PROFILE

A practical toolkit for community, police, health and education stakeholders in Canada to understand racial and social profiling and to find ways forward. This toolkit unpacks the problem of racial and social profiling in marginalized communities and considers some solutions. It was commissioned by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and developed by Project Someone at Concordia University.

In holding up a mirror to Canadian society, the toolkit serves as a springboard for both individuals and groups to learn, empathize, reflect and explore possible solutions.

The toolkit is organized around five questions:

  1. What is racial and social profiling?
  2. What is the current situation?
  3. How do we unpack profiling?
  4. What is the impasse?
  5. What are some ways forward?

1. What is racial and social profiling?

Definitions of racial profiling have consistently demonstrated a common central theme: Persons in authority attributing criminal intent to individuals or groups based on stereotypes of race, colour, ethnicity or other markers of identity.

However, our research and discussions with stakeholders have demonstrated that profiling also occurs when people in positions of authority discriminate based on stereotypes regardless of criminal intent.

2. What is the current situation?

Profiling exists and it is widespread. It causes harm and it will take a concerted effort to address it. The content in this section represent a snapshot and is not a comprehensive view of the state of profiling in Canada.

“The statistics on racial display in street carding demonstrate the lived reality of institutional racism that our people face despite the public rhetoric and celebrations around reconciliation.”

– Chief Bob Chamberlin – Vice-president of the union of B.C. Indian Chiefs

“We don’t have any racist police officers… We have police officers who are citizens and who, inevitably, have biases like all citizens can have. That’s the part we need to try to understand, and it’s a complex issue… as police chief, what I want is to have a safe city, so we need to find the right balance between respecting people’s rights and police officers being able to do their jobs.”

– Sylvain Caron – Montreal police chief

 

Click to download the full toolkit (PDF) and read a snapshot profile of these highlighted areas in Canada.

  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Inuit Territory
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia

Watch Will Prosper talk about the profiling landscape. 

3. How do we unpack profiling?

Many experts and community members have outlined how profiling impacts their communities and most especially their lives.

This section of the toolkit seeks to unpack profiling, explore the issues involved and deepen understanding. This is done through two tracks. First, an analytical unpacking asks the question “Why does profiling happen?” This section summarizes cause, effect, and implications of profiling, as expressed by various stakeholders. The second part undertakes a narrative unpacking where the lived experiences of the profiled, the people in power and other community members are presented. This paints a multi-perspective picture of the phenomenon of profiling itself.

Why does profiling happen?

Three distinct answers to that question emerged from the research done to create this toolkit:

  • We are not talking enough
  • We are not doing enough
  • We do not understand enough

Click to download the full toolkit (PDF) and read about how to unpack profiling in Canada.

Watch the following videos to hear the lived experiences of Jeannette and Pierre, Julie and Antoine, and Will.

Jeannette and Pierre 

Julie and Antoine 

Will

4. What is the impasse?

What is the impasse with profiling? It seems that we are stuck, this section aims to demystify why, how and where we seem to be stuck when it comes to resolving the societal, psychological and real issue that profiling is.

Profiling is an on-going issue, seemingly without resolution. This deadlock seems to occur for a variety of reasons. Some people do not want to acknowledge profiling, or talk about it. And when there is a willingness to talk, some deny its very existence, while others do not know how to begin talking about profiling. Even when people do know how to talk about profiling, it nevertheless remains a tremendously difficult task. Sometimes profiling and discrimination are at the intersection of conflicting values and priorities.

Click to download the full toolkit (PDF) and read about the impasse in Canada.

Watch Will Prosper talking about the impasse around profiling in Canada. 

 

5. What are some ways forward?

The phenomenon of profiling is complex and varied. It definitely poses intractable challenges and seeming dead ends. In spite of the impasse, communities and the police themselves strive for solutions of varying kinds.

Over the years, people and communities have proposed and put into action various solutions to counter racial and social profiling. Though these solutions take a variety of approaches, they all consider people as central to the solution. While no single solution or approach can be seen as comprehensive or conclusive, they each hold part of the key to the issue, and are sometimes overlapping in nature. Three such approaches are presented here.

  • Solutions to inform and educate
  • Solutions to build trust and communication
  • Solutions to create processes and systems

Click to download the full toolkit (PDF) and read about the suggested solutions. 

Watch Will Prosper talk about some possible solutions.