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Racial profiling occurs at Ontario airports, malls, and schools, report says



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.”

Child welfare

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.

Health care

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.”

National security

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.”


N.S. man facing deportation to Somalia to be released, lawyer says



TIMES COLONIST — HALIFAX — The lawyer for a young man who has spent most of his life in Canada but is now facing deportation to Somalia says his client will soon be released from detention.

Benjamin Perryman says the Immigration and Refugee Board has ordered Abdoul Abdi to be released from custody.

Abdi was six years old when he arrived in Nova Scotia as a refugee from the war-torn, African country.

He went to live with his aunt, who didn’t speak English, and was soon apprehended by the Nova Scotia government and put into foster care.

Between the ages of eight and 19, Abdi was moved 31 times, separated from his sister and was never granted citizenship.

His aunt’s efforts to regain custody were rejected, and attempts to file a citizenship application for the children was blocked.

Abdi served five years in prison for multiple charges, including aggravated assault.

Perryman said Abdi was given grossly inadequate care by the province as a foster child. He has said deporting him to Somalia — a country to which he has no ties and where he would be unable to care for his Canadian-born daughter — would be unfair.

Abdi’s case has become a rallying point for advocates who say it was wrong for the province to fail to apply for citizenship on his behalf.

Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotia’s premier, said last week that he has ordered the province’s Community Services Department to complete a review of any cases that would require supports similar to those needed by Abdi.

The Canada Border Services Agency detained Abdi when he was released from prison earlier this month.

Although a date is not finalized, Abdi, 24, will soon be released to a halfway house in the greater Toronto area.

“He will likely be transferred to a halfway house tomorrow. Canada continues to pursue his deportation,” Perryman said in a tweet Monday.

(Global News, The Canadian Press)

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Canada failed Abdoul Abdi but it’s not too late to do the right thing



The Somali refugees life is a tragic story that highlights the gaps in Canadian institutions and systems that disproportionately and negatively impact Black Canadians.

“If it was your son, would you do anything to stop this?”

This was the question posed directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by Fatouma, the sister of Abdoul Abdi, at a town hall event in Halifax this week.

Abdi’s is a tragic story that highlights the gaps in Canadian institutions and systems that disproportionately and negatively impact Black Canadians.

Abdi came to Canada as a child refugee from Somalia in 2000 with his sister and aunts. His mother died in a refugee camp while awaiting the three-year process that eventually landed his family here.

Under uncertain circumstances, of which his family continues to seek clarification due to language barriers at the time, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services removed a 7-year-old Abdi and his sister from the care of their aunt. Over the next decade the siblings were separated and Abdi was shuffled between 31 homes.

Abdi’s aunt never stopped fighting for guardianship, and while she obtained her own citizenship she was denied the opportunity to apply for citizenship on behalf of her niece and nephew. While under child protection, Abdi was provided insufficient support to navigate the process of becoming a Canadian citizen on his own.

He was failed by the very system that was meant to protect him.

For child welfare advocates, Abdi’s story and path from care to the criminal justice system is a familiar one. For the crimes he committed in his youth, which included aggravated assault, time has justly been served. At the moment of his release, as he prepared to reunite with his family and reintegrate into society, Abdi was detained once more.

Without his citizenship in place, Abdi was left vulnerable to the immigration process that could possibly lead to deportation.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder to speak truth to power, advocates across Canada have spoken out with a resounding roar on Abdi’s behalf, garnering attention and seeking immediate remedy for his case.

In response to Fatouma’s question, Trudeau emphasized compassion and empathy while outlining the ways in which he recognized Canadian systems failed Abdi.

“It opened our eyes to something that many of us knew was ongoing in many communities but we continue to need to address,” he said.

While his response was well informed, I would have liked to hear the prime minister name systemic anti-Black racism as a key factor to be addressed.

We need to directly acknowledge the cracks in our government systems through which Black Canadians are falling through at disproportionately high rates so that we can proactively tackle them.

South of our border, the president of the United States has continued his divisive political agenda anchored in anti-Black racism. After hearing of his comments this week I wonder how his defenders continue to uphold him as a leader.

Characterizing Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “s—hole countries,” in an immigration meeting Trump reportedly asked, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

As thousands of Haitian families look to Canada in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind deportation protections from nearly 60,000 Haitian refugees following the devastation of the 2010 earthquake, I hope Canada will show the compassion and empathy our prime minister talked about in his town hall this week and take them in.

Canada should be aiming for nothing less than global leadership in the steps we take to address anti-Black racism. To do this successfully we will need active engagement from Canadian political leaders.

They should be proactively partnering with Black communities to identify priorities, set goals, communicate them publicly, and track progress toward success.

It’s difficult to engage in dialogue about policy while Abdi and his family live in crisis, facing this terrifying uncertainty. I hope this nightmare is over for them very soon.

But how is it fair that his story be used to advance public policy before his own livelihood is restored?

It is time for him to be reunited with his family so they may begin the long journey of healing from these painful experiences. That is what’s fair.

And I hope once that happens we can dive deeply into rectifying the systems that failed him, and map our way forward.

Tiffany Gooch is a political strategist at public affairs firms Enterprise and Ensight, secretary of the Ontario Liberal Party Executive Council, and an advocate for increased cultural and gender diversity in Canadian politics.

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Memorable story: Respect, truth key in reporting young boy’s drowning death



As 2017 came to a close, StarPhoenix staff reflected on the stories that struck a personal chord with them this year. For Morgan Modjeski, it was getting at the truth in the chaotic hours after the tragic death of a child.

The goal of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix was to get it right.

That was what I told Hussein Elmmi a day after his five-year-old son, Ahmedsadiq Elmmi, drowned in a pond near Dundonald School. When I sat down with Hussein, the boy’s funeral had been held just a few hours earlier at the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan Mosque on Copland Crescent.

Like any father in his situation would be, Hussein was crushed. Listening to the tape of our interview three months later, I heard his quiet voice again, speaking about his family’s unfathomable loss.

Support was pouring in for them. People all over Saskatoon were heartbroken over the accident, but no one more than Hussein and his loved ones. In our interview, he said there was no adjective to describe how the death affected his family.

Their lives would never be the same, and his frustration and anger were magnified by the misinformation circulating about his boy. The hours after a tragedy are chaotic. Some reports said Ahmedsadiq was a newcomer to Canada, but as The StarPhoenix gathered more information, it became clear that was not the case.

Hussein had questions about where the information was coming from. He felt people were stereotyping his son. While the family was new to Saskatoon, his wife had been living in Prince Albert since 2000 and Ahmedsadiq was a Canadian citizen, born in Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital.

Gathering information about a person who has died is always a challenge, and never enjoyable. It’s even more difficult when the person is a child.

Various people told reporters the boy’s family was a member of three different communities in Saskatoon: the Filipino community, the Pakistani community and the Somali community.

We started to reach out to community associations on Facebook in an attempt to get more information. That’s when a representative from the Pakistani community told me the child was a member of the Somali community and his funeral was taking place as we messaged back and forth.

After speaking with my editors, we decided I should stop by the funeral to seek more information from people who knew the family directly, or to see if it was possible to speak with the boy’s parents.

It was a delicate situation, to say the least. In looking for answers, we had to be respectful.

By the time I arrived, the funeral had ended and the small casket carrying Ahmedsadiq’s body was being loaded into the back of a hearse. There was no opportunity to speak with anyone extensively, as family had already moved on to the burial site. However, a trusted contact agreed to try to get a message to the family that the paper was hoping to speak with them.

An hour or so later, the contact called and after some brief conversations, we were told the boy’s father was willing to speak with me directly. We were going to hear more about the boy from the man who raised him.

Meanwhile, people across the city were also looking for answers. Information about the death — accurate or not — was spreading. More than 480 students attend the school, and few people knew the identity of the child who had drowned. Was it a relative, the child of a friend or an acquaintance?

When such questions are swirling around, journalists are under pressure to find the truth. Without help from the people directly involved, carrying out that task borders on impossible.

Frustrated by the misinformation spreading on the social media rumour mill, Hussein and his family wanted people to know the facts about Ahmedsadiq. At a time of unimaginable stress, they chose to trust The StarPhoenix, and nothing mattered more to us than living up to that responsibility.

Ahmedsadiq’s death is still under investigation by the Saskatoon Public School Division and Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth.

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