Ontario to standardize carding policy across province, minister says

Ontario will standardize a controversial carding policy, also known as 'street checks,' used by some police departments, Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi says.

Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi outlines new regulations and working group

Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi announced changes to the controversial carding policy Tuesday morning. (CBC)

Ontario will standardize a controversial carding policy, also known as 'street checks,' used by some police departments, Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi said Tuesday.

Until this morning, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her ministers had refused to criticize police for carding.

Naqvi said stories of police doing street checks for no reason on people who have done nothing wrong have allowed distrust to creep into the public's relationship with the police.

"The status quo in these cases is not acceptable and cannot continue," said Naqvi. He added that the Ontario government has "zero tolerance when it comes to any racial profiling and discrimination."

He wouldn't eliminate the practice, saying it's important that police are able to investigate any suspicious activity. But Naqvi said the new regulations will ensure there are clear and effective rules in place.

"Street checks is one of those fundamental issues that requires a single, clear standard throughout all the province."

He said the government will work with the policing community, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, civil liberty advocates, community groups, legal organizations and the public to develop mandatory and enforceable regulations on street checks. He said these regulations will apply to all police forces in Ontario.

Toronto Mayor John Tory's communications adviser Keerthana Kamalavasan said in an email to CBC News that the mayor's stance that carding must end still stands. 

"It's clear from this morning's announcement that the province has come to the same conclusion he has — on the carding issue, public trust has been damaged and must be restored," Kamalavasan wrote.

The mayor's office added that Tory will work with the province on developing the new regulations.

Changes expected in fall

Naqvi said the new regulations are expected this fall.

Journalist Desmond Cole wrote in Toronto Life about his experience of being repeatedly questioned by police. He said the new announcement is a start.
Some have attacked the practice as racial profiling, while others defend it, such as new Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders. The Toronto Police Service told CBC News Tuesday it is looking forward to working with the province on the issue.

The debate on carding exploded this spring with a Toronto Life magazine cover story by black journalist Desmond Cole, who told his story of being stopped by police more than 50 times.

Cole called today's announcement a start.

"There seems to be some reluctance to come right out and say that the police have been engaging in rampant racial profiling," he said.

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