Racial Justice: Dignity and Respect

In too many ways, our criminal justice system upholds the oppression of racialized communities, while fostering Islamophobia, anti-black racism, and violence towards Indigenous peoples.

We see racial targeting in our police system: carding practices harass people of colour, and Indigenous persons are incarcerated at disproportionately high rates for non-violent crimes. Muslims are racially profiled at the border, and subjected to unconstitutional ‘no-fly’ lists. Migrant workers are prevented from seeking citizenship. Police and correctional agents are unaccountable to communities for human rights abuses.

This is a result of centuries of colonization and systemic racism in our institutions, and cannot be addressed through a single policy.

Activists and advocates have said time and time again that ending the practise of carding through legislation will not end institutional discrimination – that it must be part of a comprehensive commitment to justice reform on multiple levels, recognizing the oppressions faced by racialized communities. We’ve listened, and we understand that commitment to action must be commitment to comprehensive action.

To do this, the federal government must work with communities, and listen to and believe persons of colour when they share their experiences. Further, we need to act to address intersecting oppressions at once;  poverty, racial discrimination, violence against women, and trans erasure, are all forms of oppression that increase vulnerability and decrease trust in our society and our institutions.

Immediately institute the right to citizenship for all migrant workers, and for all Temporary Foreign workers. If you work in Canada, you deserve access to citizenship. The practise of exploiting migrant workers is discriminatory and is a symptom of entrenched racism. An NDP government would extend access to citizenship immediately for all migrant and temporary foreign workers currently living in Canada and would restructure our immigration and refugee system so that anyone who comes to Canada to live has a path to citizenship.

Immediately repeal Bill C-51, restoring the fundamental freedoms of every single Canadian, ending the atmosphere of fear, and recommitting to our open society. Bill C-51 has given the government extraordinary power to survey and target persons of colour and racialized activists. The Liberals have failed to deliver on their promise to put an end to the politics of fear and division, but have gone even further by creating a new office of radicalization prevention and community engagement under the Office of Public Safety, with little evidence of community engagement. We will do what the Liberals refused to do, and repeal Harper’s spying bill and protect our personal liberties.

Immediately end the practice of carding on a federal level by the RCMP and ensure provinces and territories end carding practices within local police forces. Carding is a form of documenting racialized and vulnerable persons without just cause or suspicion of a crime. The practice of carding violates Section 9 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, erodes the relationship between communities and police, and fundamentally violates dignity and personal freedoms. Carding is a racially motivated practise that does nothing to improve our safety, but simply disengages police from communities while creating mistrust. Further, this practise economically disenfranchise already vulnerable people, making it harder for them to access safe housing, good jobs and justice. As leader of Canada’s NDP, I will end this discriminatory practise on the federal level and work with all levels of government to end carding on a local level.

Remove police access to the carding data base, and allow community organizations working to end racial targeting to access the existing database for research purposes and statistical evidence gathering.

Implement TRC calls to action by expanding practices of restorative justice within the justice system.  Restorative justice is an alternative to criminal justice that focuses on rehabilitation through community based reconciliation. Indigenous peoples, and in particular Indigenous women, are vastly overrepresented in our prison system. Working towards the justice model set forward by the TRC will lower the rates of incarceration that unjustly faces indigenous communities. In addition to this, we will explore the tools available to the federal government and with work with the provinces and territories to implement Recommendation 62 from the call to action of the TRC within the justice system.

Strengthen transparency and accountability practices for the RCMP by creating an independent special investigative office mandated to review reports of racial and other discriminatory behaviour, and inform disciplinary action, including criminal prosecution. Internal investigations rarely lead to justice. A truly independent office would ensure that police are held accountable when failing to act fairly and without prejudice.

Strengthen the power of the MMIW Inquiry to investigate police misconduct. An NDP government under my leadership would immediately revise the Terms of Reference of the Commission mandate to explicitly include the right to investigate all relevant Federal, Provincial and Municipal police forces as well as ensure that the commission has the right to investigate specific cases and that police have a legal responsibility to provide all evidence under court order. The inquiry would also provide judicial authority to the commission to investigate all evidence of policing misconduct and the inadequate protection of Indigenous women and girls.

Holding police forces accountable by expanding the mandate of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to address instances of racial discrimination or sexual violence due to policing. Reviews of misconduct would not only include officials from the CHRC but would also include participatory civilian oversight boards in order to share power with local communities.

Mandating racial justice training for all police by adopting the Campaign Zero policy recommendations regarding police training and biases. We would work with provinces to ensure this becomes part of local police mandates as well.

Protect vulnerable people from abuse in prison by acting on recommendations from the Office of the Correctional Investigator. I will immediately appoint a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections, bring in new standards of care protecting the rights of transgender people; and develop culturally appropriate and gender specific assessment tools, founded on Gladue principles, to be used with male and female Indigenous offenders. As well, an NDP government under my leadership will conduct a review the gaps and barriers to increase participation of Elders in federal corrections and will publicly release its recommendations.

Committing to investing in in-prison education and training as well as financial support for young people just getting out of prison so they can have fair access to an education, and the opportunity to change their lives. We know that that education empowers rehabilitation. By offering offenders educational programs we can reduce the number of reoffenders and drastically lessen the prison population.

Applying labour laws to prisons to protect all workers, prevent the exploitation of vulnerable prison labourers, and to ensure that prisons aren’t being used for profit.

Immediately release and pardon people solely convicted of marijuana possession and consumption in accordance with the legalization of recreational marijuana. No one should be held in prison or be marked with a criminal record for something we have collectively decided is no longer a crime. The “war on drugs” in Canada has targeted racialized persons. Since 2015, more than 15 000 people have faced convictions for consumption and possession – with persons of colour disproportionately affected. It is time for this practise to not only end, but for the harm to be reversed.

Banning employers from asking about criminal records from convictions of certain non-violent crimes. Having a criminal record in many cases highly lessens one’s ability to secure employment. For those with minor offences, this is a major problem and has a large impact on creating a string of repeat offenders. Further, as racial minorities are highly overrepresented in our prison system, they are disproportionately affected by this issue. This affects eligibility for housing, public programming, education, licenses, loans, employment, and other services. By banning employers from asking about criminal records from convictions of certain non-violent crimes, we are avoiding the possibility of minor offenders possibly becoming repeat offenders and encourage healthier communities.   

End racial targeting at border crossings. The practise of carding and racial profiling extends to ports of entry. Under an NDP government I will broaden the investigative office to include reports of racialized policing at port of entry and allow individuals to choose and consent to having their additional border crossing screening filmed and publicly available for legal review.

Repeal the safe third country agreement for the United States while it continues Islamophobic practises and directly oppresses folks who have entered the United States as a safe haven. Canada has been a leader in welcoming all who flee persecution from their home country – and that is something we must continue in the wake of growing Islamophobia. This must be a safe place for all communities and all persons.

Repeal the Secure Air Travel Act and end the practice of “no-fly” lists. Under the Harper and Trudeau governments, Canada has introduced and expanded the use of “no-fly” lists, preventing individuals from boarding airplanes based on secretive information and without adequate recourse. The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and the BC Civil Liberties Association have called the program unconstitutional, warning that it does not improve travel safety, but that it tramples on civil rights: examples include racial profiling targeting Muslim and other racialized communities, sharing information with U.S. agencies, cases of mistaken identities, and even targeting children. It is not enough to reform this program; we will abolish the use of no-fly lists and rely on existing criminal law to deal with genuine security threats.