The Case for the Collection of Race-based Statistics
within the criminal justice and educational systems
A Report for the Ontario Human Rights Commissionby Scot Wortley, Ph. D Associate Professor Centre of Criminology University of Toronto, Ontario
Canada has often received international recognition for being a racially tolerant, multicultural society. Nonetheless, issues of racism and racial discrimination remain significant problems in Canadian society. For example, recent Canadian research has identified racial bias in the areas of employment, education, housing and criminal justice decision making (see Henry and Tator 2006; Foster 2005; Wortley and McCalla 2003; Fleras and Elliott 2003; James 2003; Mooney et al. 2001; Driedger and Halli 2000; Kalbach and Kalbach 2000; Li 1999; Satzewich 1998).
The debate over race-based statistics
Race and racism are extremely complex, sensitive and controversial topics in both public policy and social research. In the United States, views on race and racial classification have become polarized
Opponents of race-based data collection argue, therefore, that if race is insignificant at the biological level, society should make all efforts to eliminate the concept of race from social discourse. They further maintain that the collection of race-based statistics reinforces the concept of race at the social level and actually perpetuates racial divisions and inequalities. In other words, research that incorporates the concept of race may help produce the consequences of thinking in racial terms (American Sociological Association 2003).
Other scholars and policy makers, however, totally disagree with calls to eliminate the collection of race-based statistics??.., many academics argue that the measurement of differential experiences, treatment and outcomes across racial categories is absolutely necessary to track racial disparities and inform policymaking in order to achieve greater social justice. This view is consistent with the idea that social research documents social reality - it does not create it.