Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission is seeking leave to intervene as a friend of the Court in the “Neptune 4” case, being heard by the Toronto Police Service Disciplinary Tribunal. The action is part of a longstanding effort by the OHRC to tackle racial profiling – an issue at the heart of the Commission’s mandate to promote and advance respect for human rights in Ontario.
The case was launched after four Black teens were arrested at gunpoint by two Toronto Police officers in 2011. The encounter was caught on Toronto Community Housing Corporation security cameras. A shortened version of two of four camera views was posted by the Toronto Star. The video shows one of the teens being punched and pulled to the ground. (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2012/08/07/toronto_police_tavis_stop_of_four_teens_ends_in_arrests_captured_on_video.html)
The officers were part of TAVIS – the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy. The youth left their apartment on Neptune Drive in Lawrence Heights to attend a tutoring session offered by Pathways to Education next door. Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director found that charges of officer misconduct were warranted. The OIPRD highlighted the fact that, according to the officers and the youth, the youth “were not misbehaving in any manner”. The OIPRD also found that “the manner in which the youth were stopped and questioned … was a violation of their Charter of Rights.”
An affidavit filed by the OHRC’s Interim Chief Commissioner, Ruth Goba sets out the reasons why the Commission wishes to take part in the case, including:
- the Complaints raise the issue of racial profiling, a serious matter of great concern to the public and the Commission;
- the Commission can make a useful contribution to the proceedings because of its expertise, strong interest, and important and distinct perspective;
- the Commission has an interest in ensuring that officer misconduct complaints in Ontario raising the issue of racial profiling are adjudicated in a manner that recognizes its subtle, pervasive and unconscious nature and produces decisions that are consistent with human rights principles.
It is the OHRC’s opinion that African Canadians may, because of their background and experience, feel especially unable to disregard police directions, and feel that if they assert their right to walk away, it will be taken as being evasive and will have consequences for them.
If granted leave to intervene, the Commission expects to argue that, among other things:
- There is no need to prove intention or motivation to racially profile;
- Racial profiling can rarely be identified by direct evidence;
- Racial profiling is usually the product of subtle, unconscious beliefs, biases and prejudices;
- Race need only be one factor in the adverse treatment to constitute racial discrimination;
- Racial profiling is a systemic practice;
- Racial profiling is not limited to initial stops;
- A person may experience racial profiling based on several overlapping and intersecting aspects of their identity; and
- The use of abusive language by an individual who has experienced racial profiling at the hands of police cannot form the basis for further differential treatment.
For further information about the Commission’s efforts to tackle racial profiling, including carding, see http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/search/site/racial%20profiling%2C%20carding
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For more information:
Sr. Communications Officer
Ontario Human Rights Commission