July 31, 2008

Racial Profiling in the Great White North?

Racial minorities in Canada are more likely to have a police record than their white counterparts even if they don’t get convicted, the Toronto Star reports.

The Star examined the criminal histories of almost three million people in Canada’s national crime database.

According to the Canadian Police Information Centre, minorities were less likely to be convicted of a crime, but spend longer periods in pre-trial detention.

DNA sampling, required by Canadian law for violent crimes, also showed a skew.

Almost twice as many minorities — 10.5 percent — gave samples for violent crimes, as compared to 6 percent of all Caucasian offenders.

Judges may also at their discretion order DNA samples for less serious offenses: CPIC figures say 13.4 percent of those convicted of robbery alone who gave their sample were minorities, as opposed to 8.4 percent who were white.

Minorities, who comprise 20 percent of Canada’s population, also outnumber whites for having warnings of potential violence and flight and suicide risks in their criminal files.

The Star also gauged public perception of how many non-whites have criminal records in an online poll. They asked over 1,000 readers over a two-day period in May.

When all respondents were asked what they thought the percentage was of Canadians with a criminal record, the average response was 36.7 percent — roughly one out of three people. However, government figures put the actual figure at 16.7 percent, or one in six.

University of Toronto criminologist Scot Wortley told the Star that local police departments might be concerned that “these data could hurt the image of the justice system.”

Frank Walwyn, president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, said that additional research and analysis was required into the racial profiling issue.

“More information is needed in order to draw meaningful conclusions from these numbers,” he told the newspaper.

— TJ Johnston/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Is justice system blind to colour?”
The Toronto Star, July 21, 2008

“The criminals among us”
The Toronto Star, July 21, 2008

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