Province seeks public input on carding

The province will launch public consultations on the controversial police practice of street checks, also known as carding, in the wake of a public outcry

Critics say controversial practice targets minorities

The province is launching public consultations on carding following months of heated debate over the controversial practice. (Mike DeBiasio, Flickr cc)

The province will launch public consultations on the controversial police practice of carding in the wake of a public outcry.

A contentious debate about the merits of carding has been going on in Toronto for months, particularly in the wake of a published report by journalist Desmond Cole about his own interactions with police. Opponents argue the policy unfairly targets minorities.

Carding allows police officers to stop and question individuals not suspected of criminal activity then log that information indefinitely in a database.

"Ontario is launching public consultations on street checks to ensure that police interactions with the public are without bias, consistent and carried out in a manner that promotes public confidence," reads a release issued Thursday by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Starting Thursday, anyone who has experience with street checks can complete an online form.

The consultations will begin in August.

The province is seeking input from community groups, police agencies, academics, civil liberties organizations and members of the public on issues such as:

  • The circumstances during which police may ask someone for information.
  • The rights of anyone who is asked for information.
  • Ways to enhance accountability and training.
  • Data collection and retention practices.

Province-wide issue

In June, the Toronto Police Services Board announced that, despite the outcry, carding would continue but with some changes. The force will to its 2014 carding policy, which requires officers to have a reason for stopping people on the street and to provide a receipt for each interaction.

The ministry's news release says the province "takes the protection of human rights very seriously and has zero tolerance for any form of marginalization or discrimination that violates rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

New regulations on street checks would help police do their jobs by providing clear guidelines, the release goes on.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has stood by the practice since assuming leadership of the force in April. In June, Saunders couldn't say when the amended carding policy would take effect.

Mayor John Tory has changed his opinion about carding a couple of times since early June, when he stood behind the practice.

That month, he told the board that "the degree to which carding had a discriminatory impact on minority groups has led to an unacceptable erosion of public trust and confidence in the TPS," and put forward a motion to end the practice.

He later amended the motion to have the city revert to the carding policy it enacted on April 24, 2014.

In Hamilton, black people are stopped, questioned and documented in police street checks at a disproportionate rate compared to the population in that city, police statistics revealed.

Earlier this month, Ottawa police have released their first ever report into the controversial practise of street checks, also known as carding, and revealed similar data.

NPD MPP Jagmeet Singh — who says he's been a victim of carding — also proposed provincial legislation to deal with the controversial practice.