The Presumption of Racism (Originally Published in the Spectrum Newspaper)

In Opinion, Writing (all kinds) on September 12, 2016 at 3:00 AM

Sometimes it takes something like a report to show how far Canada has come to effectively deal with racism. The Ontario Human Rights Commission hired Canadian law student Donna Young to do a report focusing on collecting evidence of prejudice on the part of the Commission’s staff. The evidence was used to show how biased assumptions affect the decisions of cases brought to the Commission. This report that was completed last October has Deputy Liberal leader Sean Conway and Progressive Conservative leader Mike Harris attacking Premier Bob Rae about its conclusions.

The report suggests that people accused of racial discrimination should be presumed guilty at the investigation stage of examining the case. Young’s report explains that the legal presumption of innocence is inappropriate at the investigation stages of race discrimination, because investigation is not a legal process. Conway and Harris want Rae to disown the report and to fire Commission chairperson Rosemary Brown. These politicians are making noise over a dead issue.

Young’s report is a solution to an attitude at the Commission that racism is incidental, and that the accused of racial discrimination cases are innocent. Young encourages the Commission to recognize that racism is a regular, pervasive occurrence, so that when cases dealing with racial discrimination come up, they should be taken seriously.

If racism weren’t a regular part of Canadian life, there would be no such thing as employment equity because we wouldn’t need it. There would be no such thing as hate and propaganda laws. There would be no such thing as anti-racist and ethno cultural education policy. There would be no such as the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Young’s report suggests racial discrimination cases should be treated seriously because such things happen all the time. In other areas of law, this concept is accepted. Take last year’s rape shield law, for instance. The Bill states that those accused of rape must prove their innocence, rather than the victim having to prove their guilt. This is the same kind of “reversal of proof” which Young suggests should be used in racial discrimination cases. –

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