Black people in Halifax 6 times more likely to be street checked than whites

Not unique to Halifax:

A new report released Wednesday on racial profiling by Halifax-area police found black people were street checked at a rate six times higher than white people in Halifax.

The independent report found that in Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black men, followed by Arab males and black females.

The number is about double the CBC News estimate that triggered this review. The new report comes more than two years after data showed black people were three times more likely than whites to be subjected to the controversial practice in the municipality.

The report by Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto criminology professor, also found that police in the Halifax region do more street checks than police in Montreal, Vancouver or Ottawa. There were comparable rates in Edmonton and Calgary.

Street checks allow police officers to document information about a person they believe could be of significance to a future investigation, and record details such as their ethnicity, gender, age and location.

In Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black people, followed by Arab and west Asian people. (CBC )

The 180-page report also found the practice of street checks has a disproportionate and negative impact on the African Nova Scotia community, contributing to the criminalization of black youth.

Wortley reported that black community members interviewed for the study said they are afraid of police, they feel targeted by police, and they are treated rudely and aggressively. They also said police treatment of black people has not improved significantly in the past 20 years.

Blacks more likely to be charged

Wortley was hired by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission in 2017 after a report from Halifax RCMP in January of that year found that in the first 10 months of 2016, 41 per cent of 1,246 street checks involved black Nova Scotians.

Halifax Regional Police figures showed that of the roughly 37,000 people checked between 2005 and 2016, almost 4,100 were black — about 11 per cent of checks — despite making up only 3.59 per cent of the city’s population, according to the 2011 census.

In what Wortley described as a “difficult statistic,” the report showed that 30 per cent of Halifax’s black male population had been charged with a crime, as opposed with 6.8 per cent of the white male population, over that period.

Wortley said this likely means black people are more likely to be charged for the same behaviour than white people. The charge rate for black males with cannabis offences was four times higher than for white males, even though there’s no evidence that black people use more cannabis than white people.

He said police street checks have contributed to an erosion of trust in law enforcement and undermined the perceived legitimacy of the entire criminal justice system.

Wortley presented several recommendations including that street checks must be banned or at least regulated.

He said it’s clear that street checks have a disproportionate effect on the black Nova Scotia community and consequences of current street check use “clearly outweigh and crime prevention benefits.”

Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard said she supports stopping the practice of street checks.

“The rest of Canada will be watching what happens here,” she told an audience gathered at the Halifax Central Library, where the report was unveiled.

‘Anti-black bias’

Lindell Smith, the first black city councillor elected in Halifax in 16 years, said in a statement on his website that he hopes this is an opportunity to “repair the broken relationship with the black community and our police force.”

“As a member of the African Nova Scotian community, I certainly do not need Dr. Wortley’s report to tell me that for decades the community has felt that there is anti-black bias, and racial profiling when policing black communities. I hope that with the release of this report that we as the black community don’t see this as a ‘I told you so’ moment,” he said.

Smith said he’s been stopped many times by police, both while driving and walking in the Halifax area. He said in those instances he had the felling of “humiliation and being racially profiled.”

Across Canada, the report found the average annual street check rate was highest in Toronto, with Halifax in second place. Despite an overall reduction in street checks in Halifax in recent years, Wortley says the over-representation of minorities has remained constant.

Ontario banned police carding in specific situations in 2017 — a controversial practice that is similar to street checks.

However, Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais has argued in the past that the valid street checks performed by police officers in Halifax differ from the random stops or carding practices that are now restricted in Ontario.

Source: Black people in Halifax 6 times more likely to be street checked than whites

NP View: Racism lurks in the supposedly ‘woke’ Liberals’ new impaired driving laws

Valid parallel to the biases of carding:

Has the self-styled “party of the Charter,” as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still, curiously, calls the Liberals, actually even read the Charter? Have the Liberals, for that matter, paid much attention to what their own prime minister has been saying?

Canada’s impaired driving laws underwent a major overhaul last month, courtesy of the federal Liberal government. Some of the changes were necessary to recognize the changed reality of legalized cannabis. Others were simply intended to further reduce rates of impaired driving, by drug or alcohol, on our roads. This is a goal everyone shares — impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada, way ahead of anything else. It’s a stubborn problem that governments are right to try to address, particularly a government that has recently legalized a whole new category of intoxicant.

But the new laws have given to police significant new powers. In a free society, that’s never something to be done lightly. And in this particular case, what is being done is especially bizarre because the Liberals are now insisting that such powers will not be abused even while insisting, in a slightly different context, that they inevitably will be.

One of the new powers given to police is the right, under certain circumstances, to demand a breath sample from someone who has not provided any sign that they might be impaired. Previously, a police officer needed at least some grounds to insist on such a test — the officer could have observed erratic driving before pulling the car over, for instance, or suspected a whiff of alcohol on a driver’s breath. Under the new law, a driver stopped by police for any lawful reason whatsoever (which is a very low bar) may be subjected to a breath test. Refusing to provide one is itself a criminal offence. Canadians effectively have no choice but to comply.

This is a meaningful expansion of police search powers, and it will absolutely be challenged — hopefully successfully — as a violation of Canadians’ fundamental protections against unreasonable searches. This is also an expansion of police authority that the Liberals were explicitly warned would result in abuses of power, most likely taking the form of racial discrimination. “There will be nothing random with this breath testing,” defence lawyer Michael Spratt told a parliamentary committee reviewing the bill before it became law. “Visible minorities are pulled over by the police more often for no reason. That’s what is going to happen here.” The Canadian Civil Liberties Association sounded a similar warning in its own filing, writing, “Experience has also unfortunately demonstrated that ‘random’ detention and search powers are too often exercised in a non-random manner that disproportionately targets African-Canadian, Indigenous, and other racial minorities.” It continued, “… the reality of racial profiling and the increased invasiveness that attends a mandatory alcohol screening means that the practice will adversely impact those disproportionately targeted by police for vehicular stops, in particular African-Canadian, Indigenous, and other racial minorities.”

The ratcheting-up of systemic racism might normally be an issue you would expect the gloriously woke federal Liberals to be falling all over themselves to fix, or at least to tweet piously about. That’s not the case here. The Liberals have readily acknowledged that they expect that this new law will be challenged in court, but say they will defend it, and are confident it will survive the challenges.

There’s reason enough to be alarmed at the expanded use of police powers, even if they weren’t bound to be targeted disproportionately at racial minorities. Random, groundless searches conducted by whim of the authorities are manifestly a gross violation of Canadians’ fundamental rights. Now that the law is finally being used, there are already unsettling stories of such mandatory searches starting to emerge: Global News reported this week that a Toronto-area man, who was not in the slightest bit impaired, was given a breath test after a police officer observed him returning empty beer bottles to a store for recycling, as if he’d knocked them all back on the way over in his car.

But the thing that makes this so especially strange is how the Liberals, not long ago, were embracing the very same arguments they now say concern them not at all. During the run-up to the legalization of cannabis, no less an authority on right-thinking Liberal values than Justin Trudeau himself explained that it was important that Canada legalize cannabis because of — wait for it — racial factors, that saw police applying marijuana laws with disproportion and discrimination against minorities. The prime minister even shared an anecdote about how his own late brother, Michel, after being arrested for possession of cannabis, was able to have that charge quietly taken care of. It helps to be a powerful white guy, the prime minister confessed, especially one as well-connected as the son of a prime minister. “That’s one of the fundamental unfairnesses of this current system is that it affects different communities in a different way,” he said in 2017, acknowledging that random screenings are rarely truly random, and that discretion is rarely equally applied.

The prime minister was right. So was Mr. Spratt and the CCLA. Beyond the basic offence to everyone’s rights constituted by such random and baseless searches, these expanded police powers will obviously be applied unevenly, and that is fundamentally unfair. Why was that so true for cannabis that the prime minister used it to justify why legalization was necessary, but the Liberals deem it to be of no concern whatsoever for impaired driving?

Source: NP View: Racism lurks in the supposedly ‘woke’ Liberals’ new impaired driving laws

ICYMI – Chris Selley: Police carding ought to be an anathema in a free society. How is it still up for debate?

Good commentary:

In the debate over if, when and how police should be able to stop, question and compel identification from citizens, and then store the information they receive in databases, those arguing to allow officers maximum discretion tend to defer to public safety. The more info police have, the more crime and violence and misery they can avert. Conveniently for that view, in the two years since more restrictive rules took effect in Ontario, Toronto has experienced a significant spike in homicides.

Coincidence? Justice Michael Tulloch thinks so. In his 300-page report on the Independent Street Checks Review he oversaw, officially released Friday, Tulloch does a pretty good job busting causation down to correlation.

In 2013, he observes, Toronto police agreed to ramp down “street checks” (an interaction producing “identifying information … concerning an individual … that is not part of an investigation”) and “carding” (when “a police officer randomly asks an individual to provide identifying information when there is no objectively suspicious activity,” and the individual isn’t suspected of or to have knowledge of any offence, and the information winds up stored in a database).

Despite that, the city’s homicide count held steady at 57-59 per annum until 2016, when it spiked to 75. In 2017, the year the rules came fully into effect, the number dropped to 65, before soaring to 96 in 2018 — the highest in a decade.

The number of shooting incidents, meanwhile, has hardly budged since the new rules came into force: There were 406 in 2016, 390 in 2017 and 424 in 2018. Furthermore, some areas of the city where carding was most prevalent — Jane and Finch, Rexdale, Lawrence Heights — saw dramatic decreases in shooting incidents. Whereas getting guns off the street is a common justification for intrusive police tactics, such as New York City’s stop-question-and-frisk, firearm seizures in Toronto skyrocketed after the new regulations came into place. And other Ontario municipalities reported no similar surges in crime. Overall, homicides in Ontario dropped from 2016 to 2017.

In short, it’s far easier to make a case that carding has no effect at all on serious crime than that it has a huge one. But even if previous carding practice had “worked,” even if the new regulation had stopped it from working, it barely even amounts to a defence. As Tulloch notes, “the regulation simply gives effect to the existing law that people do not have to provide their identification when there are no reasonable grounds to believe the person has committed an offence.”

If carding “worked,” in other words, it relied on citizens not knowing or caring about their already-existing right to be left alone whilst minding their own business, or being too intimidated to exercise that right — as well they might be. Politely refusing an armed man or woman’s request to identify yourself is no small thing, all the more so if you have “nothing to hide.”

The problems inherent in such a situation are myriad. There are quantifiable harms: People were denied jobs and security clearances, and in at least one case menaced by child services, thanks to information stored in police databases that implicated them in nothing other than being included in a police database. And there are more existential harms. Imagine growing up with a squeaky-clean nose yet constantly feeling like a person of police interest. It’s profoundly alienating, especially when targets quite logically conclude, based on well-documented statistics if not their own intuition, that they’re being harassed because of their race, skin colour or some other innate characteristic. It’s no less insidious if the bias is unconscious; it might even be more so.

Nothing good can come from it, and plenty bad. It hinders police in solving crimes, for one thing: “When a segment of society believes that it has been unfairly targeted by the police,” Tulloch writes, “it will delegitimize the police in their eyes.” All those desperate calls for witnesses to come forward will be met more skeptically. Tulloch cites research showing “inappropriate interaction with police” can even “desensitize young people from guilt regarding potential acts of crime.”

Tulloch has scores of recommendations, including clarifying what he argues are overly complex rules for officers; requiring officers to tell people when a conversation is voluntary; including written reasons for the existence of any database record; and destroying those records automatically after five years.

As he says, the police have lots of powers at their disposal — including the power to stop and question people if officers have a legitimate, articulable “reason to believe the identifying information would be valuable police intelligence.” That still goes too far for some civil libertarians. But it’s maddening there are still people who object to the very idea of eliminating truly random stop-and-question policies; people who can’t grasp just how anathema that idea ought to be in a free society, how profoundly it undermines the social contract that underpins modern Western policing; people who could actually take issue with Tulloch’s most fundamental recommendation: “No police service should randomly stop people in order to collect and record identifying information and create a database for general intelligence purposes.”

Well, obviously.

Source: Chris Selley: Police carding ought to be an anathema in a free society. How is it still up for debate?

Little to no proof police carding has effect on crime or arrests: Ontario report

Significant study:

Police street checks widely known as carding have little to no value as a law enforcement tool and should be significantly limited across Ontario, a judge tasked with reviewing the practice said Monday.

The report from Justice Michael Tulloch outlines certain circumstances in which police may have legitimate grounds to conduct street checks, or stop people at random and request identifying information.

But Tulloch, who was hired by Ontario’s previous Liberal government to assess the effectiveness of new regulations meant to limit the impact of street checks on racialized groups, said those circumstances are very specific and the practice as a whole should be sharply curtailed.

“There is little to no evidence that a random, unfocused collection of identifying information has benefits that outweigh the social cost of the practice,” Tulloch wrote in his 310-page report.

“Given the social cost involved with a practice that has not definitively been shown to widely reduce or solve crime, it is recommended that the practice of randomly stopping individuals to gather their identifying information for the creation of a database for intelligence purposes be discontinued.”

Tulloch, who previously led a review into Ontario’s complex police oversight system, was asked to turn his attention to carding months after the previous government made moves to eliminate what it described as systemic racism in law enforcement.

Police oversight

Street checks started coming under intense scrutiny several years ago amid data showing officers were disproportionately stopping black and other racialized people.

In 2016, Ontario introduced rules dictating that police must inform people that they don’t have to provide identifying information during street checks, and that refusing to co-operate or walking away cannot then be used as reasons to compel information.

The aim was to end arbitrary stops, especially those based on race, though anti-carding advocates have called for the practice to be abolished entirely.

Race is prohibited as forming any part of a police officer’s reason for attempting to collect someone’s identifying information.

Police had long argued that street checks have value as an investigative tool, a notion Tulloch challenged in his report.

“A widespread program of random street checks involves considerable time and effort for a police service, with little to no verifiable results on the level of crime or even arrests,” he wrote. “Some police services reported that there are other ways to gather data or use data that they already have more effectively.”

Tulloch’s report also debunked the notion that carding had played a role in solving the high-profile killing of Cecilia Zhang, a nine-year-old girl who was abducted from her Toronto home in the middle of the night in 2003.

Tulloch said many of the more than 2,000 people consulted for the report cited the arrest of Min Chen, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Zhang’s death, as an example of a carding success story. Tulloch said, however, that Chen’s name first came to be in police files as a result of a non-random stop that did not fit the definition of carding.

Chen was stopped in response to a complaint of illegal fishing filed weeks before the girl was killed, Tulloch said, adding the information gathered during that interaction later gained relevance when Chen’s name surfaced in the Zhang investigation.

“The Cecilia Zhang case does not support the proposition that the police should be authorized to randomly request and record identifying information,” Tulloch wrote. “It simply reinforces that when identifying information is properly obtained during a police investigation, as it was in that case, that information might be useful to help solve a crime.”

Additional recommendations

Tulloch said street checks have value in cases where there are clear suspicious circumstances, or when police need to identify the identity of a missing person or crime victim. Among his many recommendations to the new Progressive Conservative government were some stating the 2016 rules should not apply in such cases.

But other recommendations advise the government to take a harder line on street checks, tightening definitions of terms such as “identifying information” and “suspicious circumstances” and broadening protections during vehicle stops.

Tulloch also recommended an overhaul of the training that was put in place when the new rules took effect. He said it lacked the critical component of explaining why the changes were being made, which left some officers hesitant to get on board.

“Implementing new rules for police officers to follow has little value — and will not achieve the intended goal — if officers are not effectively and adequately trained on the reasons why the changes were necessary,” Tulloch wrote.

He also recommended officers at all levels “should learn how the widespread use of carding by some services and some officers has been abused in the past.”

Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said the government is taking time to go through Tulloch’s findings, but said his work would “inform” efforts to reform police legislation in the province.

“We are committed to developing legislation that works for our police and for the people of Ontario,” Jones said in a statement. “Our new police legislation will reflect a simple principle: racism and discrimination have no place in policing.”

Source: Little to no proof police carding has effect on crime or arrests: Ontario report

Finally, a sign of national unity: racial profiling in policing: Balkissoon

Sad to say there is a national pattern here:

Indigenous and black people are more likely to be considered suspicious by Vancouver police than people of other races. That’s the takeaway from data released by the city’s police department about how it conducts street checks, the practice of stopping someone to gather information even though they aren’t suspected of a specific crime.

As reported in The Globe and Mail, Indigenous people make up 16 per cent of those stopped and asked for their identification without cause in the city, though they’re only 2 per cent of the population. The 1 per cent of its residents who are black make up 5 per cent of those street checked by police.

These stats are dismal – and the trend is repeated across the country. Also known as “carding,” street checks are practised by police forces from coast to coast, and are a regular point of contention.

That’s mainly because every time someone digs into the data, it turns out that racialized people are more likely to be stopped than white people, meaning more likely to have their identification noted and recorded. This makes them (in Toronto cop parlance) more likely to be “known to police,” despite not actually being involved with a crime.

Specifics do differ from city to city – while black and Indigenous people are most often targeted, those who police consider “brown” show up in the stats for Toronto. Some places like to pick on “Arabs” or “West Asians,” which I think means Muslims who look like the bad guys in Aladdin.

But while individual shades may not match up exactly, the same picture can be seen from Medicine Hat to Ottawa to Halifax. When tasked with trying to keep communities safe, police forces across the country target those who aren’t white.

“I feel a little demoralized,” said Bashir Mohamed, a member of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Edmonton, about learning Vancouver’s carding data. “It makes me wonder if anything will actually be done there. At the end of the day, we weren’t able to do much here.”

Last June, BLM Edmonton released that city’s data on street checks, after obtaining it through a Freedom of Information request. Mr. Mohamed said he was gratified to have proof of his suspicions that his black friends were stopped more often than their white acquaintances.

He was also shocked at one particular statistic: that Indigenous women in Edmonton were almost 10 times more likely to be stopped and to have their identification recorded than anyone else. BLM Edmonton shared the information with the Institute for Advancement of Aboriginal Women and Stolen Sisters, which focus on Indigenous women’s issues.

The three groups put together a number of policy suggestions, some of which echo rules put into place in Ontario around the practice of carding. Since January, 2017, officers in that province must inform people that they have a right not to talk to police or to produce identification unless they’re being arrested or detained.

This is far from perfect – Ontario’s data excludes traffic stops, a rather big exception – but informing people of their rights is a basic place to start.

Mr. Mohamed says he was promised action in person by Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley last fall. Edmonton’s police commission also vowed to review its carding practices and put together a research group to do so in December. Advocacy groups were told to expect the next steps by early 2018, but halfway through the year, nothing has happened yet.

And neither Edmonton, Ontario, nor any other jurisdiction has promised to change how it stores carding data, which is usually kept indefinitely. While there have been calls in some cities to destroy the information entirely, Mr. Mohamed is willing to let it be used by researchers and academics. He just wants it removed from databases meant to list criminals.

After all, police haven’t shown that they need it. Even as forces across Canada insist that personal information about innocent-until-proven-guilty citizens is useful, none have released data to show how street checks help reduce crime. Yet, despite this lack of proof, the constant, unjustified surveillance continues.

This country famously resists being tied together by a common string, with regular hand-wringing about whether anyone cares about maple syrup or hockey anymore. It’s time to claim our actual national past-time – making sure Indigenous, black and other racialized people know they’re being watched with suspicion.

via Finally, a sign of national unity: racial profiling in policing – The Globe and Mail

Black people 3 times more likely to be street checked in Halifax, police say

Not surprisingly but still alarming and similar data to that of other cities such as Toronto:

Ashley Taylor tenses up every time he sees a police cruiser because he knows what could be coming next.

“Being pulled over by the police for me,” the Nova Scotia resident said, taking a pause, “it’s normal.”

Taylor, 42, estimates he has been stopped by police an average of three times a year. The student support worker at Dartmouth High School in said it usually happens on his drive to work.

“Is it racial profiling? Possibly.”

He’s not surprised to hear a CBC News Investigation finding that Halifax police are more likely to stop and check people who are black.

In fact, according to information released by Halifax Regional Police, black people are three times more likely to be the subject of a so-called street check than white individuals.

Graphic

Halifax Regional Police began recording data of street checks in 2005. (CBC)

Street checks are used to “look at individuals who are doing suspicious activity,” said police Chief Jean-Michel Blais.

Source: Black people 3 times more likely to be street checked in Halifax, police say – Nova Scotia – CBC News

Newly elected Peel police board chair sets a fresh tone | Toronto Star

Plain language:

“It doesn’t affect brown people and white people — it affects black males.” With that sharp rebuke of a report on police street checks — insisting that it missed the essence of the controversy — the man now heading the oversight of Peel Region police made clear that change is coming.

Minutes after Amrik Singh Ahluwalia stood Friday morning and moved to his new seat following his unanimous election as chair of the Peel Police Services Board, he joined other members calling for change within the country’s third-largest municipal police force.

The first issue: frustration with a consultant’s report commissioned by police chief Jennifer Evans.

“It was offensive,” said Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, who just moments earlier had nominated Ahluwalia for the job as chair. “It was supporting the status quo,” Jeffrey said of the report, put together and presented by Louise Doucet and Liz Torlee, joint managing directors of TerraNova, a strategic marketing company.

Ahluwalia’s leadership could spell trouble for Evans if she continues to challenge the board on the controversial issue of police street checks, known as carding in Toronto. Unlike the outgoing chair, Laurie Williamson, who sided with Evans on the issue, Ahluwalia says the practice is harmful and has to stop.

“It disproportionately effects one segment of the society,” Ahluwalia told the Star after the meeting. “Three-and-a-half times the probability of stopping black men — it effects them significantly.”

In September, the Star published six years of street check data, obtained from the force under freedom of information laws, that showed black individuals were three times as likely to be stopped by Peel police as whites.

The next day, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Jeffrey, Ahluwalia and Norma Nicholson won a 4-3 vote to stop street checks, requesting that Evans take immediate action. She refused, claiming they did not have authority over her on operational matters. Anti-carding advocates, including the Law Union of Ontario, have refuted this claim. In October the provincial government announced it will ban the practice of random street checks.

Sophia Brown Ramsay, programming director for the Black Community Action Network of Peel, attended Friday’s meeting and is thrilled to have a new chair who supports her group’s goal to end street checks.

Source: Newly elected Peel police board chair sets a fresh tone | Toronto Star

Black rights groups call for changes to Ontario’s ‘carding’ rules

The ongoing debate about police carding in Ontario:

The chorus of voices calling for revisions to the province’s carding regulations grew louder Monday as a coalition of black community groups spoke out about the “the deeply problematic gaps” in proposed legislation aimed at halting discriminatory policing in Ontario.

“Ultimately, when it comes to eliminating racial profiling or preventing racial profiling and anti-black racism, the regulation does not go far enough,” said Anthony Morgan, a lawyer with the African Canadian Legal Clinic.

Among the groups speaking out is the Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE), which expressed doubt about the effectiveness of carding in a letter to the province this fall.

Carding, also known as street checks, “has yet to be reasonably demonstrated an effective or scientific tool to achieve the intended purpose of public safety,” ABLE president Kenton Chance wrote in a submission to the Ministry of Community Safety earlier this year. The Star recently obtained the submission.

On behalf of membership that includes black police officers across Ontario, Chance told the province that police now have other ways to solve crimes, such as video surveillance, that could be “exponentially more valuable and dependable” than the “hit or miss” information obtained through carding.

ABLE spokesperson Terrence Murray stressed the group does not speak for all black and racialized officers.

But in a statement to the Star, he reiterated that the group could not find any reliable information to prove the effectiveness of carding.

“As black police and peace officers, we live and work in two worlds that have allowed us to develop unique perspectives,” Murray wrote.

In October, Minister of Community Safety Yasir Naqvi unveiled draft regulations aimed at eliminating random and arbitrary police stops. Written after months of public consultation, the proposed regulations would place new limits on how and when police stop, question and document members of the public who are not suspected of a crime.

While many are applauding the sentiment behind the regulation, several dozen rights groups and community leaders have sounded the alarm in recent weeks about problems with the regulations.

Among the major concerns is that the proposed legislation includes too many exceptions that allow police to circumvent the safeguards.

Source: Black rights groups call for changes to Ontario’s ‘carding’ rules | Toronto Star

How Ontario politicians teamed up to rein in police carding: Cohn 

Good overview by Regg-Cohn on how the carding issue was addressed, with all party support (all too rare):

Provincial politicians are not usually top of mind when dealing with tensions in the inner cities or outer suburbs. But all three parties answered the call.

NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh launched a public campaign for change earlier this year, disclosing that he’d been carded more than 10 times by police — accosting him, questioning him, profiling him. A turban-wearing Sikh (which apparently arouses suspicions), Singh is a lawyer who now represents the riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton — and knows his rights. But in news conferences, he made the case that most young people don’t know they have a right to refuse police street checks unless they are under suspicion for a crime.

Leading a legislative debate last month, Singh exhorted his fellow MPPs to “send a clear message to the entire province that arbitrary and discriminatory carding and street checks are not acceptable.”

The appeal from Singh’s third-place New Democrats struck a chord with the Progressive Conservatives. As the official Opposition, they have hewed to a rigid law and order line ever since John Tory led the party from 2004-09 and cleaved to police unions (a pattern he continued after becoming Toronto’s mayor last year).

The current PC leader, Patrick Brown, is taking a broader view. After reaching out to ethnic communities, notably people of South Asian descent, he is acutely aware that carding is seen as profiling. The PCs’ new legal affairs critic, Randy Hillier — a rambunctious libertarian but also a civil libertarian — delivered a passionate critique of carding for infringing on fundamental freedoms.

“Societies that arbitrarily or unduly limit people’s freedoms and liberties are also places where individual safety is in jeopardy,” Hillier argued.

The governing Liberals were ready to respond. Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi announced that his party would support the opposition motion to ban discriminatory street checks.

“There is zero tolerance when it comes to any kind of racial profiling or discrimination in interactions that our police engage in,” he announced.

Naqvi, who, like Singh, is a lawyer of South Asian descent, says he has never been carded. But after conducting consultations across the province through the summer, he heard an earful about the practice — and learned about his own tin ear.

His ministry’s initial consultation paper caused a storm for repeating the police claim, unquestioningly, that street checks are a “necessary and valuable tool.” Naqvi was embarrassed into admitting that he’d never asked police to back up their assertions.

Source: How Ontario politicians teamed up to rein in police carding: Cohn | Toronto Star

Ontario sets strict new limits on police street checks

Changes to carding, the new Ontario policy:

You will be told you have the right to walk away. You will be told the interaction is voluntary. You will be told that you do not have to give any information, and why you are being stopped and asked for it to begin with.

You will be provided with a written record of your interaction, given information about the officer, and informed about the police complaints system.

In a move hailed as historic — and overdue — the Ontario government is proposing a strict set of regulations banning all random and arbitrary police stops, and setting limits on how and when police can question and document citizens.

“The regulation makes it very clear that police officers cannot stop you to collect your personal information simply based on the way you look or the neighbourhood you live in,” Yasir Naqvi, Ontario’s minister of community safety and correctional services, announced at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.

“This is the first rights-based framework surrounding these police interactions in our history.”

Source: Ontario sets strict new limits on police street checks | Toronto Star

And Desmond Cole’s reminder that rules need to be accompanied by cultural change:

The Wynne government is finally acknowledging that residents’ stories of intimidation and surveillance are credible, and deserve a response. It’s a welcome, if long overdue, development. But new rules cannot, on their own, reverse a police culture of aggression and hostility towards residents, especially black Torontonians. We can’t regulate decency and respect in policing, but we must nevertheless demand it.

… Too many residents — especially those who are black, indigenous, homeless, or living with mental illness — can recount stories similar to Miller’s. They rarely have the video evidence to prove what we should all collectively know by now: the police regularly abuse their authority when dealing with vulnerable and marginalized people.

New rules and technologies can help discourage bad behaviour and hold officers to account when they transgress, but without tackling the ingrained culture of police intimidation no real solution to this problem is possible. Indeed, the arresting officers in Miller’s incident directed their TAVIS colleagues to “turn the camera on that guy,” to use their recording devices as a tool of intimidation. Equipping police with body cameras is different from insisting that police respect all residents, and ensuring that those who do not are taken off the streets.

Likewise, provincial rules on carding, which have simply not existed until now, can’t fully eliminate arbitrary police stops or disproportionate police suspicion of black people. It makes no difference that the TAVIS officers who accosted Miller are themselves black; if the expectation in police culture is to treat black residents with greater suspicion and less respect, all officers must fall in line, or must face internal scrutiny for failing to play the game.

It took too long for the province to object to carding. It will be many months before the new regulations are critiqued, modified and passed. Even then, it will be up to local police services boards, many of whom have shown no interest in stopping carding, to make the proposed changes real. But carding is just an ugly manifestation of the dominant social belief that blacks and other marginalized people need to be kept in line with aggression, dominance, and disrespect.