The following is a commentary on how courts have looked at and treated racial profiling and the impact that such profiling has had on racialized communities. At the outset, I would like to say that I have always had concerns about the term racial profiling because I think it's a very sanitized term for describing a practice of hate and a practice of overt criminalization of human beings based on their race, and more recently, their religion, political opinion, and political activities.
It is not just since 9/11 that racial profiling, as it pertains to treatment that Arabs and Muslims, has been in operation in Canada. Racial profiling has long existed in Canada, it is very much a part of Canada's history and politics. While the activities of members of Arab and Muslim communities have been the target of police and other security officers' gazes since the early '90s at the time of the first war against Iraq, the same type of treatment has been meted out to other racialized communities starting with the First Nations Peoples, and later Japanese-Canadians, Italian-Canadians, Chinese-Canadians, African-Canadians, South Asian Canadians and others.
There is a need to look at why racial profiling works as an effective 'tool' of controlling public debate and in order to obtain public consent for government action. It is a lot easier for governments to invoke stereotypes of Muslims when it is situated within a discourse of security. It is easy to talk about law and order when there is a reliance on prejudicial beliefs of members of particular communities. Therefore, this is a lazy and easy way to forge unpopular policies that would otherwise not find a lot of sympathy or support, by relying on prejudice and stereotypes.
We need to be informed of the origin, definition, and practice of racial profiling as a law enforcement and a security investigation tool in order to develop a critique of why it is not, actually, a useful tool.
Commentary is based on a presentation made at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation's National Policy Dialogue and on the Panel discussion titled 'Racial Profiling' held in October 2005 in Toronto.