By Gerald V. Paul
Canadian Human Rights Commission Interim Chief Commissioner Ruth Goba says “the OHRC is seeking leave to intervene as a friend of the court in the “Neptune 4” case, being heard by the Toronto Police Service Disciplinary Tribunal.
“The action is part of a longstanding effort by the OHRC to tackle racial profiling – an issue at the heart of the commission’s mandate to promote and advance respect for human rights in Ontario.”
Goba said the case was launched after four Black teens were arrested at gunpoint by two Toronto Police officers in 2011. The encounter was caught on Toronto Community Housing Corporation security cameras. The video shows one of the teens being punched and pulled to ground.
She noted the officers were part of TAVIS – Toronto Anti-Violence Strategy. The youths left their apartment on Neptune Drive in Lawrence Heights to attend a tutoring session by Pathways to Education next door.
Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) found that charges of officer misconduct were warranted. The OIPRD highlighted that according to the officers and youths, the youths “were not misbehaving in any manner.” The OIPRD also found that “the manner in which the youth were stopped and questioned … was a violation of their Charter rights.”
An affidavit filed by Goba sets out reasons why the commission wishes to participate in the case, including:
- the complaints raise the issue of racial profiling, a matter of great concern to the public and commission;
- the commission can make a useful contribution because of its expertise, strong interest and distinct perspective;
- the commission has an interest in ensuring that officer misconduct complaints in Ontario raising the issue of racial profiling are adjudicated in a manner that recognizes its sublime, pervasive and unconscious nature and produces decisions consistent with human rights principles.
The OHRC suggests African Canadians may, because of their background and experience, feel especially unable to disregard police directions and feel that if they assert their right to walk away, it will be taken as being evasive and will have consequences for them.
If granted leave to intervene, the commission expects to argue there is no need to prove intention or motivation to racially profile; racial profiling is usually the product of subtle, unconscious beliefs, biases and prejudices and that race need only be one factor in the adverse treatment to constitute racial discrimination.