Saskatoon mayoral race resurrects police 'carding' debate

Police have no legal right to stop and ask people for identification, according to University of Saskatchewan criminal procedure lecturer Bill Roe.

Criminal procedure lecturer says police have no legal right to perform ID checks

Saskatoon mayoral candidates debate police 'carding' issue

7 years ago
Duration 10:26
Saskatoon mayoral candidates debate police 'carding' issue

Police have no legal right to stop and ask people for identification, according to University of Saskatchewan criminal procedure lecturer Bill Roe. 

The issue was raised at a sold-out mayoral debate held at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon on Tuesday. 

Responding to the debate discussion, Roe spoke to CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning about the practice on Thursday.

"My stance on it is the police really have no legal right to stop people on the street for no reason and ask them for identification or ask them what they're doing," he said.

Candidates divided

The three campaign front-runners voiced mixed opinions on "carding" after it was raised by a panelist at the debate. 

Don Atchison spoke strongly in favour of street checks, saying it was an integral part of policing. 

He argued it could also help improve safety for young people on the street by helping them find a safe place to sleep.

Saskatoon police on a regular patrol along a river park space. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

"What happens when you stop some young person on the street at two or three o'clock in the morning?" he said.

"They might be 14 or 15 years old. Don't you think it would be important to ask them why they're there?"

Kelley Moore, who has been critical of carding in the past, said she had a "tough conversation" with Saskatoon Police chief Clive Weighill that day. 

"I recognize that we have to have street checks, but we can't be profiling people," she said. 

Charlie Clark said he was opposed to random carding. 

"In my view there should be no arbitrary police stops for information," said Clark.

"The only time police should be stopping people and gathering information is when there is a legitimate investigative purpose, and now we have to define that."

Crime and concerns

Last year, Saskatoon police told CBC they performed 4,457 street checks in 2014. 

Police chief Clive Weighill has previously said he thinks it deters crime and helps make people accountable for what they're doing at night. 

Saskatoon police chief Clive Weighill has previously said that carding helps to deter crimes. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

He also said his officers are well-versed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and they are aware that people do not have to stop and give their name if asked.

But Roe, a retired defence lawyer of 30 years, said many people who were carded did not know they could refuse to answer questions from officers. 

"Most people don't know that they have that right," he said.

"And in fact, if you look at the psychological aspects of dealing with someone in a uniform or a police car, most people are not going to refuse to answer or walk away from a police officer."

Issue deals with 'individual rights'

He was also concerned the practice could lead to racial profiling and that it would target certain neighbourhoods, such as Saskatoon's "Alphabet City". 

"There may be more crime but the problem is what you are talking about is individual rights," said Roe. 

"If I look at it this way, if I'm walking around as a white male in Nutana at three o'clock in the morning, the police probably aren't going to give me a second glance if I'm walking down 8th Street." 

He predicted carding would be more of an election issue for people whose neighbourhoods were affected. 

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning