GPO Mike Schreiner's comments on the Ontario Proposed Regulation for Street Checks Consultation

Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
9th Floor, Policy and Strategic Planning Division
25 Grosvenor Street, Toronto, ON
M7A 1Y6
 
 
Dear Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services:
 
I’m pleased that the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is reviewing the practice of police street checks known as carding. However, I believe the questions being asked in the review are flawed.
 
The review is failing to ask the most important question — should random street checks be banned?
 
I believe the answer is yes. I support provincial actions to abolish the police practice of carding.
 
Carding does more harm than good. There is a lack of objective evidence, statistics or research demonstrating the efficacy of carding in preventing crime or in solving criminal investigations.
 
It is clear, however, that the random stopping and questioning of people not engaged in, suspected of or connected to criminal activity to record and retain information is harming police and community relations. The number of young black men who are the target of police street checks is grossly disproportionate and raises serious concerns that carding is a form of racial profiling. Carding marginalizes people and generates fear in targeted communities. It increases alienation and distrust.
 
No law abiding person in Ontario should have to fear the presence of police officers or feel they are the target of harassment by the very people whose job it is to protect us. No one should have their personal information in a police database for years for no reason.
 
A growing number of community and religious organizations, youth justice workers, lawyers and rights activists have called for the practice of carding to end. Lawyers with the Law Union of Ontario have expressed concerns that carding violates the equality section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the Ontario Human Rights Code. It is time for this practice to end.
 
I want to be clear that while I do not support carding, I am not opposed to police having the ability to stop and question people for a legitimate investigative purpose.
 
The current definition of police street checks is too broad. It is not acceptable to permit police to perform street checks when individuals’ activities “seem out of the ordinary.”
 
In banning carding, the Ministry should develop a narrow and more restrictive definition limiting police stops only for those instances in which there is a legitimate investigative purpose. Police stops must not be random and should be limited to persons known or suspected of being engaged in or connected to criminal activity, people engaged in a specific offence or to prevent harm to the person being stopped.
 
By abolishing the police practice of carding, many of the review’s questions become irrelevant. However, I do believe it is important for the Ministry to develop requirements for all police officers to receive training on rules and regulations prohibiting racial profiling and carding, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Ontario Human Rights Code as they apply to police stops.
 
It is also important for the Ministry to develop rules and regulations that protect individuals’ privacy rights. Police officers should not collect or retain information that is not for a legitimate investigative purpose. Data currently in police databases that was not collected for a legitimate investigative purpose should be purged in a way that protects privacy. The Ministry should consult the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario to develop a detailed data collection, access, retention, and destruction policy that protects individual privacy.
 
It is essential for the Ministry to develop new rules and regulations that build trust and promote cooperation between police services and the community, especially racialized and marginalized communities.
 
The Green Party wants our police services to have the tools they need to serve and protect our communities, while protecting the rights and freedoms of all individuals. I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the Ministry’s review. Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
Regards,
Mike Schreiner