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Researcher discovers government document listing Quebec inmates by skin colour


While researching Quebec's prison population, Guillaume Hebert made a surprising discovery: as requested, Quebec's correctional services provided him numbers of inmates, but they were grouped by skin tone.

"These four colours are light, pale, medium and dark. So it was really surprising because you don’t know anywhere in Quebec or Canada where you use these kinds of colours," said Hebert.

Hebert's study was meant to focus on integrating people with a criminal record back into the workforce -- but his finding was so troubling that he contemplated even using the data in his final report.

"We hesitated," he said.

These categories are not used by Statistics Canada in its census.

Ted Rutland, an associate professor at Concordia specializing in policing and race, was alarmed by the news.

"The last time that we, as a society, categorized people by skin colour rather than racial background or ethnicity was back in the 1930s," he said. 

Quebec's public security minister, Geneviève Guilbault, said this information is used internally and is confidential.

"It's for very particular situations where we have to identify someone, for example, when there's an escape or risk of escape," she said.

But constitutional lawyer Julius Grey called it discriminatory.

"In this particular case, what you’ve got is a statistical discrimination and there is no justification," he said. Top Stories

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