A first-of-its-kind report by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission says consumer racial profiling is an issue facing many Nova Scotians, especially Aboriginal and African Canadians.

The Commission defines consumer racial profiling as actions that "target a shopper for discriminatory treatment based on the consumer’s race, ethnicity, or both." It says this practice may or may not be intentional.

The Commission conducted surveys with 1,190 Nova Scotians in the communities of Halifax, Sydney and Digby. It also held focus groups in Halifax, Dartmouth and Millbrook.

Who was surveyed?

  • White 709
  • Asian 191
  • African Canadian 150
  • Middle Eastern 86
  • Aboriginal 41
  • Latin American 13

The report shows 77 per cent of the respondents reported experiencing at least one case of racial profiling in the last year.

Overall, the report says Aboriginal and African Canadian respondents demonstrated the highest prevalence and frequency rates in experiencing consumer incidents. It says Muslim and Middle Eastern, and to a lesser degree, Asian respondents also report much higher rates than did white respondents.

The report says racial profiling appears to be more about stereotyping than the expression of overt racism, but it says just because the intent may not be there, stereotyping is still a form of racism.

Seventy-eight per cent of Aboriginal respondents and 66 per cent of African Canadian respondents reported being ignored more frequently than white respondents.

Respondents reported:

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Many of the respondents had personal tales to tell about racial profiling. African Nova Scotians often reported being followed by security personnel, or being the target of offensive behaviour or language.

One African Nova Scotian male said "without (my) in any way being threatening...they saw me as a physical threat...I was profiled as a Black man who was potentially violent, although I was doing everything to make sure I was not."

'White privilege'

The Commission says racial profiling could have an impact on the province’s economy. It says Nova Scotia’s economic future depends on its ability to attract and retain newcomers, and for that to happen immigrants need to feel welcome and not marginalized by race or ethnicity.

The report encourages business owners to evaluate their overall business practices and employee training to ensure they are created a welcoming and respectful place for all Nova Scotians to shop.

But it concludes that consumer racial profiling won’t be eliminated "unless significant work is done around white privilege and systemic racism at all levels of society."