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Race and Ethnic Origin

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Exterior of Toronto East Detention Centre, the prison where Michael McKinnon worked. (Maureen Morin, 2020)

Michael McKinnon v. Ontario Correctional Services

On November 29, 1988, Michael McKinnon, a Canadian of Aboriginal descent and an employee of the Toronto East Detention Centre, voiced his concern to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) regarding constant racial taunts and slurs being levied at him by his co-workers following his Cree wedding. After conducting an investigation, the OHRC found the detention center to be “redolent with racism”. It ordered the Ministry of Corrections to provide anti-racism training for its staff, to award McKinnon and his wife (a fellow employee) the promotions they had been denied, and to move McKinnon’s supervisor to a different prison. Additionally, his four supervisors were ordered to pay McKinnon a total of $20,000 in damages. Unfortunately, these reparations failed to stop the abuse and McKinnon returned to the Commission on two more occasions. Again the OHRC upheld his complaints, and again its orders were defied by the Toronto East Detention Centre.

After 23 years and at the age of 55, McKinnon decided he could not continue to fight and settled his case out of court in 2011. Although both the OHRC and the government tout the resolution of this case as a success, McKinnon has stated that he feels betrayed by the government for allowing this to continue to happen. As part of the settlement, the Ministry agreed to “undertake and continue a number of actions focused on enhancing accountability, recruitment and training with respect to Aboriginal employees.”

Although McKinnon’s battle is now over, has justice been achieved?

Ex-corrections officer settles with Ontario after decades-long fight over racist taunts

Mark Blackburn, "Ex-corrections officer settles with Ontario after decades-long fight over racist taunts," APTN National News. Added August 28, 2011

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Boston Celtics’ Dee Brown shows his amazing form at the start of the 3-on-3 basketball competition at Greenwood Raceway. (Dick Loek, 1991, Toronto Star Photo Archives)

Regina. v. Decovan Brown

On November 1, 1999, DeCovan ‘Dee’ Brown, a former professional basketball player, was stopped and arrested by police for driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. During the trial the arresting officer claimed that he had pulled Brown over for speeding. Brown, on the other hand, argued that he was pulled over because he was a black man driving an expensive car. The defense council’s request for Brown’s breathalyzer results to be excluded because they were obtained through racial profiling was dismissed by Judge David Fairgrieve.

Brown’s subsequent appeal was allowed, during which Superior Court Judge Brian Trafford held that Judge Fairgrieve’s conduct gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and ordered a new trial. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld this decision and in doing so became the first appellate court to acknowledge the existence of racial profiling by police.

Brown pleaded guilty to impaired driving, ending a case in which an appeals court had ruled his arrest by Toronto police was due to racial profiling. The plea, entered by Brown's lawyer, resulted in a $440 fine.

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Race and Ethnic Origin