Human rights hearing on allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers caught in mass DNA sweep begins

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario will hear Monday from migrant employees who allege they had been racially focused by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) as part of a DNA sweep in connection to a 2013 sexual attack investigation.

The 54 applicants argue that the indiscriminate means by which the DNA sweep was performed violated their rights beneath Ontario’s Human Rights Code. 

The OPP swabbed 96 Black and brown migrant farm staff from most commonly Caribbean nations engaged on a minimum of 5 farms in Elgin County, in southwestern Ontario, in 2013 as officers searched for a suspect in a sexual assault. 

But human rights legal professional Shane Martínez, who is representing the migrant staff pro bono, says such a lot workers who were swabbed didn’t have compatibility the bodily description of the suspect aside from the color of their pores and skin.

“Workers were West Indian, employees were black from Jamaica, staff with long dreadlocks, ones who had been bald — one employee had gold enamel,” Martínez mentioned. “They were as diverse a group as it’s essential probably believe.”

“when they tried to supply explanations as to where they were they usually supplied alibis, the police completely disregarded those and wanted not anything greater than to assemble their DNA on account of how they looked.”

Human rights hearing on allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers caught in mass DNA sweep begins

many of the migrant employees stuck up in the DNA sweep say they felt centered and humiliated by way of the enjoy, an advocacy staff says. (Submitted via Justicia for Migrant Workers)

The suspect, in the meantime, used to be defined as among 5-10 and six feet tall, black, with no facial hair and a low voice that might have a Jamaican accessory. 

The sexual assault survivor told police her attacker used to be muscular and doubtless in his mid-to-past due 20s. She stated she used to be confident the wrongdoer was a migrant worker and believed she’d noticed him near her home in rural southwestern Ontario.

‘I didn’t want to possibility my livelihood’

Dwayne Henry recalls being asked to supply a DNA swab eight years in the past. 

Hailing from Jamaica, Henry says even as he used to be anxious, he to begin with felt confident when the police approached him. 

“We have been scared, however understanding this used to be Canada, this was once the first world, i assumed i was doing one thing holding with the regulation,” stated Henry. “we all know what police can do again in our united states.”

OPP accused of racially profiling Caribbean migrant staff

Henry, who now lives in Stratford, Ont., said he was once with his female friend at the time of the assault and had dreadlocks that didn’t fit the suspect’s description. But he says that made no distinction within the investigation.

Now that he’s an enduring resident, Henry says he may just clearly see that each his organization and the police confused him to comply.

“i feel at that time they had been taking good thing about us just because we were migrant staff,” said Henry. “We have been scared that we were going to be sent back house. that is the place where we are the breadwinner for our family, you understand?”

Henry says the research keeps to observe him and his recognition, even back in his house country. That Is why he became a part of the human rights claim.

“To this day, it still has a dent in my lifestyles.”

Samples did not match DNA from scene

Police may later tell an unbiased evaluation into what took place in 2013 that as a result of the seasonal agricultural employee program, they felt that they had to behave rapid to seek out the perpetrator earlier than he left the rustic. 

On Nov. 30, 2013, Henry Cooper, a migrant farm worker from Trinidad and Tobago used to be arrested after suspicions round his unwillingness to provide a DNA swab and conversations together with his business enterprise resulted in the OPP surveilling him in hopes of getting a discarded pattern of his DNA.

He ultimately pleaded in charge to sexual attack with a weapon, forcible confinement and uttering demise threats and was once sentenced to seven years in prison.  

Human rights hearing on allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers caught in mass DNA sweep begins

Gerry McNeilly, seen right here in 2012, was the former head of Ontario’s Unbiased Police Review Director. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press)

In 2016, the Place Of Business of the Impartial Police Assessment Director (OIPRD) launched its report in keeping with a complaint put forth by means of Justicia for Migrant Staff, a volunteer-run collective that advocates for the rights of migrant workers. 

at least ELEVEN other stakeholders made submissions to be thought to be through the review, together with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ontario Human Rights Fee.

The report found that even as the research failed to “acknowledge the precise vulnerabilities of the migrant employee community targeted by way of the DNA canvass,” it was once now not encouraged through racial prejudice.

It also questioned whether or not the “is of the same opinion received have been in point of fact informed and voluntary.”

In his document, Gerry McNeilly, the police assessment director on the time, really useful the OPP adopt a coverage on canvassing for DNA that might also be used by different police services and products. 

Ontario farmer calls on government to step up migrant workers’ rights

While requested if the OPP had applied this recommendation — and the record’s six others, which included coaching for officers on DNA canvassing and communication surrounding the gathering and destruction of DNA — OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson said it “reviewed the report’s contents and maintains to deal with the recommendations that were made in the OIPRD overview.”

While pressed about what that supposed, he responded as follows: “any more remark would be beside the point in order to preserve the integrity of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario listening to.”

Human rights hearing on allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers caught in mass DNA sweep begins

one among the migrant workers, Dwayne Henry, says he wants to save you this experience from going down to anyone else. (Submitted through Justice for Migrant Staff)

Martínez says despite acknowledgement of the OPP’s shortcomings, the unbiased police evaluation did not match the standards of a human rights tribunal in figuring out racial discrimination — which is one among the reasons the workers moved beforehand with their declare. 

All of the officials interviewed via the independent police overview director said that they had instructed the migrant workers that their determination to participate within the DNA swabbing used to be voluntary — and that the verdict can be stored personal from their employers in order to not impact their task safety.

but the document discovered the officials didn’t do that.

After learning that a few workers had refused to do the DNA check, the principle business enterprise “made the decision that none of those males could be invited back to paintings for our corporate within the future unless they consented to take the test,” the file found.  

Case delayed for years

the application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario was once filed in 2015. 

At The Same Time As the COVID-19 pandemic created a few lengthen in getting to a hearing, Martínez alleges the OPP additionally tried to have the case quashed. 

Human rights hearing on allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers caught in mass DNA sweep begins

Human rights attorney Shane Martínez is representing the migrant staff at the tribunal listening to. (Shane Martínez/Twitter)

Martínez says the OPP attempted to have the application dismissed because it was filed two years after the DNA swab rather than throughout the conventional one-12 months deadline.

But he said a pre-tribunal listening to discovered that the submitting prolong was once “sustained in good faith” and it noted that the candidates are part of a susceptible inhabitants. 

a category-action lawsuit on behalf of any individual whose DNA was once taken by the OPP in relation to those types of investigations has also been qualified.

The lawsuit alleges the Centre of Forensic Sciences has retained DNA profiles in a database, even though the fabric accrued didn’t match that of the suspect within the prison research.

Even If the 2016 independent police assessment states that each one of the migrant staff’ samples had been destroyed in 2014, a spokesperson for Justicia for Migrant Employees says the employees should not have religion the samples and their profiles are gone — and had been by no means made aware their DNA profiles would be entered into a database.  

“These are popular issues of privateness, of privateness infringement, of racial injustice that i believe all people in the neighborhood want to be anxious about,” said Chris Ramsaroop. this is a systemic follow and policing that is incorrect.”

Combating for popularity

in keeping with Justicia for Migrant Workers, the case is the primary human rights listening to of its type in Canada to examine allegations of systemic racial profiling and discrimination by way of the police of migrant farm workers. 

“a lot of the employees desired to just principally positioned this incident prior them, and there have been different employees who had been still fearful of repatriation,” Ramsaroop mentioned. “however the proven fact that we had 54 of the 96 employees take part on this i believe is exceptional. This speaks to the level of outrage that exists inside of this neighborhood.”

Henry says he is combating for reputation, compensation and justice in order that folks do not need to go thru something equivalent.

“we are taking a stand to give protection to the rights of migrant workers who are coming,” Henry mentioned. “I’m doing this not just as a result of us; I Am doing this for other migrant employees additionally.”

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