Racial profiling complaint dismissed by Human Rights Tribunal

By Admin Wednesday June 25 2014 in News
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By TOM GODFREY

 

A landmark complaint alleging racial profiling and discrimination against the Toronto Police Services Board and Chief Bill Blair has been dismissed by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

 

Tribunal Vice-Chair David Muir last week threw out a complaint launched last February by the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) citing similar allegations have been filed in a civil suit against police in an Ontario court.

 

A complaint filed against the Tribunal cannot be filed in another court over the same allegations, according to Tribunal rules.

 

The BADC in the high-profile case was seeking $50 million in general damages from the Chief and Board, the June 19 decision said.

 

“The applicant has commenced a civil suit in which it is seeking damages for the identical violations of the Code which are raised in this application,” Muir wrote on dismissing the complaint.

 

The class-action complaint alleged ongoing discrimination or harassment by police based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, citizenship, ethnic origin and age.

 

The BADC was also seeking an apology and a declaration that racial profiling and the police practice of “carding” is discriminatory and violates the Charter and Ontario Human Rights Code.

 

Lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, who represents BADC, said he was notified earlier that the complaint was being dismissed.

 

“This decision does not come as a surprise to us,” Hamalengwa told Share. “You cannot have the same case being dealt with in two forums.”

 

He and other top Toronto lawyers, including Peter Rosenthal, are spearheading a $200 million class-action lawsuit against the Board that is proceeding before the Ontario Superior Court.

 

The suit alleges the Board failed to adequately address the carding and racial profiling concerns that have negatively affected Blacks and other minority groups for decades.

 

BADC has also filed a $125 million class action lawsuit against Peel Regional Police over similar profiling allegations.

 

Hamalengwa and his group are still meeting with potential victims in information meetings being held in the community.

 

“The support by the community is very strong for the legal actions we are taking against police,” he said. “We have good potential plaintiffs who are ready to go.”

 

The emotional issues of racial profiling and carding stemmed from reports in the Toronto Star that members of the Black community were subject to more police checks than those of other communities.

 

There were protests and meetings in the community in opposition to the profiling.

 

The Board, acting on a draft by lawyer Frank Addario last April, approved a new street check policy that limits when officers can document people on the street.

 

Under the new rules, officers will need a reason relating to an actual occurrence or a series of occurrences before stopping someone on the street.

 

Police officers will have to provide a receipt for each interaction with their name and badge number, as well as the reason for contact.

 

There is also an appeal mechanism for residents to take action against police.

 

The Board is also undertaking a survey of the services it provides residents in some high-risk communities.

 

The survey is being conducted to gauge the level of service and satisfaction provided to the North York community served by 31 Division officers and includes the Jane and Finch area.

 

Area residents have long complained of police officers using heavy-handed tactics in investigations involving young Black men.

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