Racial profiling of Blacks in prisons subject of new lawsuit

By Admin Wednesday January 08 2014 in News
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By TOM GODFREY

 

The Canadian government is now being dragged into court along with the province and City of Toronto for the alleged racial profiling of Blacks, this time against inmates serving time in federal institutions.

 

A Statement of Claim has been filed in the Federal Court of Canada seeking damages of $23-million and names as Defendants; Steven Blaney, the Minister of Public Safety Canada, his department and Correctional Services Canada (CSC).

 

The Claim was filed on January 7 and seeks damages from Ottawa for the alleged racial profiling and unequal treatment of Black inmates who served time in federal penitentiaries from 2005 on and were subjected to discriminatory treatment.

 

The lawsuit is also seeking an apology from the government to inmates who were allegedly profiled and measures be implemented to stop discrimination in jails.

 

The Federal Court will now rule if the motion has grounds to proceed and the litigation, if it goes ahead, can take years.

 

Two separate class-action suits seeking $325-million in damages for alleged racial profiling and carding of Blacks were filed last November and names as Defendants Madeleine Meilleur, the Minister of Community Safety and Corrections, Toronto Police, its board, Peel Regional Police, former Chief Mike Metcalf and several officers.

 

The lawsuits were filed by Toronto human rights lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, acting on behalf of the Black Action Defense Committee, who estimates thousands of inmates may have been profiled or unequally treated behind bars. The action is also seeking compensation for those who were deported or face deportation.

 

The document alleges Black inmates are unequally treated in the federal prison system since they are concentrated in few prisons and not provided with products and sanitary provisions “appropriate to their race and culture.”

 

“Black female inmates are generally denied race and culture specific health and sanitary provisions and care,” the Claim alleges.

 

The 19-page document states Black inmates, due to profiling, are often charged with discretionary prison infractions that ultimately result in them being denied early parole or spending more time in segregation.

 

“Black inmates are regarded as belonging to ‘criminal gangs’ or regarded as ‘drug dealers’ or ‘trouble makers’ as being prone to violence and thus justifying their unequal treatment by the Defendants,” the lawsuit alleges, adding Blacks are disproportionately classified for detention in maximum security institutions due to the alleged profiling.

 

“Black inmates are called the ‘N’ word more often than they are called their real names or are made fun of because of their accents and backgrounds,” the action states. “This has caused severe loss of dignity to the inmates affected.”

 

The Claim alleges that the failure by Ottawa to enact laws forbidding and punishing the profiling and mistreatment of Blacks violates Article 2 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights to which Canada is a signatory member.

 

It blames CSC officials for failing to properly screen, train or discipline officers for the alleged mistreatment of the Black prison population and to investigate or isolate officers accused of racial profiling.

 

The CSC is also accused of failing to introduce, implement or ensure anti-racism policies.

 

“Had the management (CSC) acted properly in discharging its mandate over their staff, the represented class (Black inmates) would not have been subjected to the treatments described in this pleading,” the lawsuit alleges. “Perhaps racial profiling and unequal treatment would be a thing of the past.”

 

Blaney is accused of failing to exercise his supervisory and managerial role over CSC and to ensure his staff were properly trained, screened and adhered to all rules and requirements.

 

“The Defendants have employed a pattern and practice of denial of equality and racial profiling in dealing with the … African-Canadian segment of the community,” the Statement claims.

 

Officials of Public Safety Canada did not provide comment on the lawsuit since the matter is before the courts.

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