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CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES - Protection against arbitrary detention or imprisonment

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 @ 5:49 AM  

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Appeal by Sitladeen, a Black man, from his convictions for possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm contrary to a weapons prohibition. The appellant was pulled over for suspected impaired driving and then wrongfully arrested for driving while suspended after officers misspelled his name when performing a database check. When the appellant was searched following the arrest, he was found with a loaded firearm. The two officers gave different accounts of the appellant’s driving. Their notes did not state when they formed the grounds to make the stop. Their will-say statements indicated they decided to pull over the appellant before they saw that he was a Black man. The trial judge held that a finding the officers were lying was a crucial element of the test for racial profiling. He found the appellant’s stop and arrest were not tainted by racial profiling and admitted the evidence of the firearm.

HELD: Appeal allowed; new trial ordered. The test for racial profiling did not require the trial judge to find that the police officers lied about their motivation for a stop or arrest. The trial judge erred by focusing on the need to find the officers were lying to draw the conclusion that there was racial profiling. He failed to address whether unconscious racial bias played any role in the officers’ decision to stop or to arrest the appellant. Dissenting reasons were provided.

R. v. Sitladeen, [2021] O.J. No. 2513, Ontario Court of Appeal, K.N. Feldman, E.E. Gillese and B. Miller JJ.A., May 10, 2021. Digest No. TLD-June282021004