Activists, victims still not happy with new 'carding' regulations
Controversy continues to swirl with debate over legacy information
By: Andre Anthony Thurairatnam/Staff Writer
Criticism continues to pour out after the province’s announcement to ban random police street checks in a controversial practice known as carding.
The recent announcement by Ontario community safety and correctional services minister Yasir Naqvi promised to put an end to the unwarranted collection of personal information.
“This regulation delivers on our government’s commitment to prohibit carding and street checks in Ontario. It both bans the arbitrary and race-based collection of identifying information and establishes clear and consistent rules for police officers to protect individual rights in interactions that help keep our communities safe,” Naqvi said.
Naqvi’s announcement was immediately challenged by anti-carding activist Desmond Cole, who quickly took to Twitter to air his concerns over what local police boards will do with all previous information collected.
“[O]ther than the OPP, Naqvi has no control over what local police do with the carding data they’ve already collected,” Cole said.
“This is critical. Every local police force will decide, through its own police board, what to do with all the carding data it currently has. This means that if police want to keep using the data they’ve already collected, there is no rule to stop them from doing so. Anything announced in today’s provincial carding regulations is a minimum standard for municipalities. They can and must go further.”
Cole wasn’t the only one who was less-than-impressed with the new rules. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) also released a statement implying there are further steps which need to be taken.
“Perhaps of greatest concern, the regulation leaves a great deal of improperly collected data in the hands of police for no legitimate policing purpose, and it does so indefinitely,” the CCLA released in a statement.
When asked about legacy data from previous stops, Naqvi’s office explained Police Services Boards and Chiefs of Police are to develop all policies and procedures in order to have the regulations implemented by July 1st.
“We believe Boards need to work with their Police Services and their communities to tailor policies best suited for their communities,” a spokesperson for Naqvi said.
“As part of this work, we encourage them to explore options to protect this information, such as moving the data into a restricted database. We will lead by example and will develop policies for the OPP that will ensure legacy data is kept in a restricted database.”
Toronto resident Jordie Scott is no stranger to carding. The 25-year-old graphic design student has had his personal information collected around a dozen times in random street checks. He recalls a time where him and a friend were cycling to a party around 11 o’clock at night, and were stopped by police who immediately took all their information.
Scott claims racial profiling.
“We didn’t fit the description of suspects,” Scott said. “They saw two young black males in the night, and they thought that we were up to no good. They were already there for something – so they figured, ‘Hey, let’s card them and see if they have any record, any priors’.”
Scott’s concerns with the new carding regulations are the same as Cole’s: what happens to all the previously illegitimate information collected, and does that still make him a potential suspect or associate to crime?
“If I was carded with you in Mississauga or downtown, and then you happen to be in Malvern during the time someone was shot – what does that have to do with me?” Scott said.
“It’s police doing this minority report thing where they’re trying to stop crimes before they happen – but they’re doing it based on the usual suspects or their ideals of what they think the usual suspects are, and that leads to full harassment. No matter what.”
At the municipal level – Toronto Police is still unsure with how they will proceed with handling legacy data.
Having information from previous stops on file still mean those in the system are potential ‘associates to crime’.
“The Toronto Police Service is reviewing the new regulations as legislated by the Government of Ontario,” Toronto Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said.
“We will be considering how this direction will be implemented into our procedures and training. In addition, we await a policy from our Police Services Board in order to ensure we have created procedures that fall in line with our local governance.”
Toronto Police denied our request for carding statistics in the city.
New rules at a glance
Source: The Office of Yasir Naqvi
Upon interaction, police are now required to:
- Inform the individual that they are not required to provide identifying information;
Communicate their reasons for wanting to collect the information:
The reason cannot be because of the individual’s race, that the individual declined to answer a question or attempted to end the interaction, or the fact that the individual is in a high-crime location;
Offer a document to the individual that includes, among other things, the officer’s name and badge number and information on how to contact the Office of the Independent Police Review Director; and
Keep records that outline, for instance, the reason for the stop, whether the reason was provided, whether the individual was informed of their rights and received the necessary document.
With collected information, new regulations will require:
- All collections of identifying information submitted to be required to be reviewed within 30 days by the chief of police or designate, who will review:
- The police officer’s reason for collecting the information and
- If the police officer indicated that compliance with other aspects of the regulation
At least once a year, the chief of police or designate to conduct and publish a detailed review to verify compliance with the regulation overall.
Access to identifying information to be restricted five years after it is entered into a police database
Access to identifying information will be put in a restricted if it is found the identifying information was inappropriately collected.
Access to restricted information can only be granted by the Chief of Police on a case-by-case basis (for specific purposes, e.g. ongoing police investigation, legal proceeding, complying with a legal requirement, etc.)
Andre Anthony Thurairatnam a formally trained, multiplatform journalist, with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Toronto, and and Advanced Diploma in Journalism from Centennial College. Currently, he is pursuing a Masters of Media in Journalism and Communications from Western University.
Andre has worked for a number of publications, media outlets, and broadcast stations. His work as a reporter, photographer, broadcaster, blogger, editor, producer, and designer can be found in major Canadian media including 680News, CityNews, The Toronto Observer, SNAP’D Newspapers, HITStape.com, DONNA Magazine, Toronto 2.0, and will be interning at CP24: Toronto’s Live Breaking News in May.
Andre's journalistic work has also received numerous awards and accolades, including honours for work in photography, and awards for page design and reporting in a community newspaper.
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