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Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

The Law enforcement in Canada is facing challenges due to evolving demographics. According to Statistics Canada, updated in 2017, 2.4 million people identified themselves as Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist, representing a total of 7.2% of the Canadian population. Approximately 1 million people identified themselves as Muslims, representing 3.2% of the total population. Hindus made up 1.5%, Sikhs 1.4%, Buddhists 1.1%, and Jews 1.0%. By 2036, visible minorities are projected to increase to 35% of Canada's population, more than doubling from 2016.

At the same time, the social situation of national and religious minorities differs significantly from that of the majority. For example, Indigenous children, who make up 7.7% of all children in Canada, make up 52% of all foster children in child welfare and other areas such as unemployment and poverty, but they face higher rates than the rest of Canadians (Statistics Canada, 2019). Regarding Black communities, citing the same structural indicators, the Canadian Human Rights Commission writes the following in its 2020 paper: "The roots of anti-black racism and systemic discrimination in Canada run deep. They are historically embedded in our society, in our culture, in our laws and in our attitudes. They are embedded in our institutions and perpetuate the social and economic inequalities that exist in everything from education to health care to housing to employment." CTV News coverage of 2020 confirms this data and concludes that black Canadians earn less income than other Canadians (racial or otherwise), are less educated, and are more likely to face justice. Unlike other Canadians, racial, ethnic and religious minorities have disproportionate contact with both the criminal justice system and the police. They are subject to discriminatory treatment and are painfully aware of this difference.

Compared to other racial communities, blacks are significantly more vulnerable to the arbitrary use of coercive force by police, such as arrest, detention, and use of weapons. "Carding practices" by police reproduce the differential treatment of young people in racial communities and reduce their chances of a fair and equitable structural justice process. Regarding the court cases for 2018-2020 involving discriminatory law enforcement practices against minorities, including Muslim Canadians, the Supreme Court of Canada will deliver two promising decisions in 2019 and 2020. Both cases are significant because, legally and socially, the Supreme Court of Canada, the nation's highest court, has handed down very important decisions that have spurred reforms in police actions against racial minorities and in the criminal justice system as a whole.

The first case (R. v. Le, 2019 SCC 34-CanLII) briefly concerns the arrest and detention of Mr. Le, who was detained at a private meeting without an arrest warrant and for no specific reason. Nothing criminal was going on at that meeting. The police entered without asking for permission. Mr. Le, the appellant, argued at trial that the items found on him could not be used as evidence against him, arguing that the police had violated his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court stated that the actions of the police that night in 2012 did amount to arbitrary detention, a serious violation of appellant's Charter of Rights and Freedoms rights. The reputation of the Black Canadian community (i.e., the frequency of police contact with its residents) in no way allows law enforcement to enter a private home with greater ease or intrusiveness than in a community with higher fences or lower crime rates. The court's decision questioned the administration of justice in this case and required "[...] that police comply with statutes in all neighborhoods and respect the rights of all people, uphold the rule of law, promote public confidence in the police, and provide safer communities...."

In the second case (R. v. Ahmad, 2020 SCC 11 (CanLII), involving Javid Ahmad (Appellant), the Supreme Court decision questioned the method of arrest used by the police. The police, after calling the telephone numbers provided to them, conducted a telephone conversation with the two individuals (Ahmad Javid and his friend Landon William). In order to entrap these two individuals, the police arranged face-to-face meetings to purchase drugs. At these meetings, Javid Ahmad and Landon Williams were arrested and charged with drug offenses. Based on an analysis of the case by criminal defense attorneys, the decision criticized law enforcement officers' conduct: "Police should be encouraged to take additional steps before making a phone call in an effort to establish reasonable suspicion. [....] The police approach during a phone call should also change [...] This decision reinforces the need for officers to have reasonable suspicion of a person or place before providing an opportunity, so they may have to work a little harder to learn additional investigative techniques in borderline cases. This development should be welcomed by those who care about the rights of the accused and who are not unduly interfered with by the state."

In the case of improper use of force against minorities such as indigenous and black communities, the small number of legitimate reports of excessive force cases is probably due in part to people either being afraid to file a complaint or simply not trusting the system.

Another aspect of law enforcement practice in dealing specifically with Muslim communities is the issue of securitization, relating to policies, discourses and practices against radicalization and terrorism against Muslims in Canada, which includes surveillance and other types of profiling and restrictions. In a recent study (Ahmad 2020, p. 115) we read: "Although counterradicalization policies are promoted under the banner of community orientation and risk management, security discourse and practice treats radicalization as a problem within Muslim communities, which treat them as suspect, 'potentially radical.' Despite this framework, Muslim CSOs [civil society organizations] cooperate with state security agencies in efforts to counter radicalization, but are also aware of the enormous power that the state grants them in such "partnerships. CSOs raise questions about the selective nature of security practices that view Muslims as dangerous and violent, but do not fully acknowledge their reality as victims of Islamophobic violence. CSOs use an anti-racist, anti-violent, and human rights framework to call for discriminatory treatment of Muslims in national security settings."

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