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Arar case cited as tip of iceberg: racial profiling

Police need to be held accountable, Mc Gill conference told

Max Harrold, Montreal Gazette, 28 Sept 06


The Maher Arar case proves racial and ethnic profiling is

alive and well in Canada, a conference at Mc Gill University's Law

School was told last night.


Arar was fingered as a terrorist first and foremost because of his

ethnicity, said David Tanovich, an associate professor of law at the

University of Windsor and a former clerk of the Supreme Court of



U.S. authorities arrested Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, in

New York in September 2002 after a tip by the RCMP. The


36-year-old telecommunications engineer was then deported to Syria,

where he was tortured into making false confessions of terrorist

links, according to a report released on Sept. 18.


Dennis O'Connor, associate chief justice of Ontario, concluded

after a public inquiry that the RCMP passed erroneous information to

U.S. officials that suggested Arar and his wife,


Monia Mazigh, were Islamic extremists with ties to the Al-Qa'ida

terrorist network.


But Arar's case is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to

racial profiling, Tanovich contended at the conference, co-sponsored

by the Mc Gill Black Law Students Association and the Centre for

Research-Action on Race Relations.


The RCMP "make profiles of possible terrorists for their


he said.


"Race is a dominant factor they look for."


Local and provincial police forces rely on the Mounties' Criminal

Intelligence Service reports for direction when hunting for

criminals, Tanovich noted.


The reports often link specific non-white communities to criminal

trends, he said.


Two years ago, the Alberta bureau of the service warned "the

*aboriginal* baby boom will have a profound impact on future crime

levels," Tanovich said.


Montreal police regularly stop and search people mainly because

they have dark skin, Michele Turenne, a lawyer for the Quebec Human

Rights Commission, told the conference.


"An order to investigate an incident goes out over the (police)

radio," Turenne said. " 'Look for a black man in his 20s,' it


So they stop any black male in the area.


"Police must learn to be more specific in their



Marie-Celie Agnant, founder of Mothers United Against Racism, said

last night that her painful experience with Montreal police was

still fresh four years after her son, Camilo Roumer, was wrongfully

arrested and beaten while detained.


"They told him, 'Your mother is going to regret the day she gave

birth to you,' " Agnant said.


Tanovich said provincial and federal governments should legislate

clear definitions of racial bias in police procedure. He also urged

police forces to track the race of those they arrest and make the

records available to the public.


Racial data on suspects are collected by many police in the United

States and Britain, he said.


"Police need to be accountable," Tanovich said.


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