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Ontario cases show racism and racial discrminiation are still common

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June 24, 2005

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For immediate publication

Toronto - As the Ontario Human Rights Commission (the “OHRC”) prepares to release its Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination later this month, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton noted that allegations raised in recent cases dealt with by the OHRC and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the “HRTO”) are a troubling reminder that racism and racial discrimination are still a significant problem in this province.

A recent settlement involved a Black law student who alleged he was the victim of racial profiling after being approached in the Toronto Coach Terminal and asked to produce identification. After refusing to identify himself, he was escorted from the premises by security personnel, allegedly without being allowed to speak to the terminal manager. He filed a complaint against the private security company, Intelligarde International Incorporated (“Intelligarde”), and the Toronto Transit Commission (the “TTC”), and one of its corporate subsidiaries, which together own and operate the Toronto Coach Terminal.

All parties agreed to settle the case at the HRTO, and the OHRC is pleased with the agreement. As part of the settlement, Intelligarde agreed to develop and implement a written anti-discrimination policy that addresses racial profiling, to provide this policy to all staff and future clients, and to provide ongoing human rights training to its security officers. The TTC and its corporate subsidiary agreed to require all companies bidding for security contracts to guarantee that they have trained their personnel on human rights and racial profiling issues, and that they will comply with the Ontario Human Rights Code. They further agreed to require security personnel to provide any customers who ask with the terminal manager’s business card, and to invite them to call with any complaints.

“If we are serious about addressing racism, we must be compelled to act on the injustice and indignity of discrimination, as well as look to our own everyday experiences, and be ready to admit that racism exists in our society,” said Chief Commissioner Norton. “For our part, the OHRC will be using its new Policy to advance equality for Aboriginal and racialized communities, and to promote the legal and political obligations and the responsibilities of citizenship we all have in the struggle against racism.”

The Commission has negotiated other successful settlements and has been litigating several significant cases dealing with racial discrimination in recent months:

  • A Black man working for a window contractor indicated that he wanted to move to a different position after receiving the proper training to do so, but after a competition, the position was subsequently filled by a White employee. After reportedly complaining to management about wage issues following his failure to be promoted, his employment was terminated. He alleged he was discriminated against because of race. At the HRTO hearing, the OHRC is also presenting evidence of racial epithets in the workplace being directed towards the complainant.
  • Another case involves a dispatcher for a public transit system who was denied promotion to three different senior positions. Since 1992, the complainant had applied unsuccessfully for 33 job competitions and believes he has experienced systemic racism and racial discrimination. He also alleges reprisal from his employer after filing his human rights complaint. After investigation, this complaint was referred to the HRTO.
  • A Black man was employed as a house framer by various contractors, and was a steward in his trade union. This union supplies a list of potential candidates for the position of health and safety representative to the provincial government, which in turn makes the appointments. At the union meeting when the complainant requested to have more “visible minorities” represented on the candidates’ list, he claims he was shouted down by the membership, chastised by union leadership, and physically assaulted by the union president. Subsequently, he claims he was ostracized, rejected as a steward, and overlooked in the hiring process, and is now alleging discrimination based on race. This case was referred to the HRTO.
  • In another case, a Black woman alleged that she was racially profiled in a department store and wrongfully accused of theft. Her complaint alleges that when a police officer arrived at the scene, he continued to detain her even after two physical searches and a security video indicated she had not stolen anything. She also alleges the officer made a derogatory remark about her ethnic background. The OHRC has also referred this case to the HRTO.
  • A man who operated an animal care and grooming service at a racetrack alleged that two employees of the facility tried to deprive him of his livelihood because he is Black by spreading negative rumours about his skills and referring to him using racial epithets. He believed that as a result of their actions, he was barred from the facility, ultimately receiving a trespass notice and having his licence revoked by the Ontario Racing Commission. This case was settled. 
  • The Commission recently drew attention to another complaint where, upon appeal, an Ontario court found that an employee had been subjected to racial slurs, taunts, and name-calling at his workplace over a period of three years, and ultimately fired because he is Black. The court rejected the employer’s argument that because they had promoted the man, his dismissal could not have been racially motivated, and awarded the complainant more than $35,000 in damages, as well as ordered the employer to make changes to its policies and practices.

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Afroze Edwards
Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management
afroze.edwards@ohrc.on.ca
(416) 314-4528

Jeff Poirier
Senior Policy Analyst
Policy Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch (PEMO)
Ontario Human Rights Commission
jeff.poirier@ohrc.on.ca