​DNA Sweeps: How a Lack of Oversight Permits Police Coercion

DNA—the most private and intimate of information—is being swept up in blanket canvasses by Canadian police, who say the samples are collected from individuals who meet either demographic or geographic profiles, and only with their consent.

But the process requires no court order, no legal oversight, and is subject to no comprehensive policies. And advocacy organizations are pushing back, warning that mass sweeps of this nature are inherently coercive and need regulation. They point to a 2013 sexual assault investigation in Elgin County, where the unidentified victim described her assailant using race, age, and height, as proof of the danger posed by the practice.

The OPP requested DNA samples from all black and brown men in the area—approximately 100 migrant farm workers from Trinidad, Jamaica, and Dominica—with the help of their employers. Because the men were in Canada on work visas, advocates say they were essentially scared into doing the DNA tests out of fear that they could be deported.

“We look at this as more than just simply the act of profiling migrant workers, we look at this as a form of racialized policing,” Chris Ramsaroop, who works with advocacy group Justice for Migrant Workers, told VICE.

Read the full editorial at VICE News Canada.

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