The chorus of voices calling for revisions to the province’s carding regulations grew louder Monday as a coalition of black community groups spoke out about the “the deeply problematic gaps” in proposed legislation aimed at halting discriminatory policing in Ontario.
“Ultimately, when it comes to eliminating racial profiling or preventing racial profiling and anti-black racism, the regulation does not go far enough,” said Anthony Morgan, a lawyer with the African Canadian Legal Clinic.
Among the groups speaking out is the Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE), which expressed doubt about the effectiveness of carding in a letter to the province this fall.
Carding, also known as street checks, “has yet to be reasonably demonstrated an effective or scientific tool to achieve the intended purpose of public safety,” ABLE president Kenton Chance wrote in a submission to the Ministry of Community Safety earlier this year. The Toronto Star recently obtained the submission.
On behalf of membership that includes black police officers across Ontario, Chance told the province that police now have other ways to solve crimes, such as video surveillance, that could be “exponentially more valuable and dependable” than the “hit or miss” information obtained through carding.
ABLE spokesperson Terrence Murray stressed the group does not speak for all black and racialized officers.
But in a statement to the Star, he reiterated that the group could not find any reliable information to prove the effectiveness of carding.
“As black police and peace officers, we live and work in two worlds that have allowed us to develop unique perspectives,” Murray wrote.
In October, Minister of Community Safety Yasir Naqvi unveiled draft regulations aimed at eliminating random and arbitrary police stops. Written after months of public consultation, the proposed regulations would place new limits on how and when police stop, question and document members of the public who are not suspected of a crime.
While many are applauding the sentiment behind the regulation, several dozen rights groups and community leaders have sounded the alarm in recent weeks about problems with the regulations.
Among the major concerns is that the proposed legislation includes too many exceptions that allow police to circumvent the safeguards.
“It does not apply to an alarmingly broad range of police activities, including when officers are investigating a particular offence,” the groups wrote in a lengthy response to the province this month, which was released at a news conference Monday.
The signatories — which include the ACLC, ABLE, the Black Action Defence Committee, the Anti-Black Racism Network and more — want to see the province amend the regulation so the safeguards are in place for “all relevant duties of police officers.”
The only exception to the regulations would be when a covert operation is underway or when a police officer is executing a court order or a warrant.
Members of the black community have long been subjected to officers viewing their everyday activities as “suspicious,” Morgan said.
Last week, more than two dozen rights groups, community activists and prominent Torontonians released a joint response to the draft regulations and made similar criticisms. Among them was Knia Singh, who launched a constitutional challenge of carding earlier this year and says the majority of the police carding interactions he has experienced would still be allowed under the proposed regulations.
Singh has mostly been carded while driving. There is an exemption for street checks in circumstances when a member of the public is statutorily obliged to provide information, such as when driving.
While many rights groups argue the province has not gone far enough to stop unnecessary carding, police leaders and unions have said the draft regulations would handcuff police and keep officers from having meaningful conversations with the public.
Lauren Callighen, Naqvi’s press secretary, said the province will “thoroughly consider all the advice that we have received.”
“(We) will continue to meet with interested parties to review the submissions and work to improve the regulation if necessary,” she said in an email Monday.