Edmonton police, groups divided after carding meeting

An invitation-only police meeting about carding leaves members of Black Lives Matter Edmonton standing outside the police station.

Invite-only meeting at Edmonton police station met with split reactions by community leaders

About 20 people who wanted to be included in a meeting about street checks gathered outside a police station Wednesday. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

An invitation-only police meeting about carding left members of Black Lives Matter Edmonton standing outside the police station Wednesday.

About 20 people gathered in front of the police information check section in northwest Edmonton, asking to join the closed-door meeting on the police practice of randomly checking identification on the streets.

Organizers Bashir Mohamed and Reakash Walters had been invited to attend on behalf of Black Lives Matter, but refused to go inside without the other members.

"I think it says everything that needs to be said on its own," Walters said. "They don't want us to be part of the conversation with our community."

Reakash Walters (right), an organizer with Black Lives Matter Edmonton, asked to have other members of her community included in Wednesday's meeting but was denied by police. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

Walters waited outside with supporters, hoping to catch Edmonton's police chief on his way to the meeting. He did not enter through the main doors.

"They would like to control the situation and decide who gets to participate," said Walters, who has called for carding to be abolished. 

"We would like to say that, 'No, you don't get to decide who gets to talk — the community decides who gets to talk.' "

Police chief disappointed

Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht said he was disappointed Walters and Mohamed didn't participate.

Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht said he regretted the absence of several invitees at Wednesday's meeting. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

"It would have been very valuable for them," he told reporters after the meeting. "It would have been valuable for us, too."

Other invitees made the decision not to open the meeting, he added.

"It was a good-sized group where you could actually get at the issues, discuss them and come up with solutions and a way forward," he said.

Knecht hosted about half a dozen people from organizations representing minority groups in Edmonton. 

When asked which communities were included, Knecht said he didn't remember. 

"I asked my people to bring people who are the voice of their community, that have the respect of their community," he said.

Knecht said they agreed on four issues: To better define carding, to review police policies around carding, to train officers about those policies and to increase community consultation.

"We're not going to tell the community what to do," Knecht said. "I think the community should be telling us what they want and we'll respond.

"As long as it's legal, moral and ethical I think we can make it happen."

'We were heard'

Kari Thomason with the Métis Child and Family Services Society said she was satisfied with the meeting.

"We were heard," she said. "Issues were heard and they were addressed."

Thomason supports carding, which she said helps keep vulnerable members of the community safe. In particular, she said it helps locate missing Aboriginal women.

Kari Thomason attended Wednesday's meeting on behalf of the Métis Child and Family Services Society. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

"If they're being street-checked over and over by officers it's for their own safety," she said. "It's not as individuals being targeted."

A recent CBC investigation shows Aboriginal women were nearly 10 times more likely to be stopped by Edmonton police than white women in 2016.

Aboriginal people were six times more likely than white people to be stopped. Black people were nearly five times more likely than white people to be stopped.

"When you're going in a certain area that is highly populated by our Aboriginal community, those stats are going to reveal and reflect that is the Aboriginal community that they're checking on," Thomason said.

"There is no way of removing that aspect."

Thomason and others who attended Wednesday's meeting have a month to submit feedback to police. There will be another meeting in late September.