Thursday, April 06, 2017

80,000.00 damages plus $20,000.00 costs against Toronto Police for Racial Profiling

By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
Pieters Law Office
Created April 06, 2017

In Elmardy v Toronto Police Services Board, 2017 ONSC 2074 (CanLII), <>, a Divisional Court panel awarded $50,000.00 Charter damages and $25, 000.0 punitive damages award plus $20,000 costs against Toronto Police Services Board and Police Constable Pak.

This was a typical carding case: [11] The police gave the Appellant no reason for his detention and he was not advised of his right to counsel. During the incident, the police filled out a card, known as a 208 card or field information report, for the Appellant. Part of the information to be included on the card was the Appellant’s skin colour, which was filled in as “black,” and his birth place, which was filled in as “Sudan.” The police did not explain to the Appellant that he was being “carded.”

The analysis in this case showed the Divisional Court was alive and in tuned to the dynamics of racial profiling:

[19]           The only reasonable inference to be drawn from the fact that both officers, without any reasonable basis, suspected the Appellant of criminal behaviour, is that their views of the Appellant were coloured by the fact that he was black and by their unconscious or conscious beliefs that black men have a propensity for criminal behaviour. This is the essence of racial profiling.
[20]           In this case, the officers’ unreasonable beliefs about the Appellant caused them to assault the Appellant, unreasonably search him and forcibly restrain him. In other words, instead of presuming his innocence, they assumed and acted as if he were guilty and dangerous. He must be violating his bail and he must be carrying a gun. These assumptions, for which there is no explanation other than the colour of the Appellant’s skin, caused them to blatantly and aggressively violate the Appellant’s constitutional rights.
[21]           The trial judge found that the officers’ real motivation for stopping the Appellant was so that they could “card” him by filling in information on a 208 card. This begs the question of why the officers would single the Appellant out for “carding.”
[22]           However, the trial judge also found that the officers lied about why they stopped the Appellant and “backfilled” a purpose after the fact. Lying about the real reason for a stop is another basis for drawing the inference that what motivated the stop was the Appellant’s race and colour. As noted in Brown, at para. 45, the inference that a police officer is lying about why she or he singled out an individual for attention is a circumstance that is “capable of supporting a finding that the stop was based on racial profiling.” Such a finding becomes even more compelling when, as here, the “lies” that the police chose to tell about why they stopped the individual are based on racial stereotypes, such as the belief that black men are more likely to be on bail and more likely to be carrying weapons.
[23]           Contrary to the finding of the trial judge that there is no evidence from which one can draw the inference that the conduct of the police officers was racially motivated, there is no other reasonable inference that is available from all of the evidence. The explanation the officers gave for their behaviour was both rejected by the trial judge and infected with racial stereotypes. Given this, there can be no issue that the Appellant’s right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on race under s. 15 of the Charter was also violated.

"The Appellant was an innocent man who had fled his country looking for a society in which his rights would be respected. Instead of finding the respect to which he is entitled, he was subjected to humiliating, violent and oppressive behaviour from one of this city’s police officers, all because of the colour of his skin. Further, when questioned about their behaviour the police officers were found to have lied to the Court, conduct that can seriously undermine the administration of justice."

Hopefully the Human Rights Tribunal would take note of this decision and start to up its awards in these cases.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Selwyn Pieters Response to Senator Vern White comments

Selwyn Pieters Response to Senator Vern White comments
On CTV’S Question Period, March 19, 2017

As it relates to Senator Meredith’s conduct with Ms. M., the Senate Ethics Officer investigated and in her report found that he has violated various provisions of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators. Senator Meredith last week apologized, in a wide ranging Canadian Press interview, for his moral failings and poor judgement to his family, “Ms. M”, fellow Senators and the public. He then asked for forgiveness and reconciliation.

As a local and international human rights lawyer I am sensitive to sexual exploitation and to patriarchy and understand that there would be vulnerability and a power imbalance when a 16 year old (girl or boy) is in a sexual relationship with a middle aged important person be it a Senator, Judge, Doctor or businessperson. What is important here is that Senator Meredith’s conduct, short of a resignation, has to be adjudicated by his peers in the Senate. It is they that must determine what the just sanction to be impose in this case having regard to any mitigating circumstance, personal circumstance, the public’s interest and general deterrence.

In terms of the criminal investigation, as a former Chief of Police, of the Ottawa Police Service, Senator Vern White would be in the best position to know the competence or the lack thereof of its sexual assault squad investigators. I would note though that when the matter was referred to the Ottawa Police Service in 2015, it was the expectation of Senator Don Meredith, his family and the public that a thorough and fair investigation would be carried out by the police. That investigation concluded and no criminal charges were laid.  In cases such as these investigators has access to in-house legal advisors and Crown Law prosecutors. If there was any reasonable grounds to lay charges under section 153 of the Criminal Code or any other provisions, such charges would have been laid.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Racial profiling in the Courtroom, the classroom, Lsuc and other legal spaces

By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
Pieters Law Office
Created February 15, 2017

Stereotypical Identification of Black Men as accused Person is Typical in our System of criminal (in)justice. Those who disagree has not walked in my shoes so cannot persuade me otherwise. Here is an encounter at Old City Hall for which I had to educate the Crown lawyer.....

I am a Black male who is a Barrister & Solicitor. I write with respect to your conduct this afternoon in courtroom 111 at Old City Hall... I had signed in on the Counsel sheet representing an accused person (Male, White, 32, blue eyes, brown hair). I then sat in the counsel area directly behind you waiting for the case to be heard. This was a matter that was screened for diversion as it was a theft under from LCBO $12.95 bottle of Liquor.

When you stated to the Justice of the Peace that there were no more counsel matters, without me hearing you call the matter for which I was providing representation, I stepped forward from counsel area to alert you to the fact that there was indeed one more counsel matter. Instead of listening to me, you pointed to where the unrepresented accused persons were and directed me to go and join the line. I had to remind you that I am a lawyer. You did not even apologize. I have been in courtroom 111 where you were crown on numerous occasions and I was very shocked, surprised, embarrassed and in some way humiliated by your behavior. All you had to do if you were not sure whether or not I was a lawyer is ask the question, not assume I am an accused person who should join the back of the line.

You may or may not know that Black male lawyers are fed up being treated as though they are accused person when practising before the courts......

I believe there is a need to record today's incident because it reinforces certain stereotypical attitudes and notions that indeed results in racial profiling.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Systemic Racism in Ontario Legal Profession

By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
Pieters Law Office
Created January 17, 2017

This video is a collection of thoughts on the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group (“the Working Group”) Final report, Working Together for Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions (November 2016). I have also added my thoughts as a subject matter expert

Discussion of Systemic Racism

Systemic discrimination consists of practices or attitudes that have, whether by design or impact, the effect of limiting an individual’s or group’s rights to opportunities because of attributed rather than actual characteristics.  If the practices or attitudes affect certain groups in a disproportionately negative way, it is a signal that practices that lead to this adverse impact may be discriminatory.[1]  Establishing systemic discrimination depends on showing that practices, attitudes, policies or procedures impact disproportionately on certain protected groups,[2] such as African Canadians.

Evidence related to systemic and individual discrimination is often interwoven.  It is difficult to untangle systemic discrimination in practice from its application in particular circumstances.[3]   In Canada (Canadian Human Rights Commission) v Canada (Department of National Health and Welfare),[4] the Federal Court of Canada confirmed that the applicant was entitled to adduce systemic evidence in support of allegations of discrimination against him personally

The relevance of social science and contextual evidence in racial profiling cases cannot be understated:

[118]    After making this finding, the Vice-Chair, in para. 91, quoted a passage from Nassiah discussing the social science evidence led in that case:

… racial profiling social science evidence is relevant because it speaks to, not just the initial decision to stop, detain, pursue an investigation, but also supports the general phenomenon that the scrutiny applied to the subsequent investigation is different, more heightened, more suspicious, if the suspect is Black. The stereotyping phenomenon is the same, whether it manifests itself in the discretion to stop/arrest/detain a person in part because they are Black, or whether it manifests itself in the form of greater suspicion, scrutiny, investigation in whole or part because a suspect is Black. [Emphasis in original.]

In a racist blog <> that showed up after this case got into the public domain someone wrote:
“In Toronto, nigger apettorney Selwyn Pieters shuffles up to the law society headquarters, and an astute security guard suspects something is wrong. The guard asks to see the ape's law society identity card, which turns out expired, and the ape is denied entry. Chimpout ensues.”
“Look at this thing. Would you allow it entry ANYWHERE, short of Apefrika?”
“Things like this should not be allowed!”
“I'm suprised anyone hires it, ever. Nasty beast.”
“I'm sure everyplace the nigger shows up this happens. Humans don't want fat greasy niggers around.”
Another wrote “The only way it would belong in the building is if it was there to clean the toilets.”

I was treated as an imposter not because I am not a lawyer but it is because of stereotypes based race, ethnicity, ancestry, creed and the intersection of these grounds. The intersecting grounds are the basis of the racial profiling and unequal treatment that I was subjected to. Had the security guard believed I was a lawyer he was have followed the procedures set out in paragraphs 23-24 of the LSUC response and would have dealt with me in a customer service friendly manner as a member of the LSUC. It is for this reason that I cited the overtly racist comments herein. While these were direct examples of racist words that some people would find offensive, the treatment experienced by me and other Blacks and racial minorities at the LSUC and by the LSUC is consistent with the racist views above.

I do not believe that had I been white or Jewish, I would not have been subjected to differential treatment by the security guard and the LSUC. The lack of scrutiny of the suspended licencee Ari Benjamin Kulidjian for three years as he entered those doors of the LSUC, whilst not entitled to carry a LSUC identification card supports my view.

Further, the Human Rights Tribunal Application in Arlene Spence v. Law Society of Upper Canada et al. 2016-24316-I is an employee complaint of racism at the LSUC Spence v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2017 HRTO 31 (CanLII), <>, 

 In Law Society of Upper Canada v. Selwyn Milan McSween, 2012 ONLSAP 3, a case that involved professional misconduct findings against McSween by a Law Society of Upper Canada hearing panel, in concurring reasons, adjudicators Clayton C. Ruby and Constance Backhouse examined McSween's personal background, antecedents, training and the nature of discrimination and wrote the following, which though lengthy deserve quoting liberally:

3.         Racism in the Context of Law 
[68]           In 1999, the Working Group on Racial Equality in the Legal Profession of the Canadian Bar Association published Racial Equality in the Canadian Legal Profession.  The report examines racism in the legal profession and reveals that students from racialized communities have fewer opportunities to secure articling positions and first jobs. They do not benefit from the same articling experience as their non-racialized colleagues who are introduced to clients, assist more senior lawyers on important cases, and who conduct research on a broader range of files.  There is no evidence to suggest that circumstances have changed for the better; in particular, articling opportunities have diminished.  See: Working Group on Racial Equality in the Legal Profession, Racial Equality in the Canadian Legal Profession (Canadian Bar Association: Ottawa, 1999).
[69]           More recently, in 2004, the Law Society commissioned a study entitled Diversity and Change: The Contemporary Legal Profession in Ontario.  This report attempted to establish a baseline for tracking diversity and equity in the Ontario legal profession.  It found that, when surveyed, lawyers of racialized communities are more likely to reveal that they were denied opportunities to take responsibility for cases because of client objections, and they also were more often subject to inappropriate comments by judges and other lawyers.  See: Kay, F. M.  et al. Diversity and Change: The Contemporary Legal Profession in Ontario (A report to the Law Society of Upper Canada) (Queen’s University: Kingston, 2004).
[70]           It is reasonable to infer that as a group, Afro-Caribbean Canadian lawyers are economically and professionally disadvantaged when compared with their colleagues, and that many face diminished opportunity as alleged in this case by Mr. McSween.
[72]           The research into Canadian legal history shows that systemic racism has had a substantial impact on the legal profession.  It demonstrates that ideas of legal “professionalism” have been used to exercise power and exclusion based on gender, class, religion, and race.  The first minority individuals who sought admission to the legal profession faced significant barriers.  Those who succeeded in obtaining entry found that those barriers continued to impact upon their careers when they attempted to practise.  Significantly, an increased risk of disbarment was one such barrier for racialized lawyers.
[73]           It would be misguided to be aware of this history and yet ignore its contemporary incarnations simply because the legal profession has today become much more diverse.  The legal profession has made no concerted effort to rid itself of the racism inherent in the practice.  As the evidence in this case illustrates, racialized lawyers continue to face barriers not experienced by their colleagues.

In Law Society of Upper Canada v. Terence John Robinson, 2013 ONLSAP 18 following from the principles in McSween, an appeal panel observed that:

[78]           In our view, McSween supports the proposition that systemic racism and discrimination which explains or provides context to why a licensee engaged in misconduct or conduct unbecoming is relevant. This is not unique to Aboriginal licensees. What is unique are the systemic and background factors that affect Aboriginal people, including Aboriginal lawyers and how these factors have affected them.

Recently, The Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group (“the Working Group”) Final report, Working Together for Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions (November 2016):

117. It is clear from the Working Group’s engagement and consultation processes that discrimination based on race is a daily reality for many racialized licensees; however, many participants stated that they would not file a discrimination complaint with the Law Society for various reasons, including fear of losing their job, fear of being labeled as a troublemaker, and other reprisal related concerns. Participants also noted that although racism can be experienced on an individual basis, racial discrimination can also be institutional or systemic in nature. Participants did not believe that an effective process was available at the Law Society to address systemic complaints. The Working Group heard from a number of participants who stated that a system of anonymous complaints would assist in alleviating some of the concerns about reporting cases of racial discrimination.

University of Ottawa Professor (and LSUC Bencher) Joanne St. Lewis in her Slaw column made the following incisive comments about the micro and macro aggressions that Black lawyers face due to racism and its deleterious effects:

The legal profession has a heightened awareness of issues of mental health. Ignoring the role of racism in worsening or causing mental illness, points to the underlying failure to address the realities of racism in legal workplaces. Experiencing everyday microaggressions, being the subject of direct racism, absorbing injustices in silence – all take a toll that cannot simply be masked by individualized terms such as stress, depression etc. The Challenges Report missed the opportunity to build on the Law Society’s mental health initiatives by recommending strategies specific to racialized licensees. The report ought to include a recommendation that the profession’s designated health care provider (Homewood Health) develop the necessary staffing and substantive expertise to address these concerns as part of a comprehensive mental health support strategy to racialized licensees.

Ms. Joanne St. Lewis was the co-chair of the 1999 Canadian Bar Association Working Group on Racial Equality and author of Virtual Justice: Systemic Racism and the Canadian Legal Profession. She was the first Black woman to be elected to serve as a Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada in its 207 year history. She has served as legal counsel for the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations in Lavoie v. Canada [2002] S.C.J. No. 24 (where she appeared before the SCC) and was representative for the co-intervenor NOIVMW (National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women) on the LEAF legal committee on R. v. R.D.S. [1997] 3 S.C.R. 484.[5]

In its submissions to the LSUC Working Group, the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers wrote:

CABL notes that the process of recalling, reliving and publicly discussing systemic and sometimes overt racism is gruelling and uncomfortable. Our members shared intimate details of their experiences in order to draw attention to the challenges faced by black and other minority lawyers in Ontario.
CABL is fully in support of the LSUC addressing the challenges our members and other minority groups face in the practice of law. The members of the Bar have failed in their obligation not to “discriminate on the grounds of race, ancestry, pledge of origin, colour, ethnic
origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability with respect to professional employment of other lawyers, articled students, or any other person or in professional dealings with other licensees or any other person (as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code)”2 [See The Rules of Professional Conduct section 6.3.1-1] It is for this very reason that we believe the report places too much faith in the ability of the Bar to self-monitor and correct the systemic issues recognized in the report. There must be direct regulation from the LSUC. We believe that the recommendations should be strengthened to reflect LSUC regulation rather than suggestion

[1] Canadian National Railway v Canada (Human Rights Commission), [1987] 1 SCR 114 at para 34
[2] Brome v Ontario (Human Rights Commission), (1999) 171 DLR (4th) 538 at para 16 (Ct J (Gen Div)); Brome v Ontario (Human Rights Commission), [1999] 171 DLR (4th) 538 (Ct  J (Gen Div)), leave to appeal to CA refused, [1999] 89 ACWS (3d) 1238 (CA).
[3] Kelly v British Columbia (Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General), 2009 BCHRT  363at para 29.
[4] [1998] 85 ACWS (3d) 647. This decision has been applied numerous times to find that statistical evidence of a larger systemic problem within an organization can be used to support an  inference of discrimination in a particular case.
[5] It is highly likely that at a hearing in this matter I will be serving a summons on this Bencher to provide contextual evidence on the LSUC in respect to anti-black racism.