TORONTO, Jan. 7, 2021 /CNW/ - The Human Rights Tribunal has awarded $35,000 in damages against the Peel Regional Police Board, including damages for psychological and trauma counselling. The Tribunal ruled that Peel Police used racially discriminatory force against a six-year-old Black girl while she was attending school.
The decision comes almost a year after the Tribunal ruled that two Peel police officers' actions against the six-year-old constituted a "very serious" breach of the child's human rights. The girl and her mother were represented by the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.
"I am happy this rather lengthy and difficult chapter is finally over," said J.B., the child's mother and litigation guardian. "I can now focus on what lies ahead, which is making my daughter whole. This decision gives my community hope where we often feel there's no recourse." The family's identity is protected by way of a publication ban.
Responding to a 911 call from the child's Peel District School Board's elementary school on September 30, 2016, two Peel police officers handcuffed the child's wrists and ankles and placed her on her stomach, with her hands behind her back. Both officers held the girl in that position for approximately 28 minutes. It had been the fourth time the police were called by the school for assistance with the child that month.
When deciding on remedies, Tribunal adjudicator Brenda Bowlby found the officers' actions "shocking" and "punitive." Bowlby also found that the child became fearful of police, suffered teasing, withdrew from her friends and felt humiliation, shame and guilt about the incident.
"The applicant has suffered implicit harm in experiencing anti-Black racism at a very tender age," wrote Bowlby. "[T]hat the applicant would experience anti-Black racism at such a young age is alarming: it is clear that, because of this incident, she became aware that as a Black person, she may be subject to different treatment than a white child. The full impact of this is unknown but it is now part of the applicant's lived experience and will affect her into the future."
As part of the litigation, the applicant asked the Tribunal to order revised training, implement an interim protocol response for its officers at schools, data collection and compliance measures including deadlines for meeting these directions. The Tribunal declined to order these changes as it found that Peel Police had recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Included in the commitments of this MOU is a requirement to make substantial changes to the way in which Peel Police provide services to children under the age of 12. Peel Regional Police and the Peel Police Services Board have also agreed to develop legally binding remedies to address systemic racism in policing.
"I hope the award will help J.K.B. and her family heal from the discriminatory events," said OHRC Chief Commissioner Ena Chadha. "J.K.B.'s traumatic experience and the serious issues in this case will inform the OHRC as it works with Peel Regional Police and Peel communities to establish legally binding remedies that will address longstanding community concerns about systemic and anti-Black racism in policing."
"I'm pleased with the Tribunal's decision," said J.B. "But I do hope the MOU isn't just smartly worded and celebrated while police officers continue to have harmful interactions with Black bodies on the ground— with little risk of even professional consequences. I hope it's a meaningful step toward trusting police to be protectors of our community. These policy changes need to affect our daily lives."
To read more about the MOU signed on October 14, 2020, see "OHRC, Peel Police and Board sign MOU to develop legally binding remedies to eliminate racial discrimination."
The Human Rights Legal Support Centre provides free legal assistance to people across Ontario who have experienced discrimination contrary to Ontario's Human Rights Code.
To read the full Remedy decision, JKB v. Regional Municipality of Peel Police Services Board, 2020 HRTO 1040, see the PDF version hosted on the HRLSC's website.
To read the full Merits decision, JKB v. Peel (Police Services Board), 2020 HRTO 172 (CanLII), visit: http://canlii.ca/t/j5mq2.
SOURCE Human Rights Legal Support Centre
For further information: Media Contact: Andrew Ursel, Communications and Public Relations Coordinator, Human Rights Legal Support Centre, 416-523-0516, [email protected]