Anti-Indigenous bias is pervasive and particularly in Northern Ontario. For example, I remember being at the OCJ in Kapuskasing as an out of town Crown. I was standing at the podium and there was an accused being belligerent and badgering the registrar. I interrupted and told him to sit down and wait for his matter to be called on the list. As he walked away, he said, “You send them to law school for free and they come back all uppity.” It was very loud. Everyone froze momentarily but no one said anything.
For another example, a racialized colleague of mine was in Timmins. She arrived late one evening and checked into a hotel wearing comfortable, casual clothes for her flight. The hotel had two wings. One wing was like any regular hotel; the other wing was in bad shape with no working elevator and ripped carpets. She was placed in the latter wing.
The next morning, while wearing a suit for court, she requested to be moved. A new person was at the front desk and told her that it had been a mistake to put her in the “Indian wing”. This type of segregation is common in northern communities where certain areas of a town are more for Indigenous people and others are more for non-Indigenous people. But the segregation and discrimination at this hotel was blatant and shocking.
Judges can also be affected. I’ve read a transcript of a hearing in front of an Indigenous judge, where counsel behaved incredibly disrespectful to her. They badgered her, condescended to her, and repeatedly told her that she didn’t understand or know the law while she was thoughtful, patient and professional. I have never seen or heard of any counsel engaging in that kind of behavior with a white male judge.