TORONTO — Ontario is amending its approach to carding by putting forth new draft regulations that would ban police officers from arbitrarily stopping members of the public, while requiring them to provide a written account of their interactions.
“We believe that random and arbitrary stops to collect and store personal information based on nothing more than the colour of one’s skin are illegitimate, disrespectful and have no place in our society,” Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi said during an announcement in Toronto on Wednesday.
“I know that this is a view shared by all Ontarians.”
Naqvi said minorities are often “stopped for no reason” by police while going about their business despite having done nothing wrong, and feel compelled to identify themselves and have that information recorded in a police database.
“We all agree that that should never be tolerated,” Naqvi said. “That is why I’m proud to announce today that our government has posted a draft regulation to right that wrong.”
The regulation has two key parts; first, to ban arbitrary police stops to collect personal information from citizens and second, to set out enforceable rules across the province that require police to explain interactions are voluntary and that members of the public have a right to walk away. It also includes new training, data management and reporting to increase accountability.
The proposed regulations come after months of consultations with the public regarding the practice of carding in hopes of rebuilding trust between police and the public.
Toronto-based journalist and activist Desmond Cole, a vocal critic of carding, said the province had taken a “positive step” in acknowledging the community’s outrage and is doing something about it.
“The province has given us their suggestions for regulation and now we have the opportunity to look and see what they are proposing compared … and to see how closely they have followed our advice.”
Cole criticized Toronto Mayor John Tory for flip-flopping on the issue of carding, voting in favour of the practice at a Toronto Police Services Board meeting in April, even after hearing stories from community members who were stigmatized by the practice.
“So John Tory obviously heard those stories from people and he was able to repeat those stories but he clearly didn’t understand the need for change,” Cole said.
“The province has at least acknowledged that we can’t just listen to those horrible stories, we actually have to do something so that they don’t keep happening. And I think that’s an important step.”
A spokesman for Tory would not comment on the regulations, citing the fact that the mayor sits on the TPSB.
But a statement from the board Wednesday “welcomed” the draft regulation, which will govern how street checks are performed in the province.