By TOM GODFREY
Community activists are outraged that a watered-down version of a Toronto police racial profiling and carding policy was adopted for use by the force and warn that their fight now goes before the courts.
Final touches are being made to a legal action by the Law Union of Ontario that is challenging a Community Engagement Policy that was accepted 5-2 by the Toronto Police Services Board last week.
More than 30 activists and groups had earlier made deputations to the Board in hearings in which they loudly voiced their opposition to the policy.
A meeting room at Police Headquarters had been packed by community members and supporters in hearings leading up to the vote on the policy.
News of the selection of Toronto’s first Black Chief, Mark Saunders, did not calm the outrage in the community over the policy and made some protesters vow to fight harder in court.
Chief-designate Saunders has vowed to meet with the community and tackle carding among his top concerns when sworn in.
Law Union of Ontario spokesman, Vilko Zbogar, said the challenge will be filed in court as early as next week.
“There are a number of other legal avenues that are also being seriously considered,” Zbogar told Share last week.
The action seeks to challenge the controversial policy in an Ontario court based on the Canadian Constitution, Charter of Rights and Freedoms and likely Ontario Human Rights provisions.
Details of the challenge are being worked on and are pending, lawyers said.
Long-time community lawyer Peter Rosenthal said the adopted policy can be described as a “Community Interrogation or Community Harassment Policy”.
Rosenthal said the policy “does not require officers to tell people that they are free to leave and need not answer questions.
“There are no substantial restrictions on the circumstances in which officers can question people,” he told Share. “Officers need not give the people they interrogate any explanations or any record of the information obtained.”
Rosenthal noted the Board should have deferred acting on the matter until a new chief was appointed.
“We now have a worse situation than we did several years ago,” he told Share. “The police can card people as they always did, and (the) only changed circumstance is that such carding now has the approval of the Police Services Board.”
Ruth Goba, interim Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, called on the police and its Board to set aside the policy and review the situation.
The Commission has been very vocal and on the forefront of the police racial profiling and carding issue.
“Take a fresh look at how to resolve these critical issues as quickly as possible,” Goba urged the Board. “It continues to be our opinion that the new procedure must address all of the critical issues we have raised before it is implemented.”
Kingsley Gilliam of the Black Action Defense Committee said he was very disappointed that the policy was adopted and the issue now moves into the legal arena.
“The lawsuit has been prepared and we are ready to go,” Gilliam told Share. “The matter now goes before the court.”
There is already a $200 million class-action lawsuit filed against Toronto Police in regards to the carding allegations that is before the courts. Similar lawsuits are also proceeding before Peel and Durham Regional Police Forces.
The relationship between the Black community and police in 31 Division is so bad, a community satisfaction survey has found that some residents refuse to report crimes to police.