Ontario to launch new campaign around new carding rules

The Ontario government is planning an education campaign to make people aware of their rights when carded by police.

Province plans campaign on new carding ban, but advocacy group says it's no 'step forward'

Black Lives Matter Toronto says people are still being carded 'for no reason' despite the new regulation. (CBC)

The Ontario government is planning an educational campaign to make people aware of their rights under a new carding regulation that took effect Jan. 1.

Ontario has banned carding, also known as street checks, in specific situations across the province. A spokesman for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said the forthcoming campaign will clarify what's allowed — and what isn't — under the law.

"It is in the best interest of both the police and the public that everybody understand the new regulation, so there isn't confusion during police interactions," Brent Ross said in an ​email.

The co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, however, says carding still happens — and that a public relations blitz won't change what's happening between police and members of visible minorities.

But Ross said the provincial campaign will teach people their rights when dealing with police.

"The arbitrary collection of identifying information by the police is unacceptable," Ross said. "That is why the government banned arbitrary street checks starting Jan. 1, 2017. All police services across the province must comply with the requirements of the new regulation." 
The province wants to clarify what is allowed and what is not under the law. (Stewart Rand/Flickr)

The province is also working to ensure that police services comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

"The government believes that respectful, rights-based interactions between police and members of the public is the foundation of effective community policing," Ross said.

'The rules and what they mean for you'

Police officers cannot ask an Ontario resident for identification based on their race, because the person is in a high-crime area, or because the person refused to answer a question, according to the carding regulations.

The officer must also explain why he or she wants the identifying information, inform the person that he or she can refuse the request, and must offer a receipt that includes the officer's name and badge number. The officer also needs to explain who to contact in order to find out any personal information about the person kept on file by police.

The officer must keep detailed records of the interaction, even if a person refuses to share information.

Province says there will be exceptions

There may be "rare cases" when there will be exceptions to the rules, the ministry says. 
Sandy Hudson, Alexandria Williams and Yusra Khogali, co-founders of Black Lives Matter Toronto, at Pride 2016. Khogali says the new carding regulation is no 'step forward.' (Courtesy of Paige Galette)

If the regulations could have a negative impact on an investigation, threaten public safety or force officers to disclose confidential information, an officer may not have to: explain why he or she is asking for information, tell the person that he or she has the right to refuse giving identification, or provide a receipt.

For example, if an officer suspects a car passenger may be a human trafficking victim, they may not have to tell a person that he or she has the right to refuse to give ID. 

The officer, however, must record a reason for not following protocol.

Not a 'step forward'

Yusra Khogali, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter Toronto, said the new carding regulation is not "a step forward" because police officers can still get around the rules.

She said the campaign is an attempt to convince the public that the rules have changed, even though they have not made a difference on the street. 

"We don't think any regulation is going to improve what is inherently racist and a violation of our charter rights and a violation of our dignity and humanity," she said.

The province said its campaign will teach people their rights when it comes to carding. (Government of Ontario)

Khogali said Black Lives Matter believes there should be a "complete elimination" of carding. 

"Black and racialized people are stopped every single day based on an assumption of who they are and their appearance and that has been used to violate them time and time again," she said. "We actually think this regulation is a how-to manual on how to card and racially profile communities. The language is very manipulative."

She said the campaign is a "Band-Aid solution" that will not fix the problem of carding.

Toronto police get training on new rules

Mark Pugash, spokesman for Toronto Police Service, said officers have undergone thorough training to learn about the new carding regulation. 

Instructors "used real-life examples, practical examples, and they put people in situations where they had to make decisions," he said. "Police officers have to understand the law."

Pugash said in situations where the rules apply, the changes to policing are significant.

With files from Mike Crawley