Visible Minorities

The issue of fair treatment for First Nations people and visible minorities needs to be continually re-examined but in a larger context. While police forces are justifiably criticized for failing to properly deal with people from visible minorities, they are not the only Canadian occupational group that needs to be held publicly accountable in addressing this social issue. Some degree of racism and racial profiling exists in many segments of Canadian society, despite this country’s strong bent towards multiculturalism. A recent newspaper headline reads: "Racism haunts Canada’s first aboriginal judge; ‘You never get rid of that feeling,’ says new member of Ontario Court of Appeal." (Makin "Racism").

The interrelationship between contemporary law and the status of First Nations people continues to preoccupy the courts and law reform bodies in Canada. The Supreme Court decision in the Drybones case of 1969, affirming that the Indian Act denied First Nations people equality before the law, initiated a review process that continues to this day. This process has indirect if not direct implications for law enforcement personnel throughout Canada. The writings of Rupert Ross and Colin Sampson describe in poignant terms how racism affects the enforcement of the law (Ross Dancing; A Way of Life 316-325).

  • Third party complaints
    Legislation in most jurisdictions makes no provision for third party complaints (Wortley Civilian Governance). If a complaints system is to be accessible, compassionate and ethnically and socially sensitive, then provision needs to be made for those who cannot lodge a complaint in the usual manner – the illiterate, linguistically incapable, and socially disadvantaged.
  • Developing Specialized Structures & Other Mechanisms
    One oversight body may not be adequate to assume all of the functions necessary to create a high degree of civic governance. Other options may need to be explored. Some jurisdictions, for example, have developed specialized permanent structures such as police ombudsmen and complaints directorates. These special agencies are increasingly being created to strengthen the expertise, resources and independence of civilian oversight of police (Stone and Merrick). Stone and Ward also provide a summary of potential entry points for further reforms in civil governance (Democratic Policing).