Racial profiling is alive and well in Ontario, according to a new survey by the province’s human rights commission — with more than 1,500 Ontarians reporting experiences of being racially profiled not just by police, but also at their workplaces, schools, hospitals and shopping malls.
While police encounters remain a common situation where racialized groups have experienced profiling, respondents reported being targeted because of their race in a broad range of contexts, the Ontario Human Rights Commission writes in its new report “Under Suspicion,” released Wednesday.
“Concerns about racial profiling are broader than policing,” the report says. “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.”
The report is based on consultations and survey results from 1,650 individuals and organizations, gleaning wide-ranging personal experiences of racial profiling and data shedding light on the places and scenarios in which the phenomenon occurs. The survey, conducted in the summer of 2015, was not meant to capture the average Ontarian’s experience; rather, it draws from a “non-random sample,” specifically targeting members of the indigenous, racialized and Muslim communities, as well as experts in human rights, academia and law.
The commission states that the individual reports of racial profiling have not been independently verified and that it cannot determine with certainty that they stem from discrimination.
However, the accounts highlight concerns and themes that help understand where and when racial profiling occurs, the report says.
The experiences of those surveyed varied depending on gender, ethnicity and racial background. For instance, the most common scenario where women were racially profiled was shopping in stores, while men were most likely to report be racially profiled in a police encounter.
A large proportion of indigenous people said they were racially profiled in health care — a complaint that was not common among other racialized groups — while those who were Muslim, South Asian, Arab or West Asian were most likely to report racial profiling at airports, in employment contexts, and on buses and subways.
The human rights commission says there was a need to specifically examine racial profiling because it’s a type of discrimination that is not widely appreciated to be as damaging as others, such as denying someone a job based on race.
Additionally, “many institutions, police leaders and people in the general public have denied the existence of racial profiling, or have viewed it as warranted,” reads the report.
The research comes at a “critical juncture” when the province is becoming more diverse in racial, ethnic and religious terms, but increasingly concerned with assessing safety threats, such as terrorism and violence.
The report included anonymous personal stories of racial profiling in its report. Below are summaries of some of those accounts.
A black woman recounted the time police approached her son as he was walking home from school. The officers asked what he was doing in this particular neighbourhood, and he responded he was just going home. They didn’t believe him, however, and demanded his identification, threatening to take him into the police station for questioning. “He gave them his student ID for the bus,” the mother said. “My son was 11 years old.”
A midwife who works with indigenous women said she often sees “racist assumptions and mistreatments based on race” — for example, calling social workers or child protection services simply because the parents are young and indigenous. “Once that involvement starts, Aboriginal women are much more likely to have their babies removed for much more dubious reasons.”
An Iranian man was waiting for his bus one day inside a TTC station when he noticed the booth collector looking at him strangely and speaking into the phone. The next thing he knew, three “big guys” accosted him and flashed their badges, accusing him of intimidating the TTC worker — who was several feet away and fully enclosed behind glass. “I was scared and shocked,” he said.
“Then came the same question, ‘Where were you born?’ and I had to answer with shame ‘Iran,’ as if it had anything to do with it.” When the man asked why he was treated this way, he was told there was a policy against standing inside the TTC for more than three minutes. To which, he points out: “I was waiting for the bus…??!!”
A black woman said she and her 7-year-old son have faced “numerous incidents” of racial profiling by their local school board. Her son has “been criminalized, bullied by students and administration, and accused of having behavioural problems, even though specialists say otherwise.
And despite getting “exceptionally good grades,” her son has been told that he isn’t succeeding in French immersion. “I have faced racial profiling at their hands as well,” she said.
An indigenous woman said her pregnant daughter-in-law — a dark-skinned status Indian — went to the hospital because her baby had stopped moving.
A medical resident was working but there were no doctors on staff to make a decision, so they didn’t do anything. “They made my daughter-in-law wait for hours,” she said. “My husband and I went to the hospital to help. I am fair skinned and my husband is not aboriginal.
It was only when they saw what looked like two white people that they started to move and act, and she got a C-section.” But by that time, the baby had already been deprived of oxygen for five hours and was born clinically dead. After the baby was revived, hospital staff asked her daughter-in-law “what she took to harm her baby.”
They repeated the question four times. Today, the baby is 7 years old and living with many disabilities, including an inability to speak.
Retail and private security
They call it “Shopping While Black.” One black woman says that when she goes shopping, she is regularly followed, watched carefully, or asked “Can I help you” — not because they are offering customer service, but because they are questioning why she is there. “At the same time, I have numerous experiences where I am ignored or have to assert my position in line, as they skip over to the white person,” she said. “I am sure that most black people can relate to the shopping experience where the teller drops your change into your hand from a height, while somewhat recoiling, and you see them place the change into the hand of the white customers.”
A woman at an Ontario university says she works with Muslim students who are routinely called upon by CSIS to discuss potentially “radical” peers on campus. “These visits are not only intimidating but clear instances of racial profiling based on religion,” she said. “These types of meeting requests have been met with little to no challenge by higher education institutions and I have not seen any other racial, ethnic, religious groups targeted in this way.”
A middle-aged white woman said she once accompanied an indigenous friend who was looking for an apartment. “The prospective landlord made a point of mentioning that there were mice, which reinforced my friend’s already strong sense that this person did not like aboriginal people and that she was an unwelcome prospective tenant. She has since died on the street in 2006.”
A South Asian Muslim woman described an experience at her workplace, where employees have to swipe cards to access certain rooms. “I went into my office and immediately security knocked at the door,” she recalled. “They said they wanted to check who had gone in. I am pretty sure they got alarmed because all they could see was someone wearing hijab walking into an office.”
CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing
EDMONTON—Two years ago Rahma Mohamed’s then four-year-old daughter saw an Elsa costume, complete with blond braids, and pleaded with her mother to buy it so she would look “beautiful.”
That’s when Mohamed decided her kids needed more cultural inspiration than the blond princess from Frozen.
After a year of work, the first-time author published Muhima’s Quest, a children’s book that tells the story of a young African-America Muslim girl who wakes up on her 10th birthday and goes on a journey.
Now, Mohamed’s at work on her second book, which is due out at the end of the month. She’s on a journey of her own, she said, to boost diversity in children’s publishing.
“I wanted to create a character who had African descent and is a Muslim in a children’s book because I just found out that there were none that were available in the mainstream,” she said.
Her books show kids it’s OK to be different, she said. Take her first book: some Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays, she explains, and the little girl in the book struggles with her faith and questions why she doesn’t celebrate like her classmates do.
“The overall message is that we do things differently, but that part is what makes us beautiful,” Mohamed said.
She said she felt it necessary for her kids to see themselves represented in the books they read in order to “enhance their self-confidence, as well as bolster their sense of pride.”
Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, self-published her first book and since last summer, has sold 200 copies locally.
“It does take a lot of resources and you have to self-finance, but I believe in the end it’s worth it,” she said.
She hopes to go bigger with her second book, which focuses on the universal concept of sibling rivalry, and features a young girl who plans on selling her little brother because she believes he is getting all the attention.
“My overall goal is to portray Muslim Africans who are basically a normal family.”
Mohamed says her previous book was well-received by parents at readings she had done at public libraries and schools.
“Most of them who are Muslims really loved that the kids could identify with the characters,” she said.
The books also acted as a conversation starter for non-Muslim families, she said.
She said, for her, the most exciting part of the journey is knowing that she is making a difference in shaping the minds of young Black Muslims.
“We are underrepresented, misunderstood and mostly mischaracterized. It is time we paint a different picture.”
Canadian Mohammed Ahmed wins silver medal in Commonwealth 5,000M
CANADIAN PRESS — GOLD COAST, Australia — Canadian Mohammed Ahmed earned silver Sunday in the 5,000 metres on the first day of track and field at the Commonwealth Games.
Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei won gold in 13 minutes 50.83 seconds, ahead of Ahmed in 13:52.78 and Kenya’s Edward Zakayo in 13:54.06.
“I’ve been at the cusp for many years, but I finally get to stand on the podium and hopefully (one day) I get to climb one more step,” said the 27-year-old Ahmed, who was fifth in the 5,000 and sixth in the 10,000 at the 2014 games in Glasgow.
Ahmed was sixth in the 5,000 and eighth in the 10,000 at last year’s world championships, both Canadian-best finishes. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he was fourth and 32nd, respectively, in the races.
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Ahmed spent the first 10 years of his life in Kenya before his family moved to St. Catharines, Ont.
A Somali-Canadian’s reflections on Refugee Rights Day in Canada
MUSLIM LINK — Refugee Rights Day is a day to create awareness in the public consciousness about the rights and protection of refugees in Canada. Celebrated on April 4th, this day is significant particularly for refugee claimants because it brings attention to the advances made in the protection of refugee rights in Canada as a result of the Supreme Court’s 1985 Singh Decision. In this decision, the Supreme Court found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of refugees. The Court decided that ‘everyone’ includes refugee claimants in the sentence: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.’
Refugee claimants are therefore entitled to the right to have their refugee claim heard, in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and international law.
I came to Canada as a refugee from Somalia. I live in Victoria, BC, a city with a growing refugee community.
Every year on June 20, cities and communities in Canada and around the world celebrate and commemorate World Refugee Day which gives the world a chance to focus its attention on forced migration and refugee issues.
But World Refugee Day wasn’t celebrated in Victoria.
I wanted to change that.
I wanted the city, community organizations, community members, faith groups and elected officials etc to come together to celebrate and recognize their coworkers, neighbors, friends, supervisors, doctors etc who have refugee history in their families, or refugee or former refugees to honor refugees and recognize their resilience.
I really wanted to see the community coming together to talk about how we can be more welcoming and create more empathy and understanding for our shared future in this city.
Days like Refugee Rights Day and World Refugee Day create an opportunity to raise public awareness about the long-term challenges refugees in Canada face beyond just settlement.
What many Canadians often don’t realize is the importance of family reunification after part of a family is able to settle in Canada. One of the many shared experiences of refugees is family separation, which has devastating impacts on their wellbeing, and their ability to contribute more to their host countries. Keeping families separated is not good for Canada. When families are united they are able to contribute more to the economy and the mental health of the family is greatly improved.
As a Somali Canadian, I have seen the negative impact of delayed family reunification all to well. I like to think that Somali people are resilient, resourceful and friendly people. I take pride how Somali people have strong family values and support each other, because of that, I was privately sponsored as a refugee to come to Canada by my uncle.
In 2015, just three countries produced half the world’s refugees, and Somalia was one of them. Many Western countries are closing their doors on Somali refugees and that includes Canada. For the last few years I have been advocating to make it easier for African refugees to come to Canada through the Canadian Council for Refugees.
Even though Canada has provided a new home to many Somali refugees in the decades since the fall of Siad Barré, it has not offered special immigration measures to respond to the longstanding catastrophic situation in Somalia as it has with other communities. On the contrary, some immigration policies have particularly discriminated against Somalis, with devastating consequences.
In February 1993, Canada’s Immigration Act was changed so that accepted refugees had to provide satisfactory identity documents in order to be granted permanent residence. Many Somali and Afghan refugees could not provide satisfactory identity documents, because of the lack of a functioning government in their country of origin. Others were also affected, but the Somalis were by far the most numerous to be caught up in the ID issue over the coming years. The consequences for refugees who could not become permanent residents were dire:
They could not reunite with spouses or young children outside Canada.
They could not go to university or college (unless they could afford to pay foreign student fees). They were not eligible for student loans.
They could not travel outside Canada.
They often could not get better-paid jobs as employers didn’t want to hire someone without permanent status.
People’s mental health suffered because of their powerlessness.
By 1999 the number of people in limbo was estimated to be 13,000. Finally in 2000, the government agreed to the settlement of a legal challenge, launched in 1996, which argued that the ID rule was discriminatory against Somalis (the case is called Aden). Under the terms of the settlement, Somali refugees without ID would be able to submit instead affidavits from someone who knew them before their arrival in Canada or from a credible Somali organization in Canada. The terms of the agreement were written into the 2002 regulations of the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
During the 1990s, it was often pointed out that keeping thousands of refugees in limbo would have devastating long-term social impacts. Even though the ID issue was largely resolved a decade ago, some of the struggles in the Somali Canadian community today may well be at least partly due to the impacts of the policies, which are felt into the next generation. Families were only reunited after a long separation, people were unable to educate themselves or get decent jobs, and many fell into depression. Many Somalis felt that their community had been rebuffed and rejected by the government.
Somalis being Muslim and Black faced discrimination, but the community resisted and remained resilient and thrived despite the challenges by community coming together and organizing and building social networks which have helped refugees who have came after 2000s. Somali refugees like me.
am so proud of the Somali Canadian community for all the things they have achieved, I have traveled in the last six years across the country, and met Doctors, Lawyers, Business people, scholars, activists, social workers, public servants, community leaders all of Somali origin. Many Canadians are of course familiar with Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Somali Canadian Ahmed Hussen who came to Canada Somali as 16 year old refugee.
Somali Canadians work hard to continue making Canada a better place – a place that I hope will welcome more refugees. The Somali community’s experience must be retold again and again, so we can learn from it. The Somali community have a lot to share to improve the settlement and integration of refugees today.
I was a refugee for more than two decades before arriving to Canada. It was these experiences that have convinced me to dedicate my life to creating more just, inclusive and peaceful communities; both in my new home country of Canada and in areas where conflict and instability continue to ravage and destroy many lives. I appreciate that these have led me to become who I am, and that’s why I continue to work harder to play my role to make Canada a better place for everyone.
I have worked with a variety of refugee populations in protracted situations in various urban and camp-based locations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Fortunately I continued my work with refugees when I arrived in Canada. I facilitie volunteer support services for refugees in Greater Victoria at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and formerly facilitated wraparound support services for vulnerable immigrant and refugee youth in Greater Victoria at Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society. I closely work at the national level with the Canadian Council for Refugees — this gives me the opportunity to work around policy issues while locally I work on frontline issues. Through my life experience and my work with refugees at various organisational and community-based levels, I have gained a deep understanding of the protection-related issues refugees are facing in their countries of origin and asylum. This has strengthened my ability to strong advocate for refugees.
One of the big questions I am exploring now is how can Indigenous communities and refugee communities learn more about each other and work in solidarity with one another.
I recognize that as a new Canadian citizen, I am a guest on this beautiful Victoria/Lekwungen territory… land that rightfully belongs to the First Nations.
We are all settlers – including those of us who came here as newcomers or migrants, either in this generation or in generations past, whether voluntary or as a result of war, persecution or conflict.
Unfortunately there is lack of education for newcomers about the history and realities of Indigenous communities upon arrival. Often newcomers pick up negative stereotypes about our brothers and sisters who are Indigenous peoples. I think settlement agencies can draw out some of the similar challenges and cultural similarities of newcomers and Indigenous communities — they may share similar experiences with injustice due to persecution, oppression, colonization, discrimination, stereotyping and exclusion. One in five Canadians is an immigrant so it is crucial to continue building bridges and respectful relationship in order to continue the reconciliation process.
I hope after reading this you will take the time to educate yourself more about refugee rights in Canada.
This year, the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) is running the campaign slogan “Protecting Refugees = Stronger Communities
CCR and all its member organizations are calling on the Government of Canada to:
Resettle 20,000 government-assisted refugees annually.
Ensure applications of privately sponsored refugees are processed within 12 months.
Reform the refugee determination system so that all claimants have access to a fair hearing before an expert independent tribunal.
To conclude, I would like to quote my role model in refugee advocate Barbara Harrel-Bond, who said “Refugees are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.”