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Earlier this week the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Ontario Provincial Police (“OPP”) discriminated against a migrant worker when they conducted a DNA sweep that targeted him and all other migrant workers in the area. When the DNA sweep originally occurred, in 2013, CCLA was quick to register its concerns, providing a public statement and later detailed submissions to a systemic inquiry into police DNA collection practices.

The ruling released earlier this week affirms CCLA’s position from the outset: that the police DNA canvass, which targeted people for an intrusive police search solely based on race and immigration status, regardless of whether they matched any of the other aspects of the reliable and detailed suspect description, was discriminatory. The privacy and human rights violations that took place here were particularly acute due to the unique vulnerability of the targeted population. As recognized in the judgment, migrant farmworkers are a highly vulnerable racialized community and face significant barriers to asserting their rights. Their ability to stay in Canada is subject to the whims of their employers, who can dismiss them without cause and trigger their deportation at any time. They also frequently come from poor households and have low levels of education. The human rights tribunal found that the police, who got the migrant workers’ employers to help with the DNA canvass, “did not adequately take the migrant workers’ vulnerabilities when requesting their DNA on a voluntary basis”. As CCLA has said on several occasions, this type of police practice is inherently coercive – a concern that is significantly heightened in a context like this one.

You can read CCLA’s previous submissions related to this DNA sweep here.

Read the full decision of the Human Rights Tribunal here.

About the Canadian Civil Liberties Association

The CCLA is an independent, non-profit organization with supporters from across the country. Founded in 1964, the CCLA is a national human rights organization committed to defending the rights, dignity, safety, and freedoms of all people in Canada.

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