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Statement by Chief Commissioner Keith Norton regarding the Ontario Human Rights Commission inquiry into racial profiling

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February 20, 2003

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For immediate publication

Toronto - Text of Chief Commissioner’s letter to Premier Ernie Eves, and the Minister of Public Safety and Security, Bob Runciman. 

I am writing in response to comments that have been attributed to you in the media regarding the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into the effects of racial profiling.

I first want to reiterate that the focus of the Commission’s inquiry is to look into the effects of profiling and to measure the human impact this practice has on individuals, families, communities and society as a whole.

In our meetings with community members, we were told that this issue is of concern to them and that the impact of profiling is an important dimension that has been largely missing from public discussion on this issue. I agree, and this is why the Commission decided to hold an inquiry that provides individuals with an opportunity to share their experiences.

The inquiry will look at profiling in a number of contexts including the areas of housing, services, education and private security. The inquiry is not about numbers or statistics, it is not another study, and most definitely, it does not focus on police profiling as has been stated in recent media coverage.

I also want to make it very clear that the Commission is not conducting an investigation of individual allegations of racial profiling.

When we first announced plans to hold the inquiry last December, we communicated the Commission’s intentions. In addition to our mandate to receive and investigate complaints, the Commission has a legal authority and social responsibility under section 29 of the Ontario Human Rights Code to inquire into incidents leading to tensions in a community and to undertake public education initiatives to address the issue. We are carrying out that duty through this initiative.

I also want to emphasize that the inquiry is not intended to provide an opportunity for personal criticism or to point fingers at institutions. We will not be publishing names and we intend to take effective measures to ensure that participants do not reveal names or other information that could identify specific individuals during any public hearing process. Those who wish to file a formal human rights complaint may follow the Commission’s established complaint procedure. 

We are gathering stories in essentially the same way we have done on other issues in the past, such as age and disability. In all of our consultations, we have relied on the integrity of participants to be honest and open. As is our normal practice, we are not receiving anonymous submissions. I am somewhat at a loss as to why in some media reports, there is an inference that individuals coming forward to share their experience of racial profiling would be considered less trustworthy than the rest of the population. This is an issue that has never been raised by the media or stakeholders in any other of our consultations.

Finally, if we are successful in getting a picture of the impact of racial profiling and its effect on shaping an individual’s attitudes towards institutions and society, I believe that this will be beneficial not only to the Commission’s work but also may well be useful in Chief Fantino’s plans to implement training for police officers, as well as in your own public education activities and supportive of the Summit on Racial Profiling led by the Hon. Lincoln Alexander. A better understanding of the impact of racial profiling on the people of Ontario can lead to greater trust in, and respect for, all of our institutions.

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Afroze Edwards
Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management
(416) 314-4528


François Larsen