Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lawyers Appeal of Racial Profiling Judicial Review Decision to be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal: C55734 Pieters and Noble v. Peel Law Association

For Immediate Release

December 13, 2012

Lawyers Appeal of Racial Profiling Judicial Review Decision to be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal: C55734 Pieters and Noble v. Peel Law Association

Date: Tuesday December 18, 2012

Time: 10:30 a.m.

Place: Courtroom One, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto

On May 16, 2008, Lawyers Selwyn Pieters and Brian Noble attended with other lawyers representing the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Peel Regional Police and Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board at the Ontario Court of Justice at the Brampton Courthouse to argue a production motion in F. (K.) v. Peel Regional Police Services Board (2008), 2008 CarswellOnt 5041, 2008 ONCJ 382, a racial profiling case involving Peel Police and the School Board. During the break in proceedings all of the parties entered the Peel Law Association Lounge to await recall by the Applications Judge.

Ms. Melissa Firth, who is a librarian/administrator with the Peel Law Association, approached Mr. Pieters, Mr. Noble and Mr. Paul Walrond (Pieters student) demanding that they identify themselves in the Brampton Courthouse’s Lawyer’s Lounge. Mr. Pieters and Mr. Walrond are Black men who have their hair in the dreadlocked hairstyle. All were dressed in business suits but not gowned as gowning is not required in the Ontario Court of Justice.

The policy of the lounge and library is only lawyers and law students are permitted to use the facilities, paralegals and members of the public are not. There were a number of other individuals in the lounge who had been unknown to the librarian at the time, including two white women (the lawyer and a Human Resources Manager from Peel Police), a racialized man who self-identified as South Asian (lawyer for the Human Rights Commission). These individuals were neither questioned nor asked to produce their identification. [1] The incident was unnecessary and humiliating. The Law Association and Ms. Firth were accused of racial profiling.

 The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that Pieters and Noble rights to be free from racial discrimination were violated under the Human Rights Code in that their race and colour were factors which led to Ms. Firth’s decision to question them and affected the manner in which she questioned and interacted with them. It ordered the Peel Law Association to pay compensation of $2000.00 respectively. The Divisional Court overturned that decision ordering Pieters and Noble to pay $20,000.00 in legal costs to the Peel Law Association and Ms. Firth.

Whilst racial profiling against African Canadians, Aboriginals and other racial minorities in the provision of goods, services and facilities is widespread and pervasive, there is a dearth of racial profiling litigation in Canada.

This case is one of the first racial profiling cases that does not involved the police or other law enforcement agents or officials to be heard by the Court of Appeal.

This is a case where due to the Applicants’ status as human rights litigators they were able to identify, name, challenge and litigate racial profiling in the context of their positions as lawyers being treated differently based on race and colour.

The Court of Appeal decision in this case will be very important to the emerging jurisprudence on racial profiling from which lawyers and other Black professional are not immuned: “The legal profession has made no concerted effort to rid itself of the racism inherent in the practice.  As the evidence in this case illustrates, racialized lawyers continue to face barriers not experienced by their colleagues.” Benchers Clayton Ruby and Constance Backhouse writing in the recent Law Society of Upper Canada, Appeal Panel decision of Law Society of Upper Canada v. Selwyn Milan McSween, 2012 ONLSAP 3.
There are four intervenors arguing in this case:
Ontario Human Rights Commission,
Just Society
South Asian Law Association and
B'Nai Brith Canada

For more information, please contact:

Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public
416    601   6806
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Pieters v. Peel Law Association, 2010 HRTO 2411 (CanLII)2010-12-03
Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario — Ontario
lounge — personal — identification — library — racially profiled

Peel Law Association v. Pieters, 2012 ONSC 1048 (CanLII)2012-02-13
Divisional Court — Ontario
lounge — prima facie case of discrimination — library — complainants — differential treatment

Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A. (Toronto), LL.B. (Osgoode), L.E.C. (U.W.I). Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario). Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana and Republic of Trinidad and Tobago). A significant portion of Selwyn's work involves representation of persons in racial discrimination / harassment / profiling cases in the Federal and Provincial Courts and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Selwyn has appeared at all levels of courts, including the Ontario Court of Appeal in Freeman-Maloy v. Marsden 267 D.L.R. (4th) 37, 208 O.A.C. 307 (C.A.); Bangoura v. Washington Post(2005) 202 O.A.C. 76, (2005) 17 C.P.C. (6th) 30 (Ont.C.A.), the Federal Court of Appeal in The Honourable Sinclair Stevens v. The Conservative Party of Canada, [2005] F.C.J. No. 1890, 2005 FCA 383 and Supreme Court of Canada in Attorney General of Ontario v. Michael J. Fraser, et al., 2011 SCC 20. His current cases include the competing rights case of Taylor-Baptistev. Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 2012 HRTO 1393 that is at the reconsideration stage at the HRTO; Roachet al. v. Canada 2012 CarswellOnt 7799, 2012 ONSC 352 (ON S.C.) which is a constitutional challenge to the oath in the Citizenship Act. Selwyn is also acting as co-counsel for the families of three deceased persons killed during a civil demonstration in Linden, Guyana.

[1] Pieters had attended that lounge numerous times prior to 2008 including while acting as counsel in high profile cases such as the manslaughter and  criminal negligence causing death case of R. v. Cox and Klass 2005 CarswellOnt 6313 (Ont. CJ.) and the firearms case of R. v. Egonu 2007 CarswellOnt 5700 (SCJ).

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