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Hamilton city councillor files complaint to police after ‘carding’ incident

Hamilton city councillor Matthew Green says he was a victim of a random police street check on April 26, 2016.
Hamilton city councillor Matthew Green says he was a victim of a random police street check on April 26, 2016. AM900CHML

Hamilton city councillor Matthew Green says he was embarrassed, frustrated and angered after a police car stopped and questioned him while he was waiting for a bus to go home on Tuesday.

“[The police officer] repeatedly questioned my credibility, acting in an intimidating manner and continued to harass me even though it was clear I was not a suspect in any crime nor involved in criminal activity. I feel what he was doing was unlawful and unconstitutional,” wrote Green in a letter of complaint submitted to the Hamilton Police Service on Wednesday.

The incident took place on April 26 around 3:15 p.m. as Green, who is black, was waiting for a bus beside a bridge adjacent to the Central Memorial Recreation centre near Stinson Street and Victoria Avenue when he says a police cruiser approached him.

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READ MORE: The case for quantifying systemic racism

READ MORE: Ontario to ban ‘carding’ or random police street checks in 2017

Green’s account in the letter pointed to an “intimidating tone” by the subject officer.

“His line of questioning and tone became more agitated as cars began to line up behind him and he held up traffic,” he recounted.

Green said the officer questioned him on where he was going and why he was under a bridge. However, the conversation changed after he identified himself and the officer recognized him as a city official.

“This questioning was both arbitrary and agitating in nature and constitutes both harassment and intimidation as I was not under any investigation nor related to any criminal activity or events in the area,” Green stated in the complaint letter.

READ MORE: Ontario establishing anti-racism directorate

The interaction commonly known as “carding,” an act of arbitrarily stopping someone for questioning and collection of information, has been panned by racial and civil liberty groups in Ontario.

Last month, the province announced regulations that would ban the practice as of Jan. 1, 2017.

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The new law stipulates that police must tell people they have a right not to talk with them, and refusing to co-operate or walking away cannot then be used as reasons to compel information.

Green said in a written statement on Wednesday that although this isn’t the first time he’s been carded, it is the first as a city councillor since being elected in 2014.

READ MORE: Provincial ban on carding criticized by community activists and police

“The truth is, this experience has been happening thousands of times throughout Ontario — it criminalizes innocent people, dehumanizing them and making them question their own place in their community,” he said.

Green said he wants anyone who has been a victim of carding to file a complaint with police “because not doing so allows people to continue to believe or suggest it doesn’t happen.”

Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner at Ontario’s Human Rights Commission, argues carding hurts an individual’s dignity and law enforcement’s ability to do its job.

“It can create a deep distrust and divide between police and the communities they’re meant to protect. … When there’s a crime and they ask for witnesses, no one’s willing to come forward,” she said.

“It’s important from a human rights perspective, a dignity perspective. But it’s also important from a policing perspective.”

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With a report from Anna Mehler Paperny