February 28, 2022
Final arguments to be heard in historic human rights hearing on race-based DNA canvass by the OPP
TORONTO – At 9:30am ET on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) will be hearing final arguments in a historic and potentially precedent-setting case involving 54 migrant farm workers.
In October 2013, after a sexual assault that occurred near the community of Bayham, Ontario, the OPP conducted a DNA sweep to collect samples from approximately 95 migrant farm workers employed in the region. The OPP conducted its investigation with what appeared to be a total disregard for the detailed suspect description that it had obtained from the victim. DNA samples were taken from Indo and Afro-Caribbean men from Jamaican and Trinidad. Their ages ranged from 22 to 68, their heights ranged from 5’2” to 6’6”, and their body sizes ranged between 110 lbs to 328 lbs. Other identifying features were also disregarded. Workers were targeted solely on the basis of their skin colour and their status as migrant farmworkers.
54 of the migrant farmworkers who were impacted came together to jointly file human rights applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Starting at 9:30am and ending at approximately 1:30pm on Tuesday, March 1st, final arguments will be heard with respect to the issue of liability and damages. The Applicants will reiterate that the DNA sweep and the manner in which it was conducted was racial discrimination that violated their rights under section 1 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code. If the OPP is found to have violated the Code, a further hearing will be scheduled to address non-monetary and systemic remedies to prevent a re-occurrence of this type of incident.
This is the first human rights case of its kind in Canada to examine allegations of systemic racial profiling and discrimination by the police towards migrant farmworkers. It is anticipated that it will expose not only the inherent vulnerabilities that workers are exposed to under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, but also how those vulnerabilities were exploited by the police in their execution of the 2013 DNA sweep.
Please show your support for workers by joining the virtual hearing. Label yourself as “observer” so the tribunal knows you are not a participant): http://bit.ly/MigrantDNA
For interviews and more information, please contact: