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4. Summary of key themes and next steps

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4.1. Key themes

  • The widespread nature of incidents of racial profiling reported during the consultation, along with a growing body of case law and social science and legal research, confirms that racial profiling exists and is a broad concern shared by many Ontarians.
  • Concerns about racial profiling are broader than policing. Racialized and Indigenous peoples may experience unwarranted heightened scrutiny in education, stores, shopping malls, housing and workplaces, on buses, subways and trains, at airports and border crossings, in health care and by private security and child welfare agencies, etc.
  • The impacts of real and perceived racial profiling are severe and may be cumulative. Racialized and Indigenous individuals, families and communities are negatively affected. For example, real and perceived racial profiling can diminish people’s trust in institutions.  
  • Racial profiling is perceived to be based on stereotypes about social deviance that are broader than just assumptions about criminality.
  • Racial profiling does not just result from an individual’s unconscious or conscious racial bias. It may take place through official policies, assessment tools or established practices. These may look neutral but nonetheless have a directly discriminatory or adverse effect. These established ways of doing things may also be compounded by an individual’s bias.
  • People may experience racial profiling in different ways, depending on the sector where it happens and stereotypes related to demographic group(s) people identify with (e.g. age, sex, racial or ethnic background and creed). People may be exposed to unique forms of racial profiling based on the unique intersection of identities.
  • People may be racially profiled when they are perceived to be “out-of-place” – doing something that is not in line with common stereotypes held about racialized or Indigenous peoples. Out-of-place racial profiling can also happen when people interact with someone of a different racial or ethnic background. They may raise suspicions about being involved in deviant behaviour because they are perceived to not conform with expected boundaries between racialized and non-racialized people.
  • A first incident of racial profiling may contribute to further instances of racial profiling by another institution or individual. The marginalizing effects may be compounded (a “pipeline” effect). An example is racial profiling that takes place in schools, which leads to child welfare and/or police involvement.
  • When analyzing or trying to understand racial profiling, it is necessary to look at systemic elements, including policies, procedures, operational priorities, decision-making practices, standards, approaches to risk assessment, and organizational culture.
  • Indigenous peoples across the province experience widespread racial discrimination and racial profiling. However, the concept of racial profiling, as currently defined by the OHRC, may not be useful to people in Indigenous communities. Human rights policy work on racism and racial discrimination must appreciate how Indigenous peoples’ realities of racism relate to a distinct historical and political context. Work in this area must involve collaboration with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and groups to better understand human rights, racial discrimination and racial profiling from Indigenous perspectives.
  • The experiences identified in the consultation provide a starting point, but more information is needed on how racial profiling may play out in certain areas (e.g. in court, corrections, child welfare) or for certain groups (e.g. migrants).
  • There is a lack of data collected on the representation of ethno-racial groups and Indigenous peoples across sectors in Ontario. Lack of mandated, standardized data collection on race, race-related Code grounds and other Code grounds (e.g. sex, disability) prevents the government, policy makers, academics and organizations from understanding whether racial disparities exist in many different sectors, including policing, child welfare, the private security sector and education.  Disproportionate representation of specific ethno-racial groups in certain institutional processes (e.g. discipline) may be an indicator of systemic racial discrimination, including systemic racial profiling.
  • Major challenges to addressing and preventing racial profiling include lack of understanding about racial profiling, acknowledging the existence of racial profiling, overcoming the mistaken belief that it works or that its extent has been exaggerated and lack of committed leadership to address the issue.
  • Most consultation participants agreed with the OHRC’s definition of racial profiling. There were important points of disagreement about whether it should apply beyond policing to other sectors, to situations beyond those relating to “safety and security” and reflect racial profiling that is intentional.
  • When asked about racial profiling, many consultation participants told us about their experiences of racial discrimination that were broader than racial profiling. This suggests that there is uncertainty about how racial profiling may be different than other forms of racial discrimination.
  • There is a growing consensus around methods to address and prevent racial profiling. These include developing systems of accountability, training, policy development, leadership, and engaging with affected communities.

4.2. Next steps

To act on what we learned through our research and consultation, the OHRC will undertake a series of next steps to address and prevent racial profiling:

  • The OHRC will collaborate with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and groups to better understand Indigenous perspectives. We will work towards collaboratively developing resources and tools to address Indigenous peoples’ human rights.
  • The OHRC will consider modifying its racial profiling definition based on participant perspectives, bearing in mind its historical usage and how the
    term has been discussed in the case law.
  • The OHRC will develop specific policy guidance in the area of services to help individuals, community groups and organizations understand how racial profiling can be prevented and addressed. This policy guidance will focus on policing and law enforcement, child welfare, court and corrections and other sectors as needed.
  • The OHRC will continue to call for the collection of race-based data and data on other Code grounds to better understand if racial disparities exist in sectors such as policing, child welfare and education.
  • Where appropriate, the OHRC will continue to launch public interest inquiries, intervene in cases and/or launch Commission-initiated applications to the HRTO to actively challenge cases of alleged racial profiling, with a focus on combatting racial profiling in the criminal justice system.
  • The OHRC will continue to work with community stakeholders to enhance public education on racial profiling.

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