Racial Profiling By Police Will Not Be Tolerated: Community Leaders

by Danica Samuel (@danicasamuel) in Toronto

After months of defending carding, Toronto Mayor, John Tory has made a 360, calling for a permanent ban on the practice.

“It is my intention to see carding cancelled permanently and that we start fresh,” Tory told reporters at a news conference on Sunday, changing his position entirely.

Carding allows police officers to stop and question people to gather information — intelligence that is then stored indefinitely in a database. Several community members have criticized the police technique, calling it unfair and discriminatory, particularly towards men of colour.

Carding Injustice

In fact, Knia Singh, law student and President of the Osgoode Society Against Institutional Injustice, defines carding as “arbitrary detention.”

“We get stopped for no reason, carding is the actual gathering of the data and placing it in the database. It relates to our Charter of Rights in Section 9, Canadians are supposed to be free from arbitrary detention, when they stop me and card me for no reason it’s arbitrary.”

Singh is no stranger to the practice of carding and has also been stopped by police on 12 occasions.

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“I would at least feel a little bit safer if what they recorded was true. But it’s full of lies.” – Knia Singh[/quote]

In 2013, he brought light to the situation with a friend Chris Williams; they openly shared their file in the Toronto Star series called Known To Police. The series showed that black people are 3.2 times more likely than white people to be stopped and documented by the Toronto force.

Video Source: Toronto Star YouTube Channel

In Singh’s file, he was recorded as having features that didn’t match his description and labeled him as an individual born in Jamaica, although he was born in Canada.

He was also recorded as being investigated for a possible immigration warrant.

Based off his file, Singh’s conclusion is that the process is “highly inaccurate.”

“Even if they think it’s a useful tool, most of [the information] is wrong,” says Singh.

“They can make up anything and write down whatever they want on people and claim it’s police information,” Singh continues. “I would at least feel a little bit safer if what they recorded was true. But it’s full of lies.”

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]With Mark Saunders – the first black Toronto Police Chief – leading the force, many were under the assumption that carding would finally seek its end earlier this year. Instead, he stood behind the controversial practice.[/quote]

Originally, carding was proposed as a process to help police officers build a connection with their communities in hopes of developing safer environments.

With Mark Saunders – the first black Toronto Police Chief – leading the force, many were under the assumption that carding would finally seek its end earlier this year. Instead, he stood behind the controversial practice.

In a sit-down interview with CBC reporter Dwight Drummond, Saunders said the practice was, “legal, and it does enhance community safety.”

He continued to defend carding by expressing the intelligence gathered helps police with getting insight to the 2,000 gang members in the city.

Singh contends that he didn’t think for a second Saunders would be the face of changing carding.

“Saunders was never about being an independent thinker,” says Singh. “Deputy Peter Sloly was another good candidate, which was a very good choice, but he was more independent in his thought process and wanted to fix the carding problem.”

Better Late Than Never

Tory stated that the carding system had to come to an end.   

“After great personal reflection and many discussions … I concluded it was time to say, enough. It was time to acknowledge there is no real way to fix a practice, which has come to be regarded as illegitimate, disrespectful and hurtful,” said Tory on the weekend.

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“If we stop carding, it gives a signal that racial profiling is not accepted. What’s next is police accountability. Police officers who violate their code of conduct have to be reprimanded and even kicked off the force.” – Knia Singh[/quote]

Singh says that this realization should have come a long time ago for the mayor.

“John Tory heard all of us speak clearly on this issue and how damaging it was to the community and how illegal it was,” Singh explains. “He went ahead with Chief Bill Blair and pushed through a policy that belittled our rights. For me, the only reason he’s doing it now, is because too many people are criticizing him and if they weren’t, he wouldn’t have changed his mind and that’s what’s disturbing. He already knew all the details.” 

Tory alluded to his speaking with journalist/activist Desmond Cole as one of the discussions that prompted his decision. Cole’s article in Toronto Life titled, “The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times – all because I’m black,” stirred up a brewing pot within the city that’s never been cooked. 

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

The plot twist in the matter is that carding is not the root of the problem, but simply a tool that implements the real issue of racial profiling.

In 2012, it was noted that Toronto Police stop up to 400,000 people every year during non-criminal encounters, a practice that community activists and social justice lawyers say leads to racist policing.

An idea of receipts was proposed by former Police Chief Bill Blair, a process that asked officers to hand out a record of each carding interaction to the persons involved.

Three years later, no receipts have been issued and citizens are left to wonder what their files hold.

Singh says the whole process doesn’t need to be tightened, nor implemented differently – those in power just need to “get rid of it” completely.

“If we stop carding, it gives a signal that racial profiling is not accepted. What’s next is police accountability,” Singh stresses. “Police officers who violate their code of conduct have to be reprimanded and even kicked off the force. The problem is they’ve never really been disciplined for their actions.”

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