By TOM GODFREY
Outgoing Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair is being applauded by some leaders for scrapping the controversial practice of carding, which has been a major irritant for members of the Black community.
The racial profiling and carding of members of the community by police has sparked protests and a $200 million class action lawsuit against the Toronto Police Services Board.
The Board has been under fire for not ending the practice that targets Blacks more than other nationalities for random street checks and questioning by police. The information obtained is kept in police databases.
Toronto Police spokesman, Mark Pugash, told Share that the practice has been suspended by the Chief until further notice.
Pugash said the order came from a directive that took effect on January 1. The matter will be discussed at the next board meeting on February 19.
Dozens of prominent citizens and groups such as the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition and the Law Union of Ontario have made submissions to the board calling for an end of the practice.
A need for action surfaced in a community satisfaction survey that was conducted in 31 Division last summer which showed many residents mistrusted police; said they have been carded and would not report a crime to police. Many said they felt intimidated during what should be a voluntary encounter.
Prominent lawyer, Peter Rosenthal, said the end of carding is a positive step for the community.
“Carding should never have been introduced in the first place,” Rosenthal told Share. “I hope that the Board goes further and decides that carding can never be resumed.”
He said it took “an enormous amount of effort by many people to get the board to impose some restrictions on carding, and then for Chief Blair to suspend it”.
There can, and unfortunately will, be racial profiling without carding, and that must continue to be fought, he told Share by email.
Rosenthal is one of several lawyers involved in lawsuits against police alleging racial profiling. Suits have also been filed against police in Peel and Durham Region calling for millions of dollars in damages.
BADC spokesman, Kingsley Gilliam, said it is time for carding and racial profiling to end in Toronto and elsewhere.
Gilliam suspects Blair did not have a choice but to suspend carding until further notice.
“This is confirmation of what we have been saying all along, that the Chief and police have no intention of stopping the practice of stopping Black people and questioning them as fishing expeditions,” he told Share.
Gilliam said Blair had to comply with a directive from the board or resign before a July 19 meeting, when he is required to show the progress that he has made in implementing the policy.
“All it takes to implement the policy is a directive from the Chief to the rank and file to immediately cease and desist the unlawful stops and implement the policy,” said Gilliam. “They have dragged him screaming and protesting to issue the directive but he stopped short of a complete abolition of the practice for a suspension.”
He said the suspension suggests that the policy can be reinstated at his will.
“BADC’s position has not changed,” said Gilliam. “We will not let up until the practice is completely stopped, and even then, we cannot relax our vigilance.”
Lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, who prepared the lawsuits against police, said he is not pleased.
“The so-called suspension of carding is a continued policy of affront to the African-Canadian and other similarly situated communities,” he said. “Carding should not be suspended, it should have been abolished many yesterdays ago.”
He said racial profiling and carding cannot be made better or reformed.
“In any case, racial profiling and carding are on the way out given the serious class action law suits that have been mounted against these corrosive vices,” he said by email.