afroze Edwards, Senior Communications Officer, Ontario Human Rights Commission, 416-314-4528