Racial and Ethnic Profiling: Statutory Discretion, Constitutional Remedies and Democratic Accountability
Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol. 41, pp. 1-36, 2003
35 Pages Posted: 28 May 2008 Last revised: 11 Sep 2017
Date Written: 2003
Given the prominence of the issue of racial, ethnic, and religious profiling in the public debate about terrorism, it is significant that Canada's two legislative responses to September 11 - the Anti-terrorism Act and the proposed Public Safety Act - are silent on the issue, neither explicitly authorizing profiling nor expressly banning it. In this article, we focus on the constitutional remedies available for profiling in the face of these statutory silences, and the implication that the choice of remedies holds for both remedial efficacy and democratic accountability. Contrary to the position held by the majority of the Supreme Court in Little Sisters v. Canada, we argue that if profiling were to take place pursuant to an exercise of statutory discretion, the statute itself should be constitutionally challenged and struck down because the infringement of the right to equality is not "prescribed by law." The result would be to force the issue of profiling back onto the legislative and democratic agenda. By contrast, focusing the challenge on the exercise of discretion would trigger remedies under section 24 that would be largely ineffective and retrospective, which would not trigger democratic debate.
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