Edmonton

Justice minister says she's heard no formal complaints about police street checks

Alberta's minister of justice says she’s not aware of complaints to the province or the police about the controversial issue of street checks, where officers stop and ask for ID from thousands of people every year.

Leaders in aboriginal community and some ethnic groups say people are unfairly targeted

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley says she spoke Monday with Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht about the controversial issue of street checks. (CBC)

Alberta's minister of justice says she's not aware of complaints to the province or the police about the controversial issue of street checks, where officers stop and ask for ID from thousands of people every year.

Kathleen Ganley said she spoke Monday with Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht after CBC News stories highlighted concerns from legal and aboriginal representatives about racial profiling and other human-rights violations.

The practice of street checks, which commonly involves "carding" of personal information, is under review in Ontario.

Each year in Edmonton police stop and document an average of 26,000 people who are not suspected of criminal activity. While the information records personal identification like race, police say they don't keep tallies based on ethnicity. 

Leaders in the aboriginal community and some ethnic groups say people are being unfairly targeted. 

Although police say they get a handful of complaints about police interactions annually, Ganley said neither the province, the Edmonton police commission or the police department are getting formal complaints about carding.

"It's difficult to comment on a problem that hasn't been brought to our attention," Ganley said.

The minister said she spoke to the police chief to ask for more information about how police conduct such stops and why they do so.

"It's just a question of whether they're doing it in an appropriate way, and in accordance with the police standards," she said.

But D'Arcy DePoe, past president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association, told CBC the lack of standards governing street checks is a reason for concern. 

With so many random checks leading to "essentially secret" files on people, DePoe said a review is needed and the police service must prove why it is justified, beyond anecdotal arguments.   

"We have to know what these data banks are all about," said DePoe. "We have to have public input as to what we want the police to do and what we don't want them to do."

Ganley said she hasn't heard evidence to suggest the police code of conduct requiring police to "serve the public equally" is not being followed. 

"Well I think if we were to receive a complaint, or if the police service or the police commission were to receive a complaint and come to us asking sort of for assistance, then it would be an important thing to look into," she said.

With files from CBC's Andrea Huncar

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