The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Ethnocultural Groups
The Justice System in Canada
A Review of the Issues

Access to Occupations and Professions in the Justice System


Many of the reports reviewed for this study called for the increased presence of minorities as justice system actors.<238> Historically, such recommendations were first made with respect to the police, with the objective of bringing about better policecommunity relations. More recently, the need for greater representation in other justice system professions and occupations, including court administration, probation, parole, and corrections, has been expressed.<239> In particular, the need for greater representation by minorities among prosecutors, defence counsel, and judges has been recognized.<240> As noted above, there is also a great need for in reased representation of members of minority groups as decisionrnakers in administrative bureaucracies.

The literature suggests several reasons why the increased representation of minorities as justice system actors would be beneficial in terms of reducing bias in the system.<241> First, the day-to-day on-site presence of minority persons may reduce the degree of bias that occurs because they would be less likely to engage in biased behaviour and more likely to resist unequal treatment that they may encounter. As well, the increased presence of minorities may reduce the perception of bias in the justice system. The presence of members of minorities in the justice system in sufficient numbers would show observers and those in conflict with the justice system that minorities are also part of the system.

Second, the presence of members of minority groups in the system, working side by side with non-minority persons, might furnish a powerful means of consolidating the lessons contained in cross-cultural sensitization. Integration at this level could dissipate stereotypes more effectively than by using other, more formal, measures.

Third, the incidence of discrimination might be decreased. The presence of people sensitive to racism themselves might increase the extent to which racist incidents are detected and dealt with effectively.

Fourth, minority persons might be able to recognize the characteristics of the

individuals involved as well as the internal conditions which are part of the structure and process of the system that produces systemic discrimination. Thus, if minority justice system actors are able to influence how minorities are treated in the system at a structural level, they might be able to help reduce systemic discrimination, which may be pervasive throughout the justice system in various subtle forms.

Finally, minority members in the justice system may serve as role models for other members of minority groups. Thus, recruitment of minorities to the justice system may be easier.

9.1 Employment Equity in the Justice System

Over the past 20 years, attention has focussed on measures to ensure that police forces have equal representation of minorities.<242> There has been some success in achieving employment equity, particularly in urban police forces,<243> but some still believe much more is required to eliminate all practices that might have an adverse impact on recruitment. <244> Etherington notes several of the reports he reviewed suggest that to achieve employment equity objectives in police forces, legislation, such as the Ontario _Police Services Act_, 1990,<245> might be required. The extent to which legislation accelerates employment equity in police organizations has not been demonstrated by empirical data. An assessment of the Ontario situation might be instructive here.

As the police are the most important contact between the public and minorities, the emphasis that has been placed on the recruitment of minorities by police forces is understandable. It is clear, however, that representation in other elements of the justice system can also have beneficial effects. Governments should devote effort to recruit minorities to all positions throughout both the criminal and non-criminal justice system. It is even more important to ensure employment equity measures are adopted with administrative bureaucracies because of the greater frequency of contact.

9.2 Access to Legal Professions

Access to the legal profession as prosecutors, defence lawyers, and judges implies access to legal education. The study by Mazer and Peeris<246> determined that, in 1986, visible minorities were seriously underrepresented among lawyers in Canada. Since that time, several Canadian law schools have implemented recruitment policies to encourage students from minority backgrounds, modified curricula to address minority issues, and attempted to make the general environments of law schools more receptive.<247>

Currently, because of such efforts, members of visible minorities are no longer underrepresented, relative to their representation in the overall population in Canadian law schools.<248> However, when the size of a particular minority group is relatively small, the group can be strongly represented in the legal profession relative to its share of the population, and still be represented only by a few individuals. There may be a "visibility threshold" for effective or consequential involvement in the justice system which would not be achieved by a strict numerically proportionate representation. This is an issue which should be considered by all organizations with employment equity requirements. Strict quotas may not be enough. It may be necessary to determine a functionally effective threshold based on operational characteristics of the organization, and to set employment equity targets to ensure that the number of minority group members and their locations in organizations, are sufficient to satisfy the objectives of employment equity.

9.3 Outreach

Socio-economic data suggest that many recently arrived immigrant groups, which, to a large extent, represent visible minorities in Canada, have relatively low average income and educational level.<249> This places many members of visible, and other, minorities at a disadvantage in terms of eligibility for legal education.

In addition, among certain groups, the justice system and the professions within it, represent authority to be feared and avoided. The view that the system is corrupt and the source of unfair treatment is not uncommon, and may be the basis for avoidance of occupations in the justice system.<250> The perception of inaccessibility and avoidance may be strengthened by the absence of role models in the system.

The organizations of the legal profession -- the Canadian Bar Association, the provincial bar associations and law foundations, and the university law faculties -- might work together to conduct outreach programs that could include working with ethnic associations to promote professions in the law, encouraging and supporting law schools to continue to set more favourable admission policies and curricula, establishing scholarship funds for minority law students, and supporting the establishment of pre-law orientation programs similar to one for aboriginal students at the University of Saskatchewan.

9.4 Cross-cultural Sensitization and Recruitment

Enhanced cross-cultural sensitization measures for all justice system actors should be developed with respect to increased recruitment for two main reasons. There are socialization processes in all occupations to initiate new recruits into the practises of the group. This socialisat on may operate against the multicultural objectives of greater sensitivity by initiating new recruits into the conventional assumptions, behavioral norms and practices of the occupational groups. Thus, the objective of achieving greater sensitivity is lost or at least seriously impaired. To assure that new recruits are not captured by the traditional practices of the organization, thus squandering the potential benefits of their presence, organizations should develop enhanced sensitivity training to work with recruiting minorities.

There is often prejudice and hostility by members of different minority groups. This may be fuelled by such typical factors of multi-ethnic societies, as society economic competition and strong mobility ambitions. It may be rooted in hostilities learned prior to immigration. This suggests a note of caution with respect to the first reason for encouraging increased recruitment of minorities outlined at the beginning of this chapter. While it may be generally true that the increased presence of minorities will tend to diminish racism in the system, the desired effect may not be achieved without some special efforts. It cannot automatically be assumed that recruits to the justice-system from minority groups will present ideal attitudes and behaviours.

For the reasons noted above, as well as to protect the role model advantage of minority recruits presented in Chapter Nine, cross-cultural training and the recruitment of minorities as justice system actors should be carried out at the same time in mutually supportive ways. These issues should be monitored as they are implemented in the justice system and in administrative bureaucracies in order to learn how to better implement these two important multicultural objectives.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

[ Index | Next ] [an error occurred while processing this directive]