OIPRD investigating racial profiling of migrant workers

The Office of Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) is conducting a systemic review into the DNA sweep of approximately 100 Caribbean migrant workers near Vienna, Ontario.

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW)), an organization that has been advocating for the rights of migrant workers, which filed the complaint on December 12, 2013 says it’s happy with the decision.

In October and November 2013, the OPP conducted a DNA sweep where samples where taken from Indo-Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean men who did not conform to the suspect description. The men ranged in ages from 21 to 61, heights ranged from 5’0” to 6’5”, and body sizes ranged between 130 lbs to 310lbs. Other identifying features (e.g. hairstyle) were also disregarded. The DNA sweep was part of an investigation into assault against a local woman.

“We welcome the OIPRD’s decision to conduct a systemic review into the OPP’s racial profiling of migrant farm workers. This review has the potential to further expose the egregious police misconduct that was perpetrated during the OPP’s DNA sweep last October,” says Shane Martinez, a lawyer representing J4MW.

“Allegations that dozens of migrant workers who were asked to submit to DNA tests for a criminal investigation did not match the description of the suspect except for their dark skin colour, raises the spectre of racial profiling and Charter rights issues. I am undertaking a systemic review that will not only investigate the immediate issues raised, but also dig deeper to explore underlying causes and broader practices to determine whether systemic failings have occurred,” says Gerry McNeilly, Independent Police Review Director, who is of Trinidad origin.

Gerry McNeilly
Gerry McNeilly
The review will examine public complaints filed, and review and analyze evidence collected from OPP investigations, including audio and video recordings, photographs, documents, interviews and forensic evidence.

It will examine OPP policies, procedures and practices, training material and instruction, along with relevant case law, reports, reviews, articles, documents, research, data and practices from other jurisdictions, a release stated.

It added that the review will also consider submissions from stakeholders and the public.

A final report summarizing the findings of the review and outlining recommendations for the overall improvement of police practices will be released to the public.

The Police Services Act gives the Independent Police Review Director the power to examine and review issues of a systemic nature that are the subject of or give rise to public complaints.

It also allows the Director to make recommendations regarding these issues to Ontario’s Solicitor General, Attorney General, the OPP Commissioner, chiefs of police, police services boards and other persons or organizations, in order to enhance public confidence and trust in police and policing.