OPP denies racial profiling of migrant workers in sex assault case

Ontario Provincial Police cruiser. (QMI Agency file photo)

Ontario Provincial Police cruiser. (QMI Agency file photo)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:10 PM ET

The OPP denied carrying out racial profiling after the Ontario Human Rights Commission expressed concern the force engaged in the practice when requesting DNA samples from migrant workers last year.

Last December, Justicia for Migrant Workers, a non-profit group that promotes the rights of migrant farm workers, filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director alleging that police collected DNA samples from approximately 100 “Indo and Afro-Caribbean” male migrant workers near Vienna, a small town in southwestern Ontario, during an aggravated sexual assault investigation in October.

“Racial profiling in any form causes great harm to individuals and in many cases entire communities. We will continue to speak out when we see it happening anywhere in Ontario,” said OHRC chief commissioner Barbara Hall.

The commission said it was concerned "the workers were targeted mainly because of race and stereotypes that black men and migrant workers are prone to criminal behaviour" and "the requests were coercive, as migrant workers are particularly vulnerable and rarely seek to assert their rights for fear of being sent home."

The OIPRD says began reviewing the OPP’s practices for obtaining voluntary DNA samples from specific groups in March.

On Friday, the OPP said that racial profiling is unacceptable.

"The OPP continues to proactively safeguard the rights and protections afforded all individuals," OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes said in a statement. "The OPP does not condone any profiling that is contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Further, The OPP does not use any law enforcement action that relies upon stereotypes."

The agency said it stands by "the conduct of its members who undertook a professional and thorough investigation that resulted in the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for this violent crime."

It said the offender was sentenced to a lengthy term in a federal penitentiary last month.


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