UN Urges Canada to Take Action Against Discrimination

Brian Daly, CTV Montreal, March 12, 2010

Montreal is one of several cities where ethnic Canadians are facing rampant discrimination in policing, education and labour, says a wide-ranging report issued by the United Nations.

The document follows a visit to Montreal and other Canadian cities by Gay McDougall, the UN’s Independent Expert on minority issues.

Among the communities she visited last October was Montreal North, which was still tense more than a year after the police shooting death of teenager Fredy Villanueva that triggered widespread riots.

She said many people expressed concerns about Quebec’s system of police investigating each other when civilians are hurt or killed during police operations.

“Montreal North residents claim that investigations of police misconduct have not been independent,” she wrote.

Community members told the UN envoy that they want an independent civilian body to probe any allegations of police misconduct. McDougall agreed.

“It is essential . . . that mechanisms of civilian oversight are strengthened where they exist or established where they do not.”

Profiling

McDougall’s report also raised concerns about racial profiling, echoing observations in a report issued earlier this week by the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

The UN report heard from people who described racial profiling as systemic.

Response

Montreal police had a chance to defend their practices during a meeting with the envoy.

Her report said police provided information on their zero-tolerance policy towards racial profiling.

“They pointed to specialist expert committees established with advisory roles, including on racial profiling and with respect to specific communities,” said the report.

“They rejected claims of excessive force and impunity.”

A civilian police ethics commissioner and outside police forces oversee officer conduct across the province.

But McDougall wrote that “police representatives acknowledged that the process currently fails to have the confidence of the community,” adding that government officials are trying to improve the system.

Recommendations

McDougall also visited Toronto and Vancouver, where she noted similar concerns by ethnic communities. She issued a number of recommendations:

• Cracking down on racial profiling in all areas of society:

• Ensuring that ethnic groups have access to jobs while penalizing employers that practice racial discrimination:

• Making sure that provinces enforce existing employment equity laws:

• Ensuring that governments recruit, retain and promote minorities to senior posts:

• Gathering more detailed demographic data on Canadians to get a better picture of ethnic communities:

• Increasing political participation of minorities

• Ensuring that anti-terrorism measures don’t violate human rights

• Granting better access to legal aid and human rights agencies.

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