By TOM GODFREY
Organizers of racial profiling and carding lawsuits against police in Toronto and Peel are being urged to launch similar legal challenges in Hamilton, Durham and York Regions.
Calls to expand the lawsuits against police in other jurisdictions come as the Toronto Police Services Board prepare to vote on the force’s first anti-carding policy on April 24.
Community members packed a public hearing last week at police headquarters to obtain information about the proposed policy and voice their concerns.
Kingsley Gilliam, of the Black Action Defense Committee which launched the lawsuits, said his group supports the draft in principle but changes have to be made.
“We welcome this draft policy and regret greatly that it was not put in place earlier,” Gilliam told the Board. “Had this been done thousands of citizens would not have experienced racial profiling and humiliation of the illegal stops by police.”
He said the draft policy, if approved without changes, will be challenged in court.
Even, Barbara Hall, head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, had concerns about the impending policy.
“It is an important step,” Hall told the Board, adding the practice should be halted until it is approved by the courts and human rights tribunal to ensure its legality under Canadian laws.
Some residents are concerned that the draft states that carding will still be allowed by police for the “purpose of ensuring public safety”. They claimTorontoPolice officers will still be able to card Blacks, but under a different guise.
Board chair Alok Mukherjee said the policy may have to undergo changes before it is voted on at a special meeting next Thursday.
Mukherjee told the Toronto Star he was taken aback by the anger of community residents.
“I would say that the thing that came out most strongly was the deep lack of trust and confidence out there – and that precisely is what we are trying to overcome through this policy,” he said in an e-mail to the paper.
The draft was written byTorontolawyer Frank Addario, and adopted by the Board. It has to be voted on and approved by the Board to become police policy.
Meanwhile, about 60 community members packed a meeting atRyersonUniversitylast week to discuss the lawsuits and ways to get involved.
Many attending the meeting expect a “watered-down” anti-carding policy to be adopted by the Board, whose members are under fire to end the controversial racial profiling and carding practices against members of the Black community.
Five community lawyers talked about the $200 million class-action lawsuit against the Board and Chief Bill Blair and another seeking $125 million in damages against Peel police for similar racial profiling and carding allegations.
Both cases are before the courts.
“Many people want to know if we will expand the lawsuit to include residents of York, Durham Region or even Hamilton,” said lead counsel, Munyonzwe Hamalengwa. “We only have the resources to handle this test case at this time.”
The meeting heard from a number of people from across the GTA who alleged they were subjected to racial profiling and carding by police.
“People travelled from right across the GTA to tell us their problems with police,” Hamalengwa said. “There is a big demand for us to take legal action against all police forces in the GTA.”
He said people from other jurisdictions who believe they were profiled by police can still relate their experiences to BADC, which can use the information as background data.