By TOM GODFREY
A $200-million class-action lawsuit filed by members of the Black community against Toronto and Peel police forces for alleged racial profiling and carding has now been expanded to include the Ontario government and its top cop.
Madeleine Meilleur, the Minister of Community Safety and Corrections, her ministry, the Toronto Police Service and its board are named as defendants in a Statement of Claim submitted by lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa on behalf of the Black Action Defense Committee and Justice Is Not Colour Blind.
Seven members of the community who allege they were racially profiled and carded are among the plaintiffs in the action that was filed on December 5 at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto.
This latest suit replaces a legal action that was filed last month against Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair and the force’s board seeking $65-million in damages for the alleged racial profiling and carding of members of the Black community.
A second similar class action suit, this one seeking $125-million in damages, is also before the courts alleging racial profiling of Blacks by Peel Regional Police, that force’s board, several officers and Durham Regional Police.
This is the first time that the province has been drawn into the controversial practice in which the information obtained from Blacks and their interactions with police are recorded and can be used against them in the investigation of crimes.
Toronto Police and ministry officials have refused to comment on the lawsuit citing that it is before the courts.
The 33-page document alleges that racial profiling and carding have negative effects on its victims including mental, physical and economic consequences as acknowledged in a report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Community members claim the practice violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Members of the community have long complained they were being profiled by police and their complaints were confirmed in a series of Toronto Star articles that showed Blacks were being unfairly targeted for police attention and prompted community groups to mobilize to put an end to the practice.
The reports showed police filled out nearly 400,000 cards in 2012, an increase of 62 per cent since 2005, and the number of Black youth (ages 15 to 24) that had been carded over a five-year period was more than equal to the number of Black youth who lived in the city.
“Young African men are defenseless and deserve protection like any other law abiding residents or citizens,” the Claim alleges. “’This class of people is under constant surveillance, harassment and police actions. The multitudes of reports, inquires and exposes have been unable to protect this class of people.”
The legal action is seeking an end to racial profiling and carding and calls for the assessing of officers who disproportionately target Blacks.
It also seeks to have the practice legislated as a criminal offence as ‘hate propaganda’, with officers charged and prosecuted for racially profiling members of the community.
The document seeks the “immediate arrest and vigorous prosecutions of all police officers in Ontario that have engaged in racial profiling and carding” and compensation to pay for the pain and suffering inflicted on victims of police killings, racism and racial profiling whether litigation is involved or not.
“Because of failure to regulate the conduct of racial profiling, the Government of Canada has failed to restrain the police of Ontario in procedures that include racial profiling of Black residents of Ontario,” the suit alleges.
The claims, which accuse the minister and ministry of not taking action, or taking little action, to implement recommendations of various commissions of inquiry or studies that have addressed the profiling issue, have not been proven in court.
The lawsuit also blamed the Toronto Police Service Board for allegedly failing to train, enforce and exercise its supervisory role over Chief Blair and his officers.
“The Board failed or refused to introduce, implement, or ensure that anti-racism policies that it should have introduced were introduced and enforced …,” the Claim alleges, citing the Board did little “to introduce anti-racial profiling legislation and to criminalize racial profiling or to protect African-Canadians.”
The Chief was accused of failing to exercise his supervisory and managerial authority over his officers and for failing to ensure they were properly trained and followed all rules.
“Blair failed to ensure that the police did not engage in racial profiling and follow all recommendations against racial profiling put forward by commissions of inquiry and other studies,” the lawsuit claimed.
It alleges Blair also failed to ask the provincial government to introduce anti-racial profiling legislation and criminalize racial profiling.
Community members are being asked to donate to a BADC Legal Fund to help with the lawsuit. Donations can be made at any branch of the TD-Canada Trust. The account number is 1604 310112.