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.


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.

Ontario says it can’t get data on effectiveness of carding for current review

Evidence-based policy requires data:

The provincial government cannot compel Ontario’s police forces to hand over their data on street checks — including information as to how many times the controversial practice has helped solve crimes, according to Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi.

That means that as the province continues its review of street checks, commonly known as “carding,” it will do so without knowing how often the practice has actually proved useful to investigations, by leading to an arrest, to the discovery of a weapon or drugs, or more.

“Legally we are not entitled to that data, under the Police Services Act, unless we require it in the regulation,” Naqvi told reporters during Tuesday’s public consultation at the Toronto Reference Library. Naqvi said his ministry has been consulting with Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner about how to gain access to this policing data in aggregate form, stripped of any personal information.

“One of the reasons why this regulation is needed is to give the province the ability to require the disclosure of data, specific to how police services conduct street checks, to ensure that they are conducted in a way that is rights-based, fair and consistent across the province,” Lauren Callighen, Naqvi’s press secretary, said in an email.

Under Ontario’s Police Act, Callighen said, there are certain circumstances where the province may inspect municipal police services to review their practices, such as the use of force. “This regulation will ensure the same oversight for any policy on street checks.”

Nonetheless, in the absence of such data, the province described street checks in its online discussion document as a “necessary and valuable tool for police” when used properly —something critics of the provincial review have decried as, at best, presumptive.

Naqvi’s office did not respond to a question about what criteria were used to describe street checks as “a necessary and valuable tool,” if not police data.

The lack of information as to how carding interactions produce results has become one of the central issues in the heated debate around the practice.

Carding proponents, including Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack, defend it as a vital investigative tool. Police have said the information contained in carding records can help officers connect the dots, perhaps to show an association between individuals, to place someone in an important place at a key time, and more.

Source: Ontario says it can’t get data on effectiveness of carding for current review | Toronto Star

John Tory, Mark Saunders get cover from Queen’s Park on carding issue: James

Royson James on the Ontario government’s public consultations on carding:

There is little reason to believe that the provincial Liberal government consultations on carding will yield anything more satisfactory than the chaotic farce the Toronto Police Services Board has delivered, led by Mayor John Tory.

To expect meaningful reform from the current initiative, with a stop in Toronto at the reference library Tuesday night, is to be overcome with naiveté borne of willful blindness.

In fact, the evidence points to a provincial government in cahoots with Tory and the Toronto police brass; one whose intervention is designed to offer pap and a public relations show, while preserving the essence of police street checks.

Notwithstanding the lofty statements about the government’s intolerance of discrimination, the impact of any new rules passed will likely be: police will have the ability to stop anyone, anytime, for any reason, stated or unstated, to psychologically, if not expressly detain said person, record personal information from said subject, and record the same in a police database.

And we know who will be targeted most.

And we know — or have been told ad nauseum this past year — the real, psychological, and social costs borne by the black community, particularly young black men.

But carding is a useful tool — according to opening statements on the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services website, announcing the review.

Done properly, the new police chief has said, carding is legal.

Done properly, we wouldn’t be here debating the matter, attempting to tame it, wrestling with the chief to find reasonable constraints on the practice, and advocating for reform.

Done properly, street checks in Toronto would follow the protocol drawn up in April 2014 by a Toronto police board that studied the matter and came up with as good a compromise as possible.

That was before John Tory and (now board chair) Andy Pringle and former chief Bill Blair turned the file into a horrible mess, a political hot potato and a public relations disaster.

Pringle, a member of the board in 2014 and Tory acolyte and Blair’s fishing buddy, convinced Tory that he should back Blair in his refusal to implement the board’s decision. Tory, while condemning carding, destroyed the 2014 policy designed to fix it, brought in new guidelines that created a firestorm of controversy, and was forced to go back to the very 2014 board policy he meddled with.

And this is where the province mysteriously entered the fray.

Why? Few can explain the motivation. How? In a manner that only fosters cynicism. Who would enter this messy situation, with the epicenter in Toronto, and decide to hold consultations in Ottawa and Thunder Bay but not Toronto? Who would set up private sessions with groups familiar with the issue and not include the Black Action Defence Committee (BADC)?

Source: John Tory, Mark Saunders get cover from Queen’s Park on carding issue: James | Toronto Star

Critics see problems with Ontario carding review

In advance of Toronto’s consultation on Tuesday, a look at three concerns raised by critics about the province’s street checks review and responses from the ministry and police associations:

The definition of “street checks” is too broad

In an online form the ministry calls its “discussion document,” street checks are defined as a tool police use “to engage and record interactions with individuals whose activities and/or presence within their broader context (e.g., location, time, behaviour, etc.) seem out of the ordinary.”

But Knia Singh — who has launched a Charter challenge against police carding and says he has been stopped by police 30 times — says the ministry’s definition is does not capture the reality of street checks, which involve arbitrary detentions.

The majority of community members who are concerned about carding are not opposed to police having the ability to stop and question people for a legitimate investigative purpose.

“What we’ve always been fighting is the non-criminal investigation of people,” Singh said. “What they’re missing is the whole point of people just walking on the street, standing on the corner or minding their own business are getting stopped.”

“If they are going to use the word ‘street check,’ they have to define it correctly,” Singh said. “Then we can have a discussion.”

Jonathan Rose, spokesperson for Naqvi’s ministry, said it’s in the process of updating the content of its street-check document online “to reflect the feedback that we have heard from our public consultation and online channels,” though he did not specify what changes were being made.

“We intend to make these changes to the web page content in the coming days,” Rose said in an email.

It misses the root problem of racial discrimination

In a lengthy submission to the ministry, the Ontario Human Rights Commission states its central concern with the street checks review is that it does not go far enough to address the “systemic issue” underlying the over-representation of racialized people in street-check interactions.

Ruth Goba, the OHRC’s interim chief commissioner, says the ministry does not go far enough to define when it is appropriate to perform street checks.

The OHRC challenges the suggestion that police may perform street checks when individuals’ activities “seem out of the ordinary.” That is just simply too broad, Goba says — and unguided officer discretion to initiate street checks is “fertile ground for racial profiling,” the OHRC writes.

Also, the larger issue “of racial profiling is not explicitly mentioned,” Goba says, “and that is a significant gap given how the issue has manifested itself.”

Rose said Naqvi has made it clear the government “takes the protection of human rights very seriously and that we have zero tolerance for racism or marginalization.”

It is taken for granted that street checks solve crime

In its description of street checks, the province describes the practice as “a necessary and valuable tool for police” that helps solve and prevent crime.

Chris Williams, an outspoken carding opponent and member of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, says stating carding’s usefulness as fact is problematic. Numerous groups, including TPAC, the Law Union of Ontario and the OHRC have argued there is a dearth of objective evidence supporting the claim that street checks solve crime.

Police forces and associations across Ontario often cite the importance street checks can play in solving crime…

Source: Critics see problems with carding review | Toronto Star

Racial profiling not addressed in Ontario public consultation over street checks

Valid concerns. That is the issue:

A public consultation about the police method of street checks Friday afternoon left some attendees disappointed over its structured format that left no time to discuss issues such as racial profiling.

The consultation, which was held at Carleton University and addressed issues including the definition of “street check,” rules about how they should be applied and administrative oversight, was attended by approximately 15 members of the public, along with a handful of Ottawa police and government officials.

“It’s a very active conversation,” said Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi. “I’m very happy to hear the diversity of the people who are attending from our community, so we have varied perspectives represented in this consultation.”

The format of the consultation involved discussions among small groups on three specific questions, with results of their ensuing discussion written on sticky notes and posted on a board.

Participants were also encouraged to speak to the group as a whole after the group segment was finished.

But not all the people in attendance were satisfied with the scope of the conversation.

Carl Nicholson, a member of the Police Services Board who was not acting in an official capacity, said the “structured” discussion left little wiggle room to discuss potential bias and racial profiling.

“You can be sure it’s not far from our minds,” he said. “We do want the opportunity to explore what is driving those numbers.”

The numbers he mentioned refer to a document released in July. The police service’s combined statistics from 2011 through 2014 showed that 58 per cent of people it has street checked are white, 20 per cent are black and 14 per cent are Middle Eastern. Aboriginal, Asian, East Indian, Latin American and those whose race is unknown accounted for about seven per cent. The ethnicity of about 10 per cent of people street checked wasn’t recorded.

Racial profiling not addressed in public consultation over street checks | Ottawa Citizen.