End racial profiling: Ontario commission

A racial profiling exists and it's time to do something about it, the Ontario Human Rights Commission said in a report

Racial profiling exists and it's time to stop debating the issue and do something about it, the Ontario Human Rights Commission said Tuesday.

Chief commissioner Keith Norton said the purpose of the inquiry wasn't to prove that racial profiling exists, but to give a voice to people who say they have experienced profiling and to raise awareness of its consequences.

"We have to stop debating the issue and start acting on it," Norton said. "Racial profiling is wrong."

"It's time we got the message and acted to eliminate this practice," he said.

The commission recommended the creation of a racial diversity secretariat for Ontario to report on racism in the province and to follow up on the recommendations of previous reports on racial profiling.

Another recommendation was to install cameras in police cruisers, in idea shot down by Toronto's Police Chief Julien Fantino. "I don't see that will prevent a bigoted officer from being non-bigoted. They know when they'll be on camera."

The report was based on more than 400 accounts of racial profiling that people gave to the commission during an inquiry held this year.

The report defines 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."

Norton said the inquiry didn't focus on the actions of police officers, but also of security guards, immigration and border officials, and people who work in restaurants, bars and shopping malls.

The accounts came from people not only of African descent, but also from aboriginals, Muslims, Arabs, people of South Asian and East Asian descent, and white people who experienced profiling because of their relationships with people of these origins.

The inquiry said that reasons of security or safety to not justify racial profiling. An American study found that although visible minorities are twice as likely to be stopped, they are half as likely to be carrying contraband.

"Ultimately, the Commission hopes to bridge the divide between those who deny the existence of profiling and communities that have long felt that they are being targeted," the report said.

It also said all organizations responsible for public safety, and any organizations that have had a problem with racial profiling, should make policy changes to monitor and try to prevent it.