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Examples of racial discrimination (fact sheet)

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People can experience racial discrimination in a variety of different ways. In its most overt form, racial discrimination can occur as a result of stereotyping, prejudice and bias. Racial discrimination also occurs in large measure through subtle forms of differential treatment.

Prejudice and overt bias

Racial discrimination may occur because of overt prejudice, hostility or negative feelings held by someone about a racialized person or group. Unfortunately, people are still treated unequally, such as by being refused a job or apartment, simply because of overt bias towards them based on race and related grounds.


In addition, people may experience racial discrimination because of stereotyping. Stereotyping typically involves attributing the same characteristics to all members of a group, regardless of individual differences.  It is often based on misconceptions, incomplete information and/or false generalizations.  In most cases, stereotypes assume negative characteristics about a group.  Even those who are well meaning and not overtly biased can nevertheless stereotype.

Racial profiling

Racial profiling is a form of stereotyping that has particular implications for racialized persons. The Commission has defined racial profiling as any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection that relies on stereotypes about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion or place of origin rather than on reasonable suspicion, to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment.  Race only needs to be a factor in the conduct alleged to constitute profiling.

Some considerations that help determine whether racial profiling occurred include:

  • Statements that indicate stereotyping or prejudice such as racial comments;
  • A non-existent, contradictory or changing explanation for why someone was targeted;
  • The situation unfolded differently than if the person had been White; or
  • Deviations from normal practices or an unprofessional manner.

Subtle forms of racial discrimination

Subtle and subversive discrimination has also been identified as one of the most common ways racialized people experience unequal treatment. Subtle forms of discrimination can often only be detected upon examining all of the circumstances. As well, contrasting how a racialized person was treated with how others were treated in a comparable situation, or looking for patterns of behaviour will help to determine whether subtle discrimination was at play.  While comments about race may sometimes be made, this is not necessary for a finding that subtle racial discrimination has occurred.  Racial discrimination need only be one of the reasons for the treatment received.

There are many examples of subtle forms of racial discrimination.  In employment, it can take the form of failing to hire, train, mentor or promote a racialized person. Racialized persons may find themselves subjected to excessive performance monitoring or may be more seriously blamed for a common mistake. And, normal differences of opinion or failing to get along with a co-worker may be treated as more serious when a racialized person is involved.

Subtle racial discrimination can occur in a variety of other contexts as well. In housing, racialized persons may be turned away as tenants, or may not be granted equal access to maintenance and repairs.  Issues also arise in services and facilities including malls, restaurants, movie theatres, education services and healthcare services.

For further information or copies of the Commission’s Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination.