Racism and the Robin Camp Inquiry

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Daphne Gilbert, Lise Gotell & Elizabeth Sheehy

What does it mean to be “racialized” in Canada? And what does it have to do with our responses to sexual violence?

We used this term in our recent op ed on the Justice Camp Inquiry before the Canadian Judicial Council.  One of the points we made in this piece is that Justice Robin Camp’s alleged “re-education” on sexism (as it inhibited his ability to judge the issue of sexual assault fairly) seemingly failed to deal with the issue of racism, which we believe was also critical in this case.

We said this because the complainant at whom he directed his aggressive and disparaging remarks was a young Indigenous woman. We were reinforced in our view by the fact that the Crown prosecutor, whose effort to focus his attention on the law (as opposed to his opinions) he rebuffed with a cruel remark, was herself racialized.

But you won’t find the word in our op ed because the news agencies involved were not satisfied that we could demonstrate that the Crown prosecutor is either objectively a “woman of colour” or considers herself “racialized”. They were also understandably worried that ordinary readers would not know what this word means.

The difficulty is that being “racialized” is about how one is perceived and treated in a given society at a particular historical moment—it’s not about either “facts” such as physical appearance or “self-identity”. As our colleague Professor Joanne St Lewis observes, the issue is whether one is a member of a community that is subjected to racism. In other words, the word “racialized” recognizes that “race” and the subordination that accompanies this designation is not inherent in the person but is rather a social relation—an exercise of power.

So, while the “incomprehensible” and “unsubstantiated” word “racialized” was excised, we remain convinced that racism has been “whitewashed” out of the Camp Inquiry and that there is something critical to discuss. Too late—but we were able to substantiate our use of the word, with the help of our colleague Professor St Lewis. This Crown attorney self-identifies as “Arab” and even Statistics Canada recognizes that people viewed as “Arab” are “visible minorities.”  Arab-Canadians do experience discrimination in daily life in Canada. Lise Gotell comments that Ms Mograbee’s colleagues, including judges, saw this as a significant aspect of what unfolded in the now infamous sexual assault hearing before Justice Camp.


We hope by this comment to both acknowledge the gap between racialized and non-racialized communities in terms of knowledge and experience of racism, and contribute to our collective understanding of racism as a critical force in perpetuating and excusing sexual violence.  
Designed by Rachel Gold.