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Racism and racial discrimination: Data collection (fact sheet)

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The Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) permits the collection and analysis of data based on race and other grounds, provided that the data is collected for purposes consistent with the Code, such as to monitor discrimination, identify and remove systemic barriers, address historical disadvantage and promote substantive equality.

In the context of racial discrimination, data collection and analysis can be a necessary or even an essential tool for assessing whether rights under the Code are being or may be infringed and for taking corrective action.  Therefore, it is the Commission’s position that there are situations that call for the collection and analysis of data about race and related grounds.  Data collection and analysis should be undertaken where an organization has or ought to have reason to believe that discrimination, systemic barriers or the perpetuation of historical disadvantage may potentially exist.   This must be assessed on an objective and subjective basis.  The organization’s actual knowledge of a problem will be considered as will whether, from the point of view of a reasonable third party, the organization should have been aware of the problem.

Some situations which may warrant data collection and analysis might include:

  • Persistent allegations or complaints of discrimination or systemic barriers;
  • A widespread public perception of discrimination or systemic barriers;
  • Data or research studies demonstrating discrimination or systemic barriers;
  • Observed inequality in the distribution or treatment of racialized persons within an organization; or
  • Evidence from other organizations or jurisdictions that a similar policy, program or practive has had a disproportionate effect on racialized persons.
  • Data collection should be conducted in good faith with the goal of producing good-quality, accurate and meaningful data, rather than achieving a particular outcome. Accepted data collection techniques and proper research and design methodologies should be used.

It will often be appropriate for an organization to seek out the expertise of someone who is familiar with good data collection and analysis techniques.  In other situations, it may be possible to rely on existing resources such as employment equity tools.  Staff collecting the data should be given appropriate training.  The Commission recognizes that how data collection is done depends on the context, including the issue that needs to me monitored, and the nature and size of the organization.

An organization that chooses not to collect data in situations where data collection is warranted may not be able to make a credible defence that it did not discriminate.

For further information: Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination.