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Whitewashing Criminal Justice in Canada: Preventing Research through Data Suppression

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2013

Paul Millar
Affiliation:
Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, Nipissing University, 100 College Drive, Box 5002, North Bay, ON P1B 8L7, Canada, paulmi@nipissingu.ca
Akwasi Owusu-Bempah
Affiliation:
Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, 14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K1, Canada, a.o.bempah@utoronto.ca

Extract

Race and racism have long played an important role in Canadian law and continue to do so. However, conducting research on race and criminal justice in Canada is difficult given the lack of readily available data that include information about race. We show that data on the race of victims and accused persons are being suppressed by police organizations in Canada and argue that suppression of race prevents quantitative anti-racism research while not preventing the use of these data by the police for racial profiling. We also argue that when powerful institutions, such as the police, have knowledge that they keep secret or refuse to discover, it serves the interests of those institutions at the expense of the public. Fears that reporting of racial data will result in racial profiling or the stigmatization of racialized communities are not assuaged by the repression of this information. Stigmatization may still occur, and racial profiling can continue to happen, but without public knowledge. Quantitative anti-racist research requires consistent, institutionalized reporting of race data through all aspects of Canadian justice. We outline what data are available, what data are needed, and where consistency is lacking. It is argued that institutional preferences for white-washed data, with race and ethnicity removed, should be subrogated to transparency.

Type
Problems in Accessing Information: A Collection of Essays
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Law and Society Association 2011

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References

1 Backhouse, C., “Racial Segregation in Canadian Legal History: Viola Desmond's Challenge, Nova Scotia, 1946,” Dalhousie Law Journal 17, 3 (1994), 299Google Scholar; Bauriess, G., “Chinese Immigration, Chinese Stereotypes, and Chinese Labour,” Canadian Ethnic Studies 19, 3 (1987), 15Google Scholar; Khan, S., “Influences Shaping Relations Between the East Indians and the Anglo Canadians in Canada: 1903–1947,” Journal of Ethnic Studies 19, 1 (1991), 101Google Scholar; Knowles, C., “The Symbolic Empire and the History of Racial Inequality,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 19, 4 (1996), 898CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Sunahara, A.G., The Politics of Racism (Toronto: Lorimer, 1981)Google Scholar; Taylor, K.W., “Racism in Canadian Immigration Policy,” Canadian Ethnic Studies 33, 1 (1991), 1Google Scholar.

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9 R. v. Gladue [1999] 1 S.C.R. 688; Criminal Code (RS., 1985, c. C-46) §718.2.

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11 In the matter involving a complaint under the Human Rights Act by Kirk Johnson against the Halifax Regional Police Service and/or Constable Michael Sanford, Human Rights Commission of Nova Scotia (2003); Nassiah v. Peel (Regional Municipality) Services Board 14, Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario 2007; Phipps v. Toronto Police Services Board 877, Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario 2009.

12 Wortley, S.. “Justice for All? Race and Perceptions of Bias in the Ontario Criminal Justice System-A Toronto Survey,” Canadian Journal of Criminology 38 (1996), 439Google Scholar; MacQueen, K., “Everybody Loves Us,” Maclean's (November 21, 2007)Google Scholar.

13 We are not alone in calling for these data and their disclosure. See, e.g., Wortley, “A Northern Taboo”; Mosher, “Minorities and Misdemeanours”; Kong and Beattie, Collecting Data on Aboriginal People in the Criminal Justice System.

14 Auditor General of Canada, Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons, Chapter 4: The Criminal Justice System: Significant Challenges (April 2004).

15 The socially constructed nature of the concept of race makes it subject to ontological challenges. Yet it is clear that it has important social and criminal justice consequences. In terms of crime, race has been shown to be socially predictive and biologically non-determinative. In other words, it matters in criminal justice, but it should not.

16 There is also a precursor to these surveys that, although not national, surveyed seven of Canada's largest cities: The Canadian Urban Victimization Survey conducted by the federal department of the Solicitor General in 1982.

17 Statistics Canada, General Social Survey Cycle 13: Victimization (1999)—Public Use Microdata File Documentation and User's Guide (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2000)Google Scholar, catalogue no. 12 M0013GPE.

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19 Béchard, M. and Marchand, I.. General Social Survey Cycle 20: Family Transitions (2006)— Public Use Microdata File Documentation and User's Guide (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2008)Google Scholar, catalogue no. 12M0020G.

20 Although the categories for response are the same (e.g., White, Chinese, South Asian, Black, and so on), the GSS words the question differently from the census.

21 Called Public Use Micro-Files (PUMFs) by Statistics Canada.

22 The Canadian Employment Equity Act defines “visible minorities” as “persons, other than Aboriginal persons, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.” Under this definition, regulations specify that the following groups are included in the visible minority population: Chinese, South Asians, Blacks, Arabs, West Asians, Filipinos, Southeast Asians, Latin Americans, Japanese, Koreans, and other visible minority groups, such as Pacific Islanders. Chui, T., Tran, K., and Maheux, H., Canada's Ethnocultural Mosaic: The 2006 Census (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2008)Google Scholar, catalogue no. 97-562-X.

23 Statistics Canada, Application Process and Guidelines, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/rdc-cdr/ process-eng.htm (accessed July 21, 2010).

24 Statistics Canada also periodically publishes studies derived from these surveys. See, e.g., AuCoin, K. and Beauchamp, D., “Impacts and Consequences of Victimization, GSS 2004,” Juristat 27, 1 (2007)Google Scholar; Gannon, M. and Mihorean, K., “Criminal Victimization in Canada, 2004,” Juristat 25, 7 (2005), 1Google Scholar; Gannon, M. and Taylor-Butts, A., Canadians' Use of Crime Prevention Measures (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2006)Google Scholar, catalogue no. 85F0033MIE, no. 12.

25 Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Policing Services Program, Uniform Crime Reporting Incident-Based Survey Reporting Manual (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2008)Google Scholar.

26 A person could be a suspect as well as the person charged: Statistics Canada uses the term “Charged/Suspect-Chargeable” or CSC.

27 Statistics Canada, Summary of Changes Over Time-Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR) (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2010)Google Scholar.

28 Race data may or may not be collected: the data we show indicate whether it is reported to the Centre for Justice Statistics (CJS): police departments in Canada provide all data to CJS voluntarily.

29 See Owusu-Bempah, A. and Millar, P., “Research Note: Revisiting the Collection of ‘Justice Statistics by Race’ in Canada,” Canadian Journal of Law and Society 25, 1 (2010): 97104CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

30 Statistics Canada, Homicide Survey, online: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/cgi-bin/imdb/p2SV.pl?Function=getSurvey' 's Report-Findings and Recommendations (Halifax: The Province of Nova Scotia, 1989): 148.

33 Gabor, Thomas, “The Suppression of Crime Statistics on Race and Ethnicity: The price of Political Correctness,” Canadian Journal of Criminology 36, 2 (1994), 153Google Scholar.

34 Meehan, Albert J. and Ponder, Michael C., “Race and Place: The Ecology of Racial Profiling African American Motorists,” Justice Quarterly 19, 3 (2002), 399CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

35 Kong and Beattie, Collecting Data on Aboriginal People in the Criminal Justice System.

37 Public Safety Canada, Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview: 2008 (Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2009)Google Scholar.

38 Chase, Steven, “Can Access to Information Be Fixed?” Globe & Mail [Toronto] (January 15, 2011), A4Google Scholar.

16
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