Racial Profiling

From Criminal Law Notebook
This page was last substantively updated or reviewed March 2024. (Rev. # 92788)

General Principles

Racial profiling is when police actions in selecting and treating a suspect are motivated by "race or racial stereotypes about offending or dangerousness", whether conscious or not.[1]

A state agent engaging in racial profiling will breach the principle of fundamental justice.[2]

Racial profiling has two components:[3]

  1. an attitudinal component; and
  2. a causation component.

The attitudinal component relates to whether the public official "accepts" that "race or racial stereotypes are relevant in identifying the propensity to offend or to be dangerous."[4]


The causation component requires that the attitude consciously or unconsciously plays a "causal role"--that is motivates or influences to any degree--decisions to select or to treat a suspect.[5] The racial motivation does not need to be the sole or main factor. Any degree "contaminates" the decision and nullifies any reasonable suspicion or grounds.[6]

Relevance of lawful grounds

An act will still constitute racial profiling even if the suspected offence being investigated was reasonably founded on lawful grounds.[7]


The assessment must involve all circumstances that lead to the detention or arrest to determine whether they correspond to racial profiling.[8]


Racial profiling is rarely proven by direct evidence. It will usually be inferred from circumstances surrounding the actions.[9]

There is no requirement that the judge fine that the police was lying to draw an inference of racial profiling.[10]

Existence of anti-Black racism

It has been found that anti-black racism is prevalent in Canada.[11]

International Travel

A police officer relying on travel patterns based on national origin instead of individual travel patterns to assess criminality is an indicator that there may be profiling.[12]

  1. R v Le, 2019 SCC 34 (CanLII), [2019] 2 SCR 692, per Brown and Martin JJ, at para 76
  2. R v Smith, 2004 CanLII 46666 (ON SC), 26 CR (6th) 375, per Dawson J, at paras 35 to 36
    R v Simmons, 1988 CanLII 12 (SCC), [1988] 2 SCR 495, 45 CCC (3d) 296, per Dickson CJ (7:0), at para 180
  3. R v Dudhi, 2019 ONCA 665 (CanLII), per Pacciocco JA, at para 54
  4. Dudhi, ibid., at para 55
    Peart v Peel Regional Police Services Board, 2006 CanLII 37566 (ON CA), 43 CR (6th) 175, per Doherty JA, at para 90
  5. Dudhi, ibid., at para 55 (“the racial stereotype must motivate or influence, to any degree, decisions by persons in authority regarding suspect selection or subject treatment”)
  6. Dudhi, ibid., at paras 62 to 63
  7. Dudhi, ibid., at para 59
  8. R v Edwards, 2024 ONSC 2478 (CanLII), per Dennison J, at para 20
  9. Dudhi, ibid., at para 75
    Peart, supra at para 95
  10. R. v. Sitladeen, 2021 ONCA 303, 155 O.R. (3d) 241, at paras. 43, 48-49, and 54
    Edwards, supra, at para 18
  11. Edwards, supra, at para 14 ("There is no dispute that anti-Black racism is prevalent in Canada and continues to be a reality in Canadian society.")
    R v Morris, 2021 ONCA 680 (CanLII), per J, at para 1 ("It is beyond doubt that anti-Black racism, including both overt and systemic anti-Black racism, has been, and continues to be, a reality in Canadian society, and in particular in the Greater Toronto Area.")
  12. Edwards, supra, at para 82