By Dr. AJAMU NANGWAYA
On the matter of carding across Ontario by the cops, the paraphrasing of the opening line of the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels is quite fitting.
A spectre or ghost is haunting Ontario – the spectre of police carding. Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, London, Ottawa, Peel Region, Waterloo Region, Peterborough and Kingston are some of the cities or regions in Ontario that entertain the ghoulish, frightening and liberty-denying presence of carding.
If carding wasn’t a serious issue of racial and/or class profiling, I would certainly recommend contracting the services of the famed Ghost Busters to rid the province of this ghostly entity called carding. In this case, it is the organized power of the people that is going to stop carding in its tracks.
Toronto is widely known for its organized opposition to end carding. It is also the city with one of highest concentration of racialized people in the province, except for the city of Markham and Brampton.
The racial disparity of the people who are carded in Toronto is quite glaring. In 2010, the Toronto Star reported that its analysis of six years of carding data revealed that Afrikan-Canadians made up 8.4 per cent of Toronto’s population, but were three times more likely to be carded than their White counterparts.
In some patrol zones, West Asians, Arabs and South Asians were carded at rates higher than their population figures. However, Afrikan-Canadians were stopped in all patrol zones at rates above their proportion of the population.
According to an analysis of carding data by the Toronto Star, there was a 75 per cent decline in Torontonians being carded in July 2013 when compared with July 2012. This downward trend in carding maintained itself in subsequent months.
However, in spite of staying at a historic low, the proportion of Afrikan-Canadians carded increased from 23.3 per cent in the previous five-year period to 27.4 per cent after July 2013.
The exposure of the reality of who are disproportionately carded in Toronto confirmed the long held belief among Afrikan-Canadians that they are racially profiled.
In the last five years, the cops in the city of Hamilton carded Afrikan-Canadians at a rate that is over three times higher than their representation in the population. According to the 2011 census, Afrikan-Canadians were three per cent of the residents in this municipality, but they are 11 to 14 per cent of the people carded.
Racialized people are 15 per cent of Hamilton’s population but are between 20 and 25 per cent of the people carded from 2010 to 2014. While the police are claiming that racial profiling is not happening, the figures are painting a hideous picture of racist and selective policing.
The city of Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is also exposing racial profiling in its approach to policing. While Afrikan-Canadians are 5.7 per cent of the municipality’s residents, they are 20 per cent of the people carded.
Islamophobia or anti-Arab biases might be at work in Ottawa. While the residents in the category Middle Eastern are 4.6 per cent of the population, they make-up 14 per cent of the people who are subjected to carding.
Acting Inspector Mark Patterson’s justification for the overrepresentation of racialized people in the carding statistics is based on his claim that “a large percentage of our street gangs are members of racially marginalized groups.” But Patterson is conveniently forgetting that carding is carried out during non-criminal encounters with the public.
The city of London might not enter the consciousness of Torontonians on the matter of carding. However, this city is on steroids when it comes to carding. According to the London Free Press:
“London police conducted 8,400 such street checks — or carding, as it’s popularly known — in 2014, meaning at a rate of about 23 checks for every 1,000 people.
In Hamilton and Ottawa, by comparison, both larger cities, the rate worked out to seven or fewer checks per 1,000 people, while in Windsor it was 4.5.”
The London Police Service unduly targets Afrikan-Canadians in its carding dragnet. While the 2011 census pegged Afrikan-Canadians at 2.2 per cent of London’s residents, they were 7.7 per cent of the people carded.
In 2011, Indigenous peoples were 1.9 per cent of the residents in London, but 5.3 per cent of those carded in 2014.
The city of Windsor has been practicing carding for at least 30 years. Afrikan-Canadians believe that they are victimized by carding.
Linda McCurdy, a criminal lawyer in Windsor, believes that carding is informed by a racial bias. She states: “I know that it happens to young Black males (because) they tell me, but I don’t hear it happening to young White males.”
The spectre of carding is disrupting the lives of many Ontarians. In order to end carding, a movement is needed to confront this type of police violence. The people can terminate carding without legislation. Premier Wynne’s regulation of carding will merely be carding with foundation and lipstick.
The opponents of carding need to create neighbourhood-based campaigns that empower our neighbours to stop sharing their personal information with the cops.
If we put people in a position to withhold the requested information in these non-criminal interactions, carding will collapse under its own racist and class-biased weight.
While the focus on the racist character of carding is necessary, it is essential to recognize the class-based biases of carding. Carding is likely to be used against members of the White working-class or Whites who are at the bottom of the social ladder.
The White petty bourgeoisie and wealthy ones would be screaming bloody murder if they were being carded in large numbers.
In this resistance to carding, it is critically important to unite the oppressed against the government and the agents of law and order. Carding anywhere is a threat to liberty everywhere.
Ajamu Nangwaya, PhD, is an educator, organizer and writer. He is an organizer with the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence.