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Canada: UN expert panel warns of systemic anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system

OTTAWA / GENEVA (21 October 2016) – The United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent today expressed serious concerns about systemic anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system in Canada.

“There is clear evidence that racial profiling is endemic in the strategies and practices used by law enforcement,” said Ricardo Sunga, who currently heads the expert panel, at the end of its official visit* to the country. “Arbitrary use of ‘carding’ or street checks disproportionately affects people of African descent.”

“We urge the Government to develop and implement an African Canadian Justice Strategy to address the anti-Black racism and discrimination within the criminal justice system,” Mr. Sunga stated.

From 17 to 21 October, a delegation of the Working Group visited Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax and Montreal to gain first-hand knowledge on racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia, and related intolerance affecting African-Canadians.

“In our conversation with African Canadians, we found that Canada’s history of enslavement, racial segregation, and marginalization, has had a deleterious impact on people of African descent which must be addressed in partnership with African Canadian communities,” Mr. Sunga stressed.

The delegation, which also included human rights experts Michal Balcerzak and Ahmed Reid, welcomed ongoing efforts by the new administration to revitalize efforts to address racial discrimination faced by people of African descent and to promote human rights, diversity and inclusion in partnership with African Canadian communities and civil society organizations promoting the rights of people African descent.

“We welcome, among other measures, the recent establishment of the Anti-Racism Directorate to address systemic racism and promote fair practices and policies across Ontario province,” Mr. Sunga said.

During the five-day mission, the human rights experts met representatives of the Canadian Federal and Provincial Governments, Members of Parliament, representatives of national and provincial human rights institutions and civil society.

They also promoted the International Decade for People of African Descent, which runs from 2015 to 2024, and aims both to highlight the contribution of people of African descent to societies and strengthen national, regional and international cooperation to ensure the human rights of people of African descent are respected, protected and fulfilled (Learn more: http://www.un.org/en/events/africandescentdecade/).

The Working Group will present a report containing its findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2017.

(*) Check the Working Group’s full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20732&LangID=E

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. It is composed of five independent experts:  Mr. Ricardo A. Sunga III (the Philippines), current Chair-Rapporteur; Mr. Michal Balcerzak (Poland); Ms. Mireille Fanon Mendes-France (France), Mr. Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa) and Mr. Ahmed Reid (Jamaica). . Learn more, log on to:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/Pages/WGEPADIndex.aspx

The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page – Canada: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/CAIndex.aspx

For inquiries and media requests, please contact Ms. Christina Saunders (+41 22 9289197 or +41 79 444 3702 / csaunders@ohchr.org), Mr. Niraj Dawadi (+41 22 928 9151 / ndawadi@ohchr.org) or write to africandescent@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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