Ontario Liberals to ban random police street checks by year's end

The Ontario Liberals say they plan to outlaw arbitrary police carding by the end of the year.

Minister: 'We as a government stand opposed to any arbitrary, random stops by police'

NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh says the practice of arbitrary police carding is discriminatory and must be stopped.

The Ontario Liberals say they plan to outlaw arbitrary and random police carding by the end of the fall.

Yasir Naqvi, Ontario's minister of community safety, said yesterday in the legislature: "We as a government stand opposed to any arbitrary, random stops by police simply to collect information when there are no grounds to do so."

Naqvi said the government will be unveiling new regulations in the coming weeks.

Today, Premier Kathleen Wynne talked about why her government has to put an end to arbitrary carding on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

"It is happening to certain groups of people, it's happening to black men, it's happening to aboriginal men, it's happening to people who are visible minorities," Wynne told Matt Galloway.

"So we can draw a conclusion from that, it has to stop and we have to deal with the issues that underpin it."

Meanwhile, in an interview Friday with CBC Ottawa reporter Kate Porter, Naqvi laid out what the regulations governing carding might look like.

"There's two parts to our regulations that we are developing, Naqvi said. "The first part is prohibiting or banning any random or arbitrary stops by police."

But Naqvi said the regulations will also cover "those voluntary interactions that take place between police and citizens, because there is some sort of suspicious activity, or the police are trying to prevent illegal activity." 

Naqvi says the new regulations will ensure that "when those interactions take place  ... individual rights as they are outlined in the charter and the human rights code are protected."

'Clear and consistent rules for police services'

"We want to make sure there's clear and consistent rules for police services across the province ... so individual rights and civil liberties are always protected," Naqvi said.

The move to ban random police street checks is prompted in part by a private-member's motion put forward in the legislature yesterday by Jagmeet Singh, the NDP MPP from Bramalea-Gore-Malton, who's been carded himself.

"It's something that I welcome," Singh said Friday in an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "I'm so honoured to have been part of the journey to make sure that this practice is ending."

Carding is a practice in which police officers stop and question citizens to gather information — intelligence that is then stored indefinitely in a secret database. Critics have blasted it for targeting young black men and others from ethnic minorities. 

Although citizens not under arrest can legally walk away from the interviews, critics argue the practice violates Charter rights that protect against unlawful search and seizure.

'Hurts a lot of people'

The issue is a personal one for Singh, who says he's been subject to random police street checks.

"I was stopped numerous times," said Singh. "The way it made me feel was something that I don't want anyone else to feel."

"This is something hurting a lot of people in our community," he said. "It's a discriminatory practice."

Singh, who worked as a criminal defence lawyer before entering politics, said police will still be allowed to search suspects when there's reasonable grounds that it's part of a criminal investigation.

"It can't be the case that people are stopped arbitrarily for no reason whatsoever, simply as a purpose to collect data," said Singh. "That's what's been going on, and that's what has to end."

Despite what the Liberals said yesterday, it's not clear whether police will change their practices unless they are forced to by law.

Toronto Chief Mark Saunders has said carding is defined in many ways, and though he doesn't support randomly stopping citizens, he stopped short of supporting Mayor John Tory's call for an outright carding ban.

In June, Saunders told Metro Morning that carding can be lawful "when we do it right." He also said the practice, when done lawfully, "can enhance public safety."