Hidden Intersections: Research on Race, Crime, and Criminal Justice in Canada

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ABSTRACT/RESUME

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.

INTRODUCTION

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. …