Tory MLA demands Alberta government stop police carding

A Calgary MLA and former police officer is demanding Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley stop police officers from carding Albertans.

Mike Ellis said carding violates the charter, reinforces racial profiling in vulnerable communities

MLA Mike Ellis asks for end of police 'carding'

6 years ago
Duration 3:22
Speaking during question period, Ellis repeatedly asked Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley about the practise of 'carding' by the province's police forces.

A Calgary MLA and former police officer is demanding Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley stop police officers from carding Albertans.

Mike Ellis, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-West, said in an interview with CBC's Edmonton AM radio show Wednesday that carding directly violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"The police cannot just arbitrarily stop people on the street and demand identification from them," Ellis said. "This is not really anything that is actually debatable here. This is Section 9 of the charter of rights."

Section 9 of the charter states "everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned."

Carding is the recording of personal information by police without a cause.

'Racial profiling occurs'

"[Police are] targeting people based on their socioeconomic background," Ellis said during the radio interview. "Racial profiling occurs out of this."

A day earlier, Ellis raised the issue of the "unlawful act of carding" with Ganley during the legislature question period, noting carding often targets vulnerable communities.

He suggested that for those being stopped in random street checks, carding amounts to a "form of psychological detention because they do not feel that they can just walk away, even though that is their right."

Ellis cited statistics from a CBC Edmonton investigation that showed between 2011 and 2014, the Edmonton Police Service stopped and documented more than 26,000 citizens on average each year. Other CBC stories have cited concerns about carding unfairly targeting people from the Indigenous and black communities.

Working 'very carefully' with police chiefs

Responding to the MLA's comments, Ganley reminded Ellis that those statistics are from a period when the previous Progressive Conservative government was in power.

"We're working very carefully with the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police to ensure this issue is addressed," Ganley said, "so the police can attain their objective of making sure everyone is safe while at the same time respecting the rights of all members of society.

"We're moving forward with that plan to make sure everyone feels respected."

Ellis, who was a member of the Calgary Police Service for 13 years, said during the radio interview he understands how difficult the job of policing is. "That is one of the most challenging jobs out there," he said.

But carding can hurt an already often-strained relationship between police and some communities, Ellis added.

"[If there is] a person walking down the street who has committed no offence whatsoever, the police do not have a right to stop that person and demand identification from them," he said. "It creates division amongst the community.

"Community policing is about building relationships with the community."

With files from Emily Fitzpatrick