Ontario set to standardize police carding policy

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders speaks to reporters while being introduced at a press conference in Toronto on Monday, April 20, 2015.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders speaks to reporters while being introduced at a press conference in Toronto on Monday, April 20, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

TORONTO – Ontario is bringing in new regulations to regulate the controversial police practice of carding.

Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, announced Tuesday morning that the province will standardize police checks and create new rules to ensure these encounters are “without bias, consistent, and carried out in a manner that promotes public confidence.”

The province will reportedly consult with community organizations, policing partners, civil liberty organizations, the public and others over the summer to develop a set of rules to govern police street checks, a statement released by the ministry read.

READ MORE: Carding enhances public safety when done ‘right,’: Toronto police chief

The province says it hopes to get input on topics such as the circumstances when police may ask an individual for information, the rights of those being asked for their information, ways to enhance accountability and training, in addition to data collection and retention.

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After these consultations have been completed, Ontario will introduce regulations to standardize how carding is conducted across the province based on respect for individual and Charter rights, while recognizing the needs of police to “keep Ontario’s communities safe,” the statement read.

“Public trust in police is essential for building even safer communities. We recognize that some police street check practices erode that trust,” Naqvi said in the statement.

“That is why we are moving forward on putting in place practices to sustain and bolster trust while giving the police the tools they need to do their work. Every Ontarian must have the confidence that their interactions with police are governed by the principles of fairness, respect and dignity.”

Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee told Global News Tuesday that he’s pleased the province is standardizing the practice of carding, “because carding is not just a Toronto issue.”

“A ministerial initiative that creates a standard across the province is a good thing,” he said.

“But as always the proof is in the pudding: we’ll have to see what’s the substance of the regulation. Does it have enough strength? Is it clear enough? Does it really address the public concern around people being treated differently, profiled, made the subject of biased policing? Those are the elephants in the room.”

Where Toronto police went wrong, he says, “was measuring the performance of our police officers by the number of cards they were writing.”

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“Chief Saunders says that quite clearly. That, combined with a completely arbitrary practice in the absence of clear rules, has created the situation,” he said.

“I do believe the vast majority of police officers don’t intend to discriminate. But they’re caught in this grey zone without clear rules.”

The new regulation will reportedly provide police officers with clear and consistent guidelines, with aims of strengthening public accountability and safeguarding respect for human rights in order to ensure that all citizen interactions with the police in Ontario are “consistent and respectful.”

Last month, Toronto mayor John Tory promised to try to put an end to the practice at the police services board meeting scheduled for this Thursday.

READ MORE: Ontario Human Rights Commission calls for end to carding

Carding has been suspended in Toronto since January. It’s the act of recording information received during community engagements that allow officers to routinely stop people in the streets and collect personal information about them.

The Peel Police Services Board voted unanimously to examine its own, similar “street check” policy. That review will include community consultations.

Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie, who sits on that board, says there have been significant concerns raised about the practice.

*With files from Anna Mehler Paperny and Paul Tadich


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