Consumer Racial Profiling: Research & Prevention

What is Consumer Racial Profiling?201208151209_ShoppersDrugMart-Web5

Consumer racial profiling is discriminatory conduct where racialized consumers are perceived by some security guards, consumer service providers including retail business owners and retail store employees as ‘security threats,’ untrustworthy, and suspicious.[i]

These perceptions have led to the application of arbitrary loss prevention strategies and conduct that infringes upon rights protected under section 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code which states “[e]very person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, [and] goods…without discrimination because of race…origin, colour,…[and] sex.”[ii]


knowledge-1052010__180Researchers have found that consumers from Black/African diasporic, Indigenous, and Middle Eastern communities are disproportionately subjected to over surveillance, including accusations of shoplifting, arbitrary physical searches, and detentions, more than other racial and ethnic consumers.[iii] These findings coupled with anecdotal stories about consumer racial profiling in the media[iv] shed light on the significance of addressing this phenomenon.


Publications on Consumer Racial Profiling by Tomee Sojourner, LLM Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University:


[i] Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, Working Together to Better Serve All Nova Scotians: A Report on Consumer Racial Profiling in Nova Scotia Halifax: Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, 2013) at 10; Anne-Marie G. Harris, Geraldine R. Henderson, Jerome D. Williams, “Courting Customers: Assessing Consumer Racial Profiling and Other Marketplace Discrimination” (2005) 24:1 Journal of Public Policy & Marketing at 166.

[ii] Ontario Human Rights Code, section 1 “Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.” R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 1; 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (1); 2001, c. 32, s. 27 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (1); 2012, c. 7, s. 1.

[iii] NSHRC CRP Report supra note i at 10; Harris et al, supra note i at 166; George E Higgins & Shaun L Gabbidon, “Public Opinion on the Use of Consumer Racial Profiling to Identify Shoplifters: An Exploratory Study” (2011) 36:2 Criminal Justice Review 201 at 202; George E Schreer et al, “Shopping While Black”: Examining Racial Discrimination in a Retail Setting” (2009) 39:6 Journal of Applied Social Psychology 1432 at 1433.

[iv] NSHRC CRP report, Ibid at 15 and 52. Industry Canada’s Consumer Trend Report mment” note at law is ces of discrimination faced by racialized consumers in the retail sector stated that members of Canada’s visible minorities may encounter discriminatory practices in the retail sector. In the Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs, Consumer Trends Report, “The Changing Ethnic Composition of Canadian Consumers” (Ottawa: Industry Canada, May 2011). See recent news media reports about consumer racial profiling refer to: Jesse Ferreras, “Aritzia Apologizes After Clerk’s Racist Comment” Huffington Post (30 October 2015) online:<>; Alyshah Hasham, “Shoppers Drug Mart ordered to pay $8,000 in racial profiling case” Toronto Star (October 7, 2015) online:<>; Tobi Cohen, “Peel police must pay racial profiling victim” Toronto Star (May 27, 2007) online: <>.