Racial profiling still an issue, civil rights activist says

Supporters of Trayvon Martin —the 17-year-old unarmed teen shot dead in Florida in February — held a "hoodie" protest this afternoon at the University of Windsor to raise awareness about racial profiling.

Black Law Students Association at University of Windsor organized demonstration

University of Windsor's Black Law Students' Association have organized a protest to raise awareness of racial profiling in light of the death of Trayvon Martin, seen here in an undated photo provided by his family. (Martin Family Photo/The Associated Press)
Supporters of Trayvon Martin — the 17-year-old unarmed teen shot dead in Florida in February — held a "hoodie" protest this afternoon at the University of Windsor to raise awareness about racial profiling.

Martin was killed while wearing a hoodie. George Zimmerman, 28, a neighbourhood watch captain, said he acted in self-defence when he allegedly shot Martin.

Supporters at Wednesday's protest signed a petition demanding Martin's alleged shooter be brought to justice.

A handful of people were at the protest organized by the university’s Black Law Students Association, including Howard McCurdy, co-founder and the first president of the National Black Coalition of Canada, who was more of a curious onlooker.

'Demonstrations contribute not at all'

McCurdy's said he’s not sure what a protest here on the shooting will accomplish.

"I suppose it’s appropriate to indicate support for the issue in the United States, but the United States is a different country. A demonstration contributes nothing to that," McCurdy said of finding a solution to racial profiling.

"By and large, demonstrations contribute, in the Canadian context, not at all to almost any issue."

Second-year law student Nana Yanful helped to organize the protest.

Civil rights activist Howard McCurdy said that while racial profiling is still an issue, he's not sure what a protest here will accomplish. (CBC News)

"Everyone's just a little bit shocked that it's still happening today," Yanful said of racial profiling.

"I think a lot of people are disappointed and just don't know what to do so we think this event is not the only thing that can happen to raise awareness but it's one piece of it."

Second-year law student Kimberly Pavao said the Martin shooting is a Canadian issue as well.

"I don’t think it’s an American issue at all. We live so close to the United States and so much of what happens here is influenced by the American public and American politics," Pavao said.

"It’s a person issue. As people, it’s something we need to address."

Yanful agreed.

"This doesn't just happen in the U.S.," Yanful said. "It's something we can't be silent about."

Windsor Police underwent human rights review

In 2008, complaints were filed with the Windsor Police Service after a large police reaction to a Caribbean-themed party at the University pub. Complaints then included allegations of racism.

In light of the 2008 allegations, the Windsor Police Service asked Barbara Hall, the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, to critique the entire department.

It was part of a three-year plan to eliminate discrimination and racism in the department. Hall applauded the proactive approach by Windsor Police to find ways to stamp out discrimination.

"We want to be proactive in reaching out to those diverse cultures, races [and] religions," acting Windsor Police chief Al Frederick said. "We need to continuously change and this is a step in that direction."

McCurdy said the Ontario Human Rights Commission's involvement and police department's willing to become engaged and make change "is a more significant approach" to finding a solution to racial profiling.

McCurdy said race relations in Canada and Windsor, in particular, have improved.

"It is a vastly different kind of issue than it was 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. The edges aren’t quite as sharp. There’s a greater understanding of it," he said.

"Most black males get racially profiled sooner or later. But there has been significant improvement in Windsor."