Knia Singh says the vast majority of the harmful police carding interactions he has experienced would still be allowed under Ontario’s proposed new regulations — if they aren’t changed to add crucial safeguards to protect rights and end discrimination.
Singh, who launched a constitutional challenge of Toronto police carding earlier this year, joined a coalition of rights groups and influential Torontonians at City Hall on Monday in calling for key revisions to the draft regulations.
If the province truly wants to end discriminatory and arbitrary police stops, the groups say, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government must make critical rewrites to the rules, which are currently under a 45-day public review.
“We are asking (Community Safety Minister Yasir) Naqvi and Premier Wynne to hear the criticisms that have been put forward about this regulation and make the necessary changes to actually achieve their stated goal to end police carding,” said Desmond Cole, an anti-carding activist who was among the speakers Monday.
Earlier this fall, Naqvi unveiled the draft regulations aimed at ending arbitrary police stops, also known as street checks, and setting limits on when and how police officers may stop and document members of the public.
The coalition — which includes the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the African Canadian Legal Clinic and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association — supports the sentiment behind the regulation, but says there are significant problems with how it’s written.
They suggest there are too many exemptions, occasions when police would not have to follow rights-based safeguards — which include requiring officers to inform people they stop that they’re not obligated to provide information and have the right to walk away.
The officer would also have to provide a receipt to anyone stopped, questioned and documented.
The draft regulation exempts police from these obligations when a specific offence is being investigated. That is not acceptable, said Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
“Even where an officer is investigating a particular offence, racial profiling can happen in the course of conducting a street check,” she said. “That’s why it’s concerning that the draft regulations’ prohibitions, protection, and accountability mechanisms do not apply when police are investigating a specific offence.”
Singh says he has been carded 11 times, several of those stops occurring when he was driving. He says he was stopped not for a traffic offence but for a general investigation, and he did not know his personal information was being documented and entered into a database.
If Singh was stopped today, under the same circumstances, nothing would change, he says — the province’s draft regulations would not require officers to tell him about his right not to answer questions, or oblige them to provide a receipt with key information about the encounter, including the name of the officer.
That’s because there is an exemption for stops that occur in circumstances when a member of the public is statutorily obliged to provide information, such as when driving.
“I would have no recourse, I would have no ability to demand a receipt, I would not be informed that I do not have to answer questions,” Singh said. “It is important that the gains we’ve made to this point are not thrown away by an insufficient regulation with a limited scope and numerous exemptions.”
The coalition, which has written a lengthy joint response to the carding regulations, also includes the Law Union of Ontario, Ryerson University’s criminology department, and Concerned Citizens against Carding.
“It is time to seal the deal” and end carding, said former city councillor Gordon Cressy, one of the founding members of Concerned Citizens against Carding. “We are not going away.”
To see a breakdown of some of the charges the coalition is pushing for click here.