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Racial profiling inquiry: Major themes (fact sheet)

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In reviewing the material received during its inquiry, the following eight themes emerged:

Compromising our Future:  One of the most significant and potentially long-lasting impacts of racial profiling is its effect on children and youth and their sense of self-esteem and confidence.  Zero tolerance policies in schools and the Safe Schools Act have both been cited as being of significant concern.  Commonly identified impacts are loss of education, negative psychological impact, increased criminalization of children, often for conduct that does not threaten the safety of others, and promotion of anti-social behaviours.

Creating Mistrust of Our Institutions:  The Commission heard that racial profiling is seriously eroding public confidence in a number of institutions.  As a result, a significant mistrust has developed both among youth and adults of the criminal justice system, law enforcement, customs and border control, and the education system.  People of Aboriginal ancestry reported significant alienation from the criminal justice system.  Many communities expressed a lack of faith and sense of uselessness of registering complaints with police, human rights commissions or other complaint bodies because they felt they would not be taken seriously or, worse yet, would be treated like suspects.  The Commission was also told that negative treatment received from various service providers discourages many racialized individuals from taking advantage of services that are taken for granted by mainstream communities.

Alienation and a Diminished Sense of Citizenship:  Individuals belonging to racialized communities also felt they were not equal members of society regardless of whether they were recent arrivals or persons whose families had been here for many generations.  Many reported feeling unequal or being a less worthy member of society as a result of their experience of profiling, and that no matter what they do and how successful they are, they are still assumed to be part of an undesirable element of society.

Impact on our Communities:  One of the most consistent themes was the disempowering impact of profiling on racialized communities.  Since individuals did not feel they should seek out and gain positions of power or authority in society, it means that these communities are not well represented in key societal institutions, including ones that are perceived to be engaging in racial profiling. Another effect of racial profiling is the creation of community division or an unwillingness to identify with one’s community.

Changes in Behaviour:  Racial profiling also affects people’s behaviour and activities. Many reported significantly altering their actions as a result of an incident of profiling or taking measures to avoid again being subjected to profiling.  And there appeared to be a sense of resignation and acceptance that racial profiling was a normal part of life and that there is nothing they can do about it.

Unseen Toll of Racial Profiling:  While racial profiling impacts on people’s sense of dignity and self-esteem, this effect is not confined to those who experienced profiling.  Parents, especially, described a significant emotional or psychological impact of an incident of profiling experienced by a child.  Many reported feeling blamed for society’s problems or being made to feel like a criminal simply by virtue of race, colour, ethnic origin, religion or ancestry.  As well, the use of racial slurs and comment during the profiling incident would further compound the impact on human dignity.  Others reported direct financial costs, such as legal fees or lost employment income, as a result of profiling.

Physical Effects of Racial Profiling:  Another manifestation of racial profiling was a more physical or aggressive response from authorities based on the race, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin, place of origin or religion of the person. For example, some participants recounted being strip-searched or frisked; other examples related to physical injuries as a result of the use of excessive force during the incident of racial profiling.

Economic Cost to Society of Racial Profiling:  Many were concerned about racial profiling that involved private sector enterprises, such as stores and malls.  Many people reported boycotting businesses or stores that engaged or had a reputation for engaging in profiling type activities.  And, in some cases not only do those individuals boycott the store, but so do their friends, families and even entire communities.  In addition, racial profiling was also shown to have negative impacts on the morale of racialized employees – resulting in such things as increased absenteeism, lower productivity rates, and decreased quality of product – all of which can impact businesses.