By TOM GODFREY
Young members of the community are being criminalized every day by the alleged racial profiling and carding being carried out by Toronto Police and the practice has to be stopped, says a long-time human rights worker.
The controversial practice violates the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, said Gary Pieters, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, which has been fighting against the issue for years.
“We feel that this is a significant human rights issue,” Pieters said. “We believe this is also a violation of international law and treaties.”
Pieters and University of Toronto professor Dr. Scot Wortley were keynote speakers at a Justice in Toronto Lecture Series last weekend at the FitzGerald Building on College St. The well-attended event examined injustice in Toronto and ways to make things better.
Pieters says he is concerned that racial profiling can lead to distrust against police by young people who are singled out for police checks.
“Young people are getting criminalized by the practice,” Pieters told Share “Bias policing must end and it is up to community groups to raise public awareness.”
He claims Black community members have been racially profiled by police for decades.
“We have to make this a public interest issue,” he said. “We have to make people aware of what is going on around them.”
Wortley, of the Centre for Criminology and Socio-legal Studies, maintains that police stops rarely uncover major crimes but often lead to the criminalization of Black males for relatively minor offences.
“This criminalization negatively impacts the lives of Black youth by limiting their education and employment opportunities, undermining their self-concept and destroying their faith in society,” Wortley wrote in an editorial in the Toronto Star, which sparked the racial profiling debate in a series of articles showing Blacks are more often the subject of police searches than other groups.
He said even though a vast majority of Black males are law-abiding, they are subject to increased police surveillance because of the actions of a small number of Black criminals.
“The question is whether such race-based risk assessments should be permitted within modern criminal justice systems,” he wrote.
The men have joined former Toronto Councillor Bev Salmon and others in calling for an end of the practice that records the interactions between police and members of the community for future investigation.
So far, four legal actions have been filed in various courts by the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) to end the practice and seek millions of dollars in damages for victims.
The various class-action lawsuits name as defendants Toronto Police, its Board, Peel Regional Police, former chief Mike Metcalf, the Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Corrections and some of her officials.
The proceedings are underway before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and the Federal Court of Canada.
The most-recent action was filed last week to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that names the Toronto Police and its board for alleged racial profiling and carding allegations.
Lecture Series official Dale Duncan said the event focuses on issues that affects Toronto.
“Organizers felt the issue of race and justice was an important one to bring forward as part of the Series,” Duncan said, adding that the event occurred during Black History Month to bring attention to the issues.
“The feedback we received from those in attendance was that this is an issue that we need to continue to draw attention to,” Duncan told Share.
Toronto Police stand firm behind the profiling and carding by officers claiming it is an invaluable tool in helping to keep communities safe.
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly was unavailable for comment at press time.