Why keep 'pulling us over if we never committed a crime?' black teens ask at carding event

In an effort to determine how things are going on the streets since the province changed the rules on police checks, more commonly known as carding, there have been a string of public meetings — and on Tuesday evening, Hamilton had its say.

On Tuesday the provincial review of police street check rules made its stop in Hamilton

Justice Michael Tulloch sits with 19-year-old Ahmed Hussein, a student at Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School, who shares his experience of being carded. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Ahmed Hussein, a 19-year-old student at Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School, wants to know why, despite having never being charged with a crime, he keeps getting stopped by Hamilton police.

He says it's been four or five times already.

It was a good day, Tuesday, to ask that question. Justice Michael H. Tulloch was holding a public consultation in Hamilton on police street checks, also known as carding. It's part of a tour that will take Tulloch to Ajax and Markham this week.

Hussein wasn't even supposed to be at the event. He was sitting with five friends at a Tim Hortons nearby when, he says, a man came in and asked them all if they'd like to join the meeting.

In an effort to determine how things are going on the streets since the province changed the rules on police checks, more commonly known as carding, numerous public meetings are being held across the province to collect feedback. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

The students told Justice Michael H. Tulloch and the crowd at the Hamilton room in the central library on York Boulevard that they have all been carded and for some, on numerous occasions.

"All of us have been stopped by police for no reason and no charges have ever been laid, so what's the point of pulling us over if we never committed a crime," said another student from Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School to the room.

Tulloch has been appointed to conduct the independent review of Ontario's new rules, to assess whether the regulation reflects the government's goal of ensuring that police-public interactions and engagements are consistent, bias-free and done in a way that promotes public confidence and human rights.

"I just want you to all know that we listened very carefully to all of your submissions," Tulloch said.

New rules

Last year the province changed the rules on how police conduct street checks and how they can no longer "arbitrarily" collect someone's information — but Tulloch heard Tuesday — black people are still a target for the practice. 

Tulloch will also be reviewing the content of the regulation and assessing whether police officers, chiefs of police and police services boards are complying with it.

Truthfully, sitting with these young brothers was really the whole purpose I think why justice Tulloch was here. They are the majority of the targets for this carding.- Reuben  Abib

The meeting heard from a number of community members from various backgrounds and ages. After an hour of table discussions, a representative from each table told Tulloch and his team how they felt about street checks.

Before the students provided feedback to the room, Tulloch sat with them, to listen. Hussein said Tuesday that he's "feeling good" after speaking with Tulloch.

"I just liked to talk to him and just tell him what happened to us."

Justice Michael Tulloch has been appointed to conduct the independent review of Ontario’s new rules, to assess whether the regulation reflects the government’s goal of ensuring that police-public interactions and engagements are consistent, bias-free and done in a way that promotes public confidence and human rights. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Reuben Abib sat with the students, helping to guide the collective table discussion. He says, "this problem is very severe." 

"Truthfully, sitting with these young brothers was really the whole purpose I think why justice Tulloch was here. They are the majority of the targets for this carding. What we've heard so far is every single one of them have been targets of the police for no reason," said Abib.

People brought up various aspects of street checks from personal experiences, to discussing how officers are required to provide a receipt or document after they stop an individual, to how officers were required to be trained on the new regulation before it came into effect.

I think that police services across the province are finding creative ways to circumvent the regulation.- Coun. Matthew Green

A general feel from the room was that there should be better trust between the community and police and more education to the public about new policing policies. 

"We also feel that with the government, having all this money and power, have not been promoting this legislation more often. They promote gun violence and all that through TV commercials and radio, but this legislation they keep it on paper, they talk about it quietly," said 14-year-old Micaiah Beausoleil

Hamilton Police Services Board member, Don MacVicar sits with Emmanuel Beausoleil, 12 and his brother, Micaiah Beausoleil, 14. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

A night for awareness

"Tonight was an excellent night to have awareness of the needs of the community. It's an independent review by Justice Tulloch and I find that we heard many voices tonight representing many populations of people and it's very beneficial," Hamilton Police Services Board member, Don MacVicar told CBC News.

When asked what would be done with the feedback from the meeting, MacVicar says, "we'll wait on Justice Tulloch's report." "We'll review it at that time."

Everything that you've said, I've been making note of and listening, and it will be considered in my recommendations.- Justice Michael H. Tulloch

Coun. Matthew Green was in attendance and said "I'm under no illusions that this practice has stopped."

"I think that police services across the province are finding creative ways to circumvent the regulation," said Green.

Green says it's a practice of "big net fishing," which isn't yielding results that would be a reasonable balance against community interest.

"What we're hearing again, again and again is that the general public still believes this is unlawful practice. Police services have been unable to link this in any substantive way to a reduction in crime or to key cases that were generated from these arbitrary stops," said Green.

Hamilton was one of many stops for the consultations. Two more are scheduled for this this week in Ajax and Markham. Four more will be held next month in Windsor, London, Ottawa and Sudbury. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

The findings are expected to be made public at the beginning of next year.

"I hear you all," Tulloch said. "Everything that you've said, I've been making note of and listening, and it will be considered in my recommendations."

Consultations have already been held in Thunder Bay, Brampton as well as three in the Toronto area. Two more are scheduled for this this week in Ajax and Markham. Four more will be held next month in Windsor, London, Ottawa and Sudbury.