Racial Profiling of Women in Canada: Beyond a 'Gender-Free' Lens

AuthorTammy Landau
Racial Prof‌iling of Women in Canada
Beyond a “Gender-Free” Lens
tammy Landau*
It might well be argued that narratives with respect to racial prof‌iling
in Canada have had, to date, two overlapping histories. The f‌irst, which
generally emerged after the shooting by the Toronto Police of a num-
ber of unarmed Black men, can be dated from the 1970s until the early
1990s. The term “racial prof‌iling” was typically not in use; however, the
discourses linking race and cr ime clearly ref‌lect that as an underlying
narrative. While there was clear evidence to support the allegations of
racialized policing, there was little of‌f‌icial response to the incidents be-
yond the commissioning of reports on “police-minority relations.”1 This
period was followed by two decades of extensive community and schol-
arly work that documented the nature, extent, and, to a lesser degree,
community experiences of racial prof‌iling.2 While the issue still met
* Tammy Landau is cha ir and associate professor in the Dep artment of Criminolog y,
Ryerson University. I would li ke to extend a special thank s to Sumaio Ugas, the Af ri-
can-Can adian Legal Clinic , the Department of Crimi nology, Ryerson University, Susan
Gomez Baez, and Rola ndo Gomez Baez. I would especial ly like to acknowledge and
express my gratit ude to the women who shared their stories w ith me, often with great
emotion, always w ith complete dignity.
1 Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor G eneral, Policing in On tario for the Eighti es: Perceptions
and Ref‌lect ions: Report of the Tas k Force on the Racial and Ethn ic Implications of Polic e Hir-
ing, Training, Promotion and Career Development, by Reva G erstein (Toronto: Ministry
of Government Ser vices, 1980). Ontario, The Repor t of the Race Relation s and Policing
Task Fo rce, by Clare L ewis (Toronto: Task Force, 1989).
2 Maureen Brown, “I n Their Own Voices: Afric an Canadians in Toronto Share E xperien-
ces of Racial P rof‌iling” in Carol Tator & Fr ances Henry, eds, Racial Prof‌iling in Canada:
Tammy Landau
with considerable resistance from the police and political ranks, there
was nevertheless important work that focused on the institutional, legal,
and political contexts, which enable and sustain such practices.3 Since
the events of 9/11, the “browning” of racial prof‌iling has become a part
of that narrative, and with it a broader consideration of geographic and
social spaces in which these practices occur.4
While these histories have provided important frameworks for an-
alysis, they have, at the same time, limited our full consideration of the
nature and impact of the prof‌iling practices. In par ticular, embedded in
these histories is the assumption that the targets of racial prof‌iling are
exclusively men, and the agents of racial prof‌iling are primarily state sec-
urity workers. In this paper I will present data on women’s experiences of
racial prof‌iling in a variet y of arenas that clearly challenge both of those
assumptions. I argue that discourses on racial prof‌iling are typically
“gender-free,” as distinct from gender neutral. That is, they rarely address
gender at all, implying that gender does not matter when, in fact, it pro-
foundly af‌fects where and how the practices occur. Through an analysis
of women’s experiences, we will see that the contexts in which women
are racially prof‌iled are not largely limited to state security apparatus.
Indeed, they spill over into the everyday activities of women’s lives and
can be characterized as yet additional mechanisms of regulating women,
specif‌ically racialized women, who are, at times, distinct f rom the social,
political, and geographic regulation of racialized men.
Challeng ing the Myth of “A Few Bad Apple s” (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 200 6) 151
[Tator & Henry, eds, “A Few Bad Ap ples”]; Gabe My then, Sandra Walklat e, & Fatima Khan,
“I’m a Muslim, but I’m Not a Terrorist : Victimization, Ri sky Identities and the Performa nce
of Safety” (200 9) 49 British Journal of Criminology 736 [My then et al]; Jim Ranki n et al,
“Singled Out” Toronto Star (19 October, 2002), online: www.thestar.com/news/gta/known-
topolice/2002/10/19/singled-out.html; Charles Smith, The Dirt y War: The Making of the
Myth of Black Dan gerousness (Ott awa: Canadian Centre for Polic y Alternatives, 2014).
3 Commission on System ic Racism in the Ontario Cri minal Justice System, Re port of the
Commissi on on Systemic Raci sm in the Ontario Cr iminal Justic e System, by David Cole
& Margaret Git tens (Toronto: Government of Ontario, 1994); Fra nces Henry & Carol
Tator, Racial Prof‌i ling in Toronto: Discour ses of Domination , Mediation, and O pposition
(Toronto: Canadian R ace Relations Foundation, 2005); David M Tanov ich, The Colour
of Justice: Poli cing Race in Canad a (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2006 ).
4 Char u A Chandrasekhar t, “Flying Wh ile Brown: Federal Civil R ights Remedies to Post-
9/11 Airline Rac ial Prof‌iling of South As ians” (2003) 10:2 Asian Law Jo urnal 215; Karim
Ismaili, “Su rveying the Many F ronts of the War on Immigrants in Post- 9/11 U.S. Soci-
ety” (2010) 13:1 Contemporary Justice Review 71; Sherri Shar ma, “Beyond ‘Drivi ng While
Black’ and ‘Flyi ng While Brown’: Using Intersec tionality to Uncover the Gendered
Aspects of Rac ial Prof‌iling” (2003) 12 Colum bia Journal of Gen der & Law 275.

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