By TOM GODFREY
A controversial practice by police of carding members of the community may be put to an end this week by the Toronto Police Services Board after opposition from a range of human rights groups.
About a dozen groups have made submissions to the Board in hearings to adopt its first anti-carding policy at a special meeting on April 24.
Board chair Alok Mukherjee has admitted some changes may have to be made to a draft Community Contacts Policy to satisfy the needs of all residents.
The draft was prepared by lawyer Frank Addario and adopted by the Board, that has been under pressure to end the carding practice, in which police encounters with Blacks are recorded for use in future investigations.
Dozens of community leaders packed police headquarters earlier this month to voice submissions on possible changes to the draft.
Some residents are concerned the practice will still be allowed to continue by police for the “purpose of ensuring public safety”. They claim officers will still be able to card Blacks, but under a different guise.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), said the Contacts have been taking place for years among members of the Black community “based not on consent…but on an individual’s lack of information about their rights.
“There has been a longstanding problem of race-based harassment by police in the form of stops, questioning, documentation, searches, and more,” Aviv said in a submission. “This has resulted in significant distrust between certain communities and police.”
Aviv called carding a “violation of dignity” and noted incidents have reportedly dropped 90 per cent in the last year since officers were required to issue receipts of their contacts with the public.
The Board was told the issuing a carbon copy receipt to an individual who was stopped, questioned, and documented can provide the person with information as to why they were stopped, the identity of the officer, how their race was recorded, and how other elements of the encounter were recorded.
Barbara Hall, head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, said she is “deeply concerned about what remains of the practice and its impact on the African Canadian community, particularly young Black men.
“There is a gross over-representation of African Canadians being issued contact cards in all Toronto neighbourhoods, including the patrol zones in which they live, and under the category of general investigation,” Hall told the Board.
She said even though carding has been reduced, it does not mean that racial profiling has declined.
John Sewell, of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, said carding by police causes “prejudice” against many good people who are not involved in crime.
“To those stopped, carding seems like a racist activity, since Blacks are stopped far more frequently on a proportional basis than Whites,” Sewell said. “Communities who are always carded have shown they do not want to co-operate with police.”
Kingsley Gilliam, of the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), said anti-carding laws should be in place earlier so “thousands of citizens would not have experienced the police racial profiling and illegal stops and interrogation by police”.
The BADC has launched multi-million dollar class-action lawsuits against Toronto and Peel police forces in regards to community members being allegedly racially profiled and carded.
The cases are proceeding before the courts.