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Unequal Before the Law: Immigrant and Racial Minority Perceptions of the Canadian Criminal Justice System

  • Scot WortleyEmail author
  • Akwasi Owusu-Bempah
Article

Abstract

This paper examines attitudes towards the criminal justice system among a large, diverse sample of residents from Toronto, Canada. The results indicate that while most residents positively evaluate the performance of the police and criminal courts, black and Chinese Canadians have less favorable views than whites. Compared to whites, racial minority respondents are also much more likely to perceive various forms of discrimination within the justice system. Perceptions of racial bias are particularly widespread among black respondents. Interestingly, these racial differences cannot be explained by immigration patterns. Indeed, regardless of race, attitudes towards the justice system are most positive among recent immigrants. However, attitudes become less favorable with time spent in Canada and are most negative among Canadian-born racial minorities. The paper concludes with a discussion of the theoretical and policy implications of these findings.

Keywords

Immigration Race Attitudes Police Courts Discrimination 

Résumé

Cet article porte sur les attitudes face au système de justice pénale parmi un vaste et divers échantillon de résidents de Toronto, au Canada. Les résultats indiquent que si la majorité des résidents évaluent de façon positive la performance de la police et des tribunaux criminels, les Canadiens noirs et chinois ont un avis moins favorable que celui des Blancs. De plus, les répondants membres d’une minorité raciale étaient beaucoup plus portés que les Blancs à percevoir diverses formes de discrimination au sein du système de justice. Les perceptions de préjugé racial sont particulièrement répandues chez les Noirs. Fait intéressant, ces différences raciales ne s’expliquent pas par des modèles d’immigration. En fait, indépendamment de la race, les immigrants nouvellement arrivés démontrent les attitudes les plus positives face au système de justice. Toutefois, les attitudes deviennent moins positives avec le temps et sont les plus négatives chez les membres de minorités raciales nés au Canada. Une discussion des retombées de ces résultats sur la théorie et les politiques vient conclure l’article.

Mots clés

immigration race attitudes police tribunaux discrimination 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The research presented in this paper was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of CriminologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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