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Landmark Case: Racial Profiling & Reasonable Apprehension of Bias – R. v. Brown

Each OJEN Landmark Case includes a case summary, classroom discussion questions and worksheets that encourage students to explore both the legal and societal importance of the case.

On November 1, 1999, Constable Olson of the Metro Toronto Police stopped Decovan (Dee) Brown, a man of African-American descent and a professional basketball player, while he was driving on the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto.

Mr. Brown failed a roadside screening test and was charged under s. 253(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada with driving over the legal blood alcohol limit. Mr. Brown argued that his right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned under s. 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been infringed. Mr. Brown claimed that Officer Olson had detained him without proper cause because he was a black man driving an expensive car.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario ultimately found that the evidence, taken as a whole, supported a conclusion that racial profiling had influenced Officer Olson’s decision to stop Mr. Brown. The court also held that the trial judge’s conduct in refusing to consider evidence in favour of racial profiling gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias. The full decision is available here.

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