Province steps in to regulate carding

By Gerald V. Paul

Yasir Naqvi
Yasir Naqvi

Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi answered the call for political action by announcing plans for regulations to standardize the controversial police practice of carding.

Naqvi also pledged to create a consultation group to formulate a new policy.

“Public trust in police is essential for building even safe safer communities. We recognize that some police street check practices erode that trust. That is why we are moving forward in putting in place practices to sustain and bolster trust while giving the police the tools they need to do their work,” he said at Queen’s Park.

“Every Ontarian must have the confidence that their interactions with police are governed by the principles of fairness, respect and dignity,” Naqvi told The Camera in an interview.

He said the move to standardize police streets checks across the province will establish rules to ensure those encounters are without bias, consistent, and carried out in a manner that promotes public confidence.

“The new regulation would support the province’s police officers with clear and consistent guidelines to help them deliver fair and effective policing, while strengthening public accountability and safeguarding respect for human rights,” Naqvi said.

Over the summer, the province will consult with community organizations, policing partners, civil liberty organizations, the public and others to develop rules to govern police street checks. Ontario will seek input from partners on a number of topics, including:

  • The circumstances when police may ask an individual for information.
  • The rights of those being asked for their information.
  • How to enhance accountability mechanisms and training requirements.
  • Data collection and retention.

The government is forming a working group to consult with police and civil-liberties groups.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders recently said that when police checks are “done right, it’s lawful.” That stance could be a way out for Saunders who is slated today (Thursday) to address carding at the police board meeting.

Saunders, Toronto’s first Black chief, is on record saying he does not support racial profiling or routinely stopping innocent people but has stopped short of denouncing carding.

He called police stops “intelligence-based” and meant to help investigate “the criminal element in the community.”

Earlier, Premier Kathleen Wynne had refused to take a position on the matter. She said then that police practices must “conform to all of the Ontario rights and freedoms,” but when asked if carding violated freedoms, she said, “we’re not weighing in at this point.”

Naqvi’s announcement failed to satisfy some critics of carding.

“If you’re stopping someone arbitrarily, if you’re asking questions without any reason, without any reasonable grounds, then that’s unacceptable, that violates the Charter,” said NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh, a Brampton lawyer who has been stopped by police on the street for no reason.

“This is not a practice that can be regulated. It needs to be banned completely,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Police Association of Ontario said it supports the review but is worried “the value of police check procedures as depicted in the media will become a casualty of politics.”

Gerald V. Paul
Gerald V. Paul