Carding policy passed by Toronto police board, despite lingering concerns
Community engagement policy lacks safeguards to uphold rights, activist says
The Toronto Police Services Board has approved its revised set of guidelines for carding, the practice of officers stopping, questioning and collecting information on people without arresting them.
The community engagement policy, as the board calls it, says officers should not consider "race, place of origin, age, colour, ethnic origin, gender identity or gender expression" before they approach someone for questioning.
But some community activists are not convinced those subjected to the stops will have enough safeguards for their rights or that racial profiling will be put aside.
Last year, it was recommended that police be obligated to make people aware of the fact carding was voluntary and also provide people with a record of the interaction. But those elements were never added to the new policy. The board's revised policy on carding requires officers to give those they question their business card.
"When it's not being advised that it is a voluntary interaction, youth or anybody will tend to comply with the demands and may end up getting themselves into an uncomfortable situation," activist and law student Kina Singh told CBC as the board passed the revised policy Thursday.
Singh, who is black, says he himself has been stopped by police more than 20 times but never arrested or charged.
When he filed a freedom of information request for his police contact cards, he received 57 pages and 11 cards with "various information on them," and discovered a number of inaccuracies.
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Police recorded on two occasions that he told them he was born in Jamaica when in he was born and raised in Toronto. One record even mentioned an immigration warrant.
"Another one says I'm not police friendly. I am police friendly." Other records show a range for how tall he is.
Singh says if police are judging those they stop based on race or colour, there can be an increase risk to that person's safety, especially if the information is not accurate.
He says if an officer thinks someone is "not friendly" to police during a traffic top they may approach with "a certain sense of apprehension or hostility."
Singh predicts a series of legal action against the practice and a spike in the number of complaints because of a policy he says has no teeth or civilian oversight.