11/02/2016 04:08 EDT | Updated 11/02/2016 04:36 EDT

These Studies Shouldn't Be Used To Avoid The Issue Of Racial Profiling


The news last week about the two-year study of the traffic stop data collected by the Ottawa Police were quickly dismissed by the same researchers who conducted it, as "not necessarily indicative of causation, and it doesn't prove racial profiling."

So what is the point of conducting such a study if those results cannot be used to speak about racial profiling, admit its existence and thus dealing with it? Is it just another report or study to shelve and go back to business as usual?

Sitting on the fence can never help solve problems. Things should be named as they are and in this regard the study is very explicit and indicative of racial profiling, at least used in arresting people from certain communities.

Two main groups stand out in those traffic stop arrests: Middle Eastern and black men. Indeed, according to the study, Middle Eastern men were arrested 3.3 times more than what should be the case according to their representation in the Ottawa population. For black drivers, this ratio was 2.3, while the ratio for white drivers was 0.9, slightly lower than their actual representation in the population.

What is even more disturbing is that the final (no action) outcome of these arrests showed that racialized groups are indeed more likely to be "let go" than the mainstream.

This is more evidence to deconstruct the popular saying that "there is no smoke without fire." A high number of arrests from certain racialized groups doesn't necessarily mean these individuals were deserving of it; thus, we can safely say that sometimes we might have "smoke" without having a "fire."

The study goes further than simple traffic stops. In fact, when there was reason to be believe that there were "suspicious activities," the study showed that for "2,299 cases where police pulled motorists over for 'suspicious activities' or 'criminal offences,' a disproportionate number involved racialized minorities."

So what more do we need to speak out about racial profiling? It is especially disappointing considering that this study was launched as part of a settlement in a lawsuit where there were allegations of racial profiling. Chad Aiken, a young black man from Ottawa, was pulled by the police in 2005 while driving his mother Mercedes car. Are we to believe this wasn't an instance of "racial profiling"?

Why do we still need more reasons for the police, as an institution, to put its head in the sand and claim that there is no racial profiling?

However, when it come to terrorism, the attitude of our institutions seem to be much swifter in accepting studies emphasizing the fear mongering message towards some ethnic groups, in this regard: Muslims.

A recent study, conducted by, the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, for the account of Public Safety Canada, claimed that "religious extremism has become the top motive for Canadian terrorism, replacing environmentalism." It is disturbing to know that such a study will be used by the government to write its own report about threats facing Canada.

The study, not yet published but obtained by the National Post through access to information, found that between 2010 and 2015, 29 per cent of terrorist incidents were religiously motivated, while seven per cent were categorized as "anarchist," and three per cent were "supremacist."

Meanwhile, we are surprised to know that the motivation for 61 per cent of the violent incidents examined are unknown. How reliable and serious could this study be if it identify three main motives for terrorist incidents and then leave more than half of the incidents with "no motives."

The results of this study are very disturbing for the following reasons:

Not knowing or identifying the other motives for terrorist incidents creates a bias of the study to favour the current simplistic and discriminatory narrative that Muslims are the most dangerous and violent groups to be concerned with.

The ignorance of these motives would skew the results of the study in the direction that only Muslims, anarchists and some "supremacists" are the only identified dangers faced by Canadians.

The ignorance of the reasons behind some violent incidents can hide a systematic underestimating of the supremacist threats. Consider the case of two non-Muslim teenagers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who were arrested just in time before committing a mass shooting on Valentine's Day.

The former minister Peter MacKay when asked why the two suspects were not being charged with terrorism, he responded: "The attack does not appear to have been culturally motivated, therefore not linked to terrorism." MacKay went ever further and referred to the suspects as "murderous misfits" in a clear attempt to distinguish between Muslim terrorists suspects and the violence motivated by hate and other ideologies.

These two examples clearly show how some studies are used to avoid tackling a sensitive, though so much crucial, issue like "racial profiling" in law enforcement institutions like the Ottawa Police. Whereas other studies with shaky and unclear results are often quickly adopted by governmental institutions to support an already simplistic and discriminatory narrative, which reinforce the impression that Muslim communities are the most dangerous and violent groups within the Canadian population.

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