The issue of race and crime is one of the most controversial topics in Canada. This paper begins by exploring various theoretical models that have attempted to explain why some racial minority groups appear to be over-represented in official crime statistics. An effort is made to highlight the divergent policy implications associated with each model and how effective solutions must directly consider how race interacts with other identity markers--including gender, age, social class, religion, and immigration status. The paper then move s on to a discussion of facial discrimination within the justice system. It is argued that the intersection of race and lower class position may contribute to the apparent disadvantage many minorities face when dealing with the police, the courts, and corrections. The paper then turns to the issue of criminal victimisation. Emphasis is placed on the high rates of violent victimisation experienced by both minority men and women in this country and how researchers and governments should address the problem of hate crime. The next section of the paper examines how race may interact with both social class and linguistic ability to impede access to high quality justice services. The paper concludes with a detailed discussion of data needs and the many obstacles that researchers face when trying to conduct research on these issues in Canada. It is argued that the academic community must play more of a leadership role and help establish a research agenda that will facilitate the development of effective policy initiatives.
La question de la race et du crime est l'un des sujets les plus controverses au Canada. Ce document commence par explorer divers modeles theoriques qui ont tente d'expliquer pourquoi certains groupes de minorites raciales semblent etre surrepresentes dans les statistiques criminelles officielles. On s'efforce de souligner les implications politiques divergentes associees a chaque modele et comment des solutions efficaces doivent considerer directement la facon dont la race interagit avec d'autres marqueurs de l'identite, y compris le sexe, l'age, la classe sociale, la religion et le statut d'immigrant. Le document aborde ensuite la question de la discrimination raciale au sein du systeme judiciaire. On affirme que l'intersection de la race et du niveau inferieur de la classe sociale peut contribuer au desavantage apparent auquel plusieurs minorites font face lorsqu'ils ont a faire avec la police, les tribunaux et les services correctionnels. Le document traite ensuite de la question de la victimisation criminelle. L'auteur met l'accent sur les taux eleves de victimisation violente dont sont victimes les hommes et les femmes minoritaires dans ce pays et sur la facon dont Canadian Ethnic Studies/Etudes ethniques au Canada, XXXV, No. 3, 2003 les chercheurs et les gouvernements devraient s'attaquer au probleme des crimes motives par la haine. La prochaine section du document examine comment la race peut interagir avec la classe sociale et la capacite linguistique pour faire obstacle a l'acces a des services juridiques de haute qualite. Le document conclut avec une discussion detaillee sur les besoins en matiere de donnees et les nombreux obstacles auxquels se heurtent les chercheurs lorsqu'ils tentent de mener de la recherche sur ces questions au Canada. On soutient que la communaute universitaire doit jouer davantage un role de leader et aider a etablir un programme de recherche qui facilitera l'elaboration d'initiatives politiques efficaces.
In October, 2002, The Toronto Star began publication of a series of articles on the topic of race and crime (see Rankin et al., 2002a, 2002b, 2002c). The Star's analysis of arrest data from the Toronto Police Service revealed that black people are highly over-represented in certain offence categories--including drug possession, drug trafficking, and serious violence. The Star maintained that this pattern of overrepresentation is consistent with the idea that the Toronto police engage in racial profiling and that minority offenders are treated more harshly after arrest than their white counterparts (Rankin et al., 2002b; 2002c).
The articles created a firestorm of controversy. In response, criminal justice representatives vehemently denied all allegations of racial bias. Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino, for example, declared that: "There is no racism ... We don't look at, nor do we consider race or ethnicity, or any of that, as factors of how we dispose of cases, or individuals, or how we treat individuals" (The Toronto Star, 2002a:A14). Critics of the Star further argued that black people are over-represented in arrest statistics not because of differential treatment, but because they simply engage in much more criminal activity than people from other racial backgrounds. This perception was bolstered by a rash of black-on-black homicides that rocked the city later that year (see Christopoulos, 2002; Blizzard, 2002; Worthington, 2002; Rankin et al., 2002c, 2002d; Goldstein, 2002). Although the Star series once again brought the issue of race, crime, and criminal justice into the public spotlight, it should be stressed that the importance of this topic is not confined to the Toronto area. Indeed, over the past half century, similar "race/crime" controversies have emerged with respect to the treatment of black people in Nova Scotia and Quebec, the treatment of Asians and South Asians in British Columbia, and the treatment of aboriginal people throughout the country (see reviews in La Prairie, 2004; Wortley and McCalla, 2004; Chan and Mirchani, 2002; Hylton, 2002; Henry and Tator, 2000).
A FOCUS ON INTERSECTIONS
Despite numerous government inquiries (see, for example, Commission on Systemic Racism, 1995), debate continues to rage in Canada over whether or not some racial/ ethnic groups are more involved in crime than others, whether or not there is systemic discrimination within the justice system, and whether or not people from all ethnic backgrounds have equal access to justice services. Unfortunately, compared to the United States and Europe, relatively few Canadian studies have directly addressed the complex, inter-related issues of race, crime, and criminal justice (see Bowling and Phillips, 2002; Mauer, 1999; Roberts and Doob, 1997; Commission on Systemic Racism, 1995). Furthermore, the little research that has been conducted has tended to focus on race in isolation--without considering the simultaneous impact of other socially relevant variables. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to briefly review the limited Canadian research on race, crime, and criminal justice and highlight that any understanding of this issue must explicitly focus on how race intersects with other important identity markers--including social class, gender, age, immigration status, religion, language, and sexual orientation. Although the focus is on intersections, it should be stressed that the discussion provided below is not organised by intersections. Rather, the paper is divided into four broad topic areas within criminology: 1) criminal offending; 2) bias within the justice system; 3) victimisation; and 4) access to justice. Important intersections between race and other identity markers are discussed within each of these broad topic areas. The paper concludes with a discussion of important data needs and the potential obstacles Canadian researchers face when trying to conduct research in this area.
INTERSECTIONS AND CRIMINAL OFFENDING
International research has consistently revealed that, along with age and gender, race is one of the strongest correlates of criminal activity (Tonry, 1995; Walker et al., 1996; Hawkins, 1996). However, due to an informal ban on the release of race-based crime statistics in Canada, very little is known about the nature of the race-crime relationship in this country (see Roberts, 2002; Wortley, 1999; Yeager, 1996). Nonetheless, the sparse Canadian data that is available does suggest that some racial groups (i.e., Aboriginals and Blacks) are over-represented in both arrest and prison statistics, while others (i.e., Asians and South Asians) appear to be significantly under-represented. (1) For example, although Aboriginals represent only 3.9 percent of the Canadian population, they represent 14.5 percent of those held in federal penitentiaries (see Wortley, 1999). Similarly, while black people make up only 2 percent of the Canadian population, they represent over 6 percent of our federal prison population. Overall, the federal incarceration rate for aboriginal (185 per 100,000) and black Canadians (146 per 100,000) is many times higher than the rate for Whites (42 per 100,000) and Asians (16 per 100,000). Significantly, the racial disparities revealed by these Canadian incarceration statistics are very similar to those found in American prison data (Tonry, 1995; Mauer, 1999).
Unfortunately, such aggregate statistics are rather limited and produce many more questions than they answer. What racial/ethnic groups are most--and least--involved in crime? What types of crimes are racial minorities most likely to be involved with? Do racial patterns of criminal behaviour vary over time and place? Perhaps the most important question involves causality: Why do some racial groups appear to be more involved in criminal activity than others? First, I strongly believe that we need to ignore all genetic theories of crime which purport to explain any observed relationship between race and crime (see Rushton, 1988). Such overtly racist theories have been thoroughly discredited by the academic …