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Crimes of Colour

Crimes of Colour: Racialization and the Criminal Justice System in Canada

Wendy Chan
Kiran Mirchandani
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 221
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  • Book Info
    Crimes of Colour
    Book Description:

    "The contributors do not mince words: racism is rife in the criminal justice system. They offer careful and courageous scholarship to support their claims and we would do well to heed them." - Sherene Razack, University of Toronto

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0250-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 7-8)
    Wendy Chan and Kiran Mirchandani
  4. 1 From Race and Crime to Racialization and Criminalization
    (pp. 9-22)

    In the fall of 1999, a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to enforce an Aboriginal treaty right to catch fish out of season for subsistence and to earn a “moderate income” gave rise to what was widely reported as an “East Coast Fish War.” In the midst of the controversy, a letter by Michelle Hill (of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Deseronto) was published in theToronto Star(9 Oct. 1999). She wrote: “Once again, The Star reports with a slant an incident involving the aboriginal community of this country. It is a shame when newsworthy events are printed...


    • 2 Settler Capitalism and the Construction of Immigrants and “Indians” as Racialized Others
      (pp. 25-44)

      Settler capitalist societies like Canada were formed through the interrelated processes of colonization and repopulation through large-scale immigration (Denoon, 1983; Stasiulis and Yuval-Davis, 1995). In Canada, colonization and population-through-immigration historically involved at least three distinct contact situations. First, European colonizers confronted existing indigenous societies. The relationships that were established between Europeans and Aboriginal peoples were multifaceted and depended in part on the material interests of the respective parties. During the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries, indigenous peoples were sought as military allies and were incorporated into various aspects of the commercial fur trade. By the mid-nineteenth century,...

    • 3 Defining Sexual Promiscuity: “Race,” Gender, and Class in the Operation of Ontario’s Female Refuges Act, 1930-1960
      (pp. 45-64)

      In 1942 an 18-year-old dishwasher, Anna, from Kenora, was put on a train to Toronto by the police to be transported to the Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Females for a period of one to two years. Removal from this northern community came after charges had been laid against her under the Female Refuges Act (FRA) because of her “idle and dissolute” life. Drunkenness and sexual promiscuity were supposedly the crimes that led to her incarceration. After receiving complaints that she was wandering the streets intoxicated, the local police had followed her from café to hotel to boarding house, at first...


    • 4 The Criminalization of “Race,” the Racialization of Crime
      (pp. 67-86)

      The criminalization of race and of particular racial groups has drawn considerable attention in the United States and Britain (e.g., Cashmore and Mclaughlin, 1991; Gilroy, 1987; Hawkins, 1995; Johnson, 1993). However, in Canada, explicit attention to the issue has emerged relatively recently, and has been spurred in part by the public attention given to the findings of various commissions and provincial task forces. These include: the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall Jr. Prosecution (Hickman, 1989), the Task Force on the Criminal Justice System and its Impact on the Indian and Métis People of Alberta (Alberta, 1991), theReport on...

    • 5 Looking at Law through the Lens of Culture: A Provocative Case
      (pp. 87-100)

      How is cultural difference constructed and performed in legal discourse? Today in Canada, “racial” and ethnocultural diversity is acknowledged as empirical fact, but multiculturalism as a political, institutional, and normative response to the phenomenon is highly contested. To what extent can and should Canadian society acknowledge, respect, and accommodate cultural difference? As philosopher Amy Gutmann (1994:3-4) asks:

      Is a democracy letting its citizens down, excluding or discriminating against us in some morally troubling way, when major institutions fail to take account of our particular identities? … In what sense should our identities as men or women, African-American, Asian-Americans, or Native...

    • 6 Racism and the Collection of Statistics Relating to Race and Ethnicity
      (pp. 101-112)

      This chapter explores the issue of race-crime statistics, or, more accurately, race-criminal justice statistics, since the “crime” statistics come to us filtered through the decisions of criminal justice professionals such as the police. Before describing the nature of race-crime statistics in Canada, some brief background information about the issue of minorities and criminal justice may be of use to the reader.

      It is a fact of life that minorities, particularly visible minorities, are overrepresented in the crime and criminal justice statistics in all Western nations. The specific minority varies from country to country, but everywhere some group accounts for a...


    • 7 Police Constructions of Race and Gender in Street Gangs
      (pp. 115-126)

      This chapter examines police constructions of race and gender in street gangs in a major metropolitan centre; specifically, how the Montreal Police Department (SPCUM)¹ addresses the phenomenon of street gangs in that city. The analysis focuses on the processes of racialization and gendering of street gangs in Montreal. Since the police are often the first-line interventionists with youth on the street, their constructions of the street gang question are important to understand. Questions of racialization and gendering are significant in this context, for the police have an important role to play both in defining the street gang issue and in...

    • 8 The Criminalization of Aboriginal Women: Commentary by a Community Activist
      (pp. 127-138)

      The claim made in this chapter is disturbing: Aboriginal¹ women are criminalized within the Canadian criminal justice system. Two fundamental factors supporting this claim are identified: (1) the lack of acknowledgement of the influential relationship between race, gender, and class, and (2) the absence of research on, and understanding about, Aboriginal women in conflict with the law. Examples from my work as a community activist with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba illustrate my exposure to these factors. My experiences as an activist uniquely shaped and informed my understanding of the Criminalization of Aboriginal women in the criminal justice system....

    • 9 The Justice System and Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples: The Persistence of Racial Discrimination
      (pp. 139-156)

      While there are important consequences of discriminatory treatment for all “racialized” groups, this chapter focuses on the experience of Canada’s Aboriginal people.¹ It will be shown that discrimination against Aboriginal people pervades the operations of the justice system and that Aboriginal people are significantly disadvantaged as a result. Some of the reasons why this injustice persists, as well as some directions for the future, will also be discussed.

      A very extensive research literature on Aboriginal people and the Canadian justice system has developed over the past three decades. In light of this literature, and the variety of ways in which...

    • 10 “Making Sense” of Moral Panics: Excavating the Cultural Foundations of the “Young, Black Mugger”
      (pp. 157-176)
      Chris ‘Nob’ Doran

      Recent critical criminology in North America has become increasingly concerned with “moral panics” about crime, especially “youth crime.” In the United States, this has mainly concerned itself with the increasingly high levels of African-American imprisonment and their targeting by police in urban areas such as Washington (Chambliss, 1994; Platt, 1996).¹ In Canada the concept is most prominent in Schissel’s (1997) recent work that argues that those young Canadians “who are marginalized and disadvantaged” (10), not just immigrant and Native youths,² are frequently portrayed by the media as “folk devils” (51-71) in “a coordinated and calculated attempt to nourish the ideology...

    • 11 The Social and Legal Banishment of Anti-racism: A Black Perspective
      (pp. 177-190)

      The Toronto Star article headlined “The Raw Nerve of Racism,” dated 21 August 1988, reported on the shooting death of Lester Donaldson by Metropolitan Toronto Police. In this report it was noted that Donaldson “was a paranoid schizophrenic” (Donovan, 1988:B1). In a subsequent report by theToronto Star(18 Sept. 1988) focused on “Why we are putting the mentally ill behind bars,” it was stated that “neighbors reported that he [Donaldson] had taken hostages, was alone in his room when killed and had a history of psychiatric problems” (Crawford, 1988:B1). As late as 8 July 1994, in an article entitled...

    • 12 Dangerous Duality: The “Net Effect” of Immigration and Deportation on Jamaicans in Canada
      (pp. 191-204)

      Research that examines the relationship between crime and race continues to occupy a space riddled with contention, ambivalence, and the constant threat of marginalization. At issue are concerns about the risks attached to the collection and publication of race-based data and a lack of consensus concerning racial definitions. Both Tonry (1997) and Wortley (1999) provide informative overviews of many of the widely discussed issues in this debate. Noting that many countries do not keep official records of offenders’ racial background due to “political and ethical sensitivities,” Tonry suggests that the collection of such data directly impacts the ability of governments...

  8. Appendix
    (pp. 205-208)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 209-212)
  10. Index
    (pp. 213-221)