Ontario Provincial Police discriminated against migrant workers in 2013 sexual assault investigation: HRTO
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that the provincial police discriminated against migrant workers because of their race when they took a DNA sample as part of a investigation into a sexual assault in 2013.
In a decision released earlier this week, the court said OPP officers took DNA samples from 96 seasonal workers in rural Bayham, Ontario, although many did not match. not remotely to a description of the suspect, other than the fact that they were all black or brown migrant farm workers.
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HRTO adjudicator Marla Burstyn wrote that although the testing was done on a voluntary basis, police failed to consider the vulnerabilities of the highly racialized community and the power imbalances that might make them feel obliged to comply.
Shane Martinez, the lawyer representing migrant farmworkers, says the ruling is the first of its kind to analyze a human rights violation in the context of a DNA scan, as well as the first to examine interactions between migrant agricultural workers and the police through a human rights investigation. lens.
Patricia DeGuire, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission who acted as an intervener in the case, says migrant workers are among the most vulnerable workers in the province and the agency is pleased of the court’s decision due to historical challenges establishing race-based cases.
The Ontario Provincial Police say they are aware of the decision and are currently reviewing it, but it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.
Burstyn found that the officers’ conduct during the search was discriminatory on the basis of « race, color and place of origin », violating the Human Rights Code.
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The ruling awarded $7,500 in compensation to Leon Logan, the migrant workers’ main plaintiff. A press release from a migrant worker advocacy group says the parties have reached an agreement to award the same compensation to the other 53 applicants, which would result in potential damages of $405,000.
A hearing will be scheduled to deal with public interest remedies, where migrant workers will seek an order that their DNA samples be destroyed and to demand that the OPP develop a policy ensuring that DNA samples comply with the Human Rights Code.
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