Carding

Supreme Court Overturns Convictions in Favour of Racialized Man

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP


A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada is sending a strong message  regarding the harm of over-policing racial minorities in inner-city neighbourhoods.

In a 3-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the police had no reasonable cause to enter a backyard and question an Asian-Canadian man and therefore set aside his convictions for possessing a gun, drugs and illicit cash.

WHAT HAPPENED?

In the evening of May 25, 2012, twenty year old Tom Le (“Le”) was speaking with four young black men in the backyard of a Toronto housing complex.

Police officers were tipped off by security guards who patrolled the complex that there were concerns of drug trafficking in the backyard of this address and that a suspect had been observed there.

Two police officers entered the backyard without consent or a judicial warrant and began to question and request identification from the young men.  A third officer patrolling the perimeter of the property stepped over a low fence and told one of the men to keep his hands where he could see them.

One officer demanded that Le provide his ID and he was asked about the contents of a bag that was slung across his body.  Le then attempted to flee the scene and was quickly tackled and apprehended.  His bag was found to contain a loaded handgun and a considerable amount of cash.  At the police station, Le turned over 13 grams of cocaine to police.

At his trial, Le argued that the evidence should be excluded under section 24(2) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as police violated his constitutional rights to be free from arbitrary detention and unreasonable search (contrary to sections 8 and 9 of the Charter).

At trial, the judge rejected Le’s position that police violated his rights under the Charter and found that police had legally detained Le.  He was found guilty of several gun and drug offences and was also unsuccessful in challenging his convictions at the Ontario Court of Appeal.  Le proceeded to commence an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

SUPREME COURT OF CANADA’S DECISION AND REASONS

Contrary to the lower court decisions, the majority of the highest level of court in Canada threw out the convictions as a result of serious violations of Le’s rights under the Charter.  The court ruled that the police actions amounted to an arbitrary detention and serious violation of Le’s rights and therefore the evidence must be excluded.

The purpose of section 9 of the Charter, prohibiting arbitrary detention, is to protect Canadians against unjustified state interference.  A detention may not necessarily involve physical restraint, but may exist in a situation where “a reasonable person in the accused’s shoes would feel obligated to comply with a police direction or demand and that they are not free to leave”.

The Supreme Court found that in this case the detention was arbitrary as the police were trespassers and had no legal authority to detain the accused.  Furthermore, their intimidating behaviour made Le feel as though he was unable to leave, even though he had the right to do so.

Although the incident occurred in a high-crime neighbourhood, the court found that the police did not have the authority to enter a private yard.  The court stated:

Indeed, that a neighbourhood is policed more heavily imparts a responsibility on police officers to be vigilant in respecting the privacy, dignity and equality of its residents who already feel the presence and scrutiny of the state more keenly than their more affluent counterparts in other areas of the city.

The majority judges also found that the police had engaged in “carding” (a topic that we have previously blogged about), which is the police practice of randomly stopping and questioning individuals who are not suspected of any crime.  This is a practice that unjustifiably affects racialized individuals. 

The court found that the incident of the police entry into the backyard was another example of the experience of racialized young men who are targeted, stopped and questioned. 

The court stated:

The impact of the over-policing of racial minorities and the carding of individuals within those communities without any reasonable suspicion of criminal activity is more than an inconvenience.  Carding takes a toll on a person’s physical and mental health.  It impacts their ability to pursue employment and education opportunities.

Le’s lawyers, were thankful for the Supreme Court decision in favour of their client and the message that is being distributed.  Emily Lam stated:

We’re grateful that the court heard us, that they heard the voices of marginalized and racialized communities, all of whom have been saying that they are police differently, and the court recognizing that their experience has been different.

Samara Secter stated:

I think this is a push from the Supreme Court to have police recognize that everyone’s rights deserve respect.

There has been no real response from Toronto Police Services other than its spokesperson stating that the ruling is being “reviewed and considered by the Toronto Police Service’s professional standards unit”.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We have a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Justice Tulloch Recommends Police Abolish Random Carding

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A new report entitled “Report of the Independent Street Checks Review“, completed by Ontario Appeal Court Judge Michael Tulloch, calls for a complete ban on “carding” by police throughout Ontario.

The report, which was commissioned by the previous Liberal government, came about following consultations with more than 2,200 individuals including representatives from 34 Ontario police services. The report specifically advocates for the widespread ban on carding. Carding has been shown to disproportionately target individuals of colour, including black and indigenous people.

WHAT IS CARDING?

Carding can be described as a street check where police randomly stop an individual to ask for identifying information in an effort to keep it in a police database.

This practice is considered unacceptable as the police do not have the authority to randomly or arbitrarily stop individuals and ask them to produce ID.

The practice of carding began in Toronto in 1957 when street checks were aimed at obtaining information on persons of interest to help detectives. Toronto police were given “Suspect Cards” to document and forward information regarding persons of interest to detectives. By 2015, this practice was formally called “Community Engagements”, and involved random stops of citizens and the collection of personal information, including physical appearance, address, and contact information. As time passed, investigative street checks expanded and police were given more discretion to stop people, including those who were not acting suspiciously. These street checks became a measure of police officer performance and they were incentivized to meet required quotas, with the bar for suspicious behaviour becoming lower and lower, and eventually dropped entirely.

 ONTARIO REGULATION 58/16

In 2016, the Liberal government implemented Ontario Regulation 58/16 under Ontario’s Police Services Act , which became effective January 1, 2017, to regulate carding.

Regulation 58/16 was aimed at stopping arbitrary carding practices by police officers, especially those based on race, and to clarify the rules surrounding street checks. Race is prohibited as constituting any part of a police officer’s cause for trying to collect an individual’s identifying information.

According to the Regulation, police officers were to inform those individuals randomly stopped that their participation is voluntary. It was also specified that officers were required to provide a receipt of the interaction.

Regrettably, Regulation 58/16 has been described as confusing and convoluted and often results in police officers avoiding street checks entirely to avoid accusations of racism for misinterpreting the regulation.

According to Justice Tulloch:

The improper practice of random carding led to the Regulation. The Regulation led many police officers to not conduct any street checks, whether improper or not. The lack of any street checks at all might have encouraged some types of crime to increase. 

The Regulation as it is drafted is a confusing and somewhat convoluted document to read. It was perceived by most stakeholders through my consultations – police and community members alike – as being too complicated and hard to follow. They felt it was written for lawyers, not police officers or community members. They wanted it to be simplified. Even lawyers who I have consulted with agree.

CONCLUSIONS MADE BY TULLOCH’S REVIEW OF THE PRACTICE OF CARDING

Following his extensive review, Justice Tulloch has concluded that police should not engage in carding or performing random street checks based on race alone or stopping people in order to fill a quota.

 According to Justice Tulloch,

There is little to no evidence that a random, unfocused collection of identifying information has benefits that outweigh the social cost of the practice. … Given the social cost involved with a practice that has not definitely been shown to widely reduce or solve crime, it is recommended that the practice of randomly stopping individuals to gather their identifying information for the creation of a database for intelligence purposes be discontinued.

Justice Tulloch did acknowledge that street checks are useful in cases where there are suspicious circumstances, or when police need to identify the identity of a missing person or crime victim.

Justice Tulloch, in his report, provided 104 recommendations on how to improve Regulation 58/16. He has recommended that the government take a harder line on street checks, that definitions such as “identifying information” and “suspicious circumstances” be tightened up, and that protections during vehicle stops be broadened. He has also suggested better police training in order for officers to understand the difference between legitimate street checks and illegitimate carding.  Justice Tulloch also recommended standardized data collection of police interactions and more local hiring.

It is uncertain, at this time, whether any of these recommendations will be implemented by the current Ontario Conservative government.

In response to Justice Tulloch’s report, Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones stated:

We continue to review and assess the recommendations made by Justice Tulloch. His report will inform our work, as we fix the Liberal’s broken police legislation. Our new police legislation will reflect a simple principle: racism and discrimination have no place in policing. You can count on us to ensure that our legislation enables police to protect the law-abiding people of Ontario.

We will continue to follow any developments regarding Justice Tulloch’s report as they become available, and will provide updates in this blog.

In the meantime, to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about any charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

Ontario’s New Carding Policy: What the New Rules Mean for You

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

After significant public outcry, Ontario has banned the practice of carding, also known as “street checks”. As of January 1, 2017, police in Ontario must follow new rules about when and how they can ask people to identify themselves, in certain circumstances.

New Rules for Identification

A new regulation prohibits police officers from collecting identifying information “arbitrarily” (i.e- based on a person’s race or a person’s presence in a high crime neighbourhood or area, among other factors).

The Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services has stated that the regulation was drafted following consultations with the public on how to improve confidence and trust in the police:

These new rules protect the rights of people who are not under investigation while also laying the foundation for more positive, trusting and respectful relationships between police and the public

When Do the New Rules Apply?

The new rules will apply if an officer asks you to identify yourself while the officer is:

  • Investigating suspicious activities
  • Gathering intelligence
  • Looking into general criminal activity in a community.

This will not apply if the officer is:

  • Talking to you during a traffic stop
  • Arresting or detaining you
  • Executing a warrant
  • Investigating a specific crime

What Does This Mean for People Who Are Stopped by Police?

Now, if an officer asks you for ID in a situation where the rules apply (see above), the officer must:

  • Have a reason for asking for your ID
  • The reason cannot be:
    1. Based on race
    2. Arbitrary (i.e- have no meaning)
    3. That you are in a high-crime area
    4. Because you walked away or refused to answer a question
  • Tell you why they want your identification
  • Tell you that you can refuse to provide your identification
  • Offer you a receipt (even if you refuse to share information)
  • The receipt must include:
    • The officer’s name
    • The officer’s badge number
    • Information about how to contact the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), which is responsible for handling complaints about the police in Ontario
    • Information on who to contact in order to access the personal information that the police has on file about you
  • Keep a detailed record of their interaction with you (even if you refuse to share information)

Exceptions to the Rule

There are some limited exceptions to the new rules. If following the rules negatively effects an investigation, threatens public safety, or forces officers to reveal confidential information, police officers may not have to:

  • Tell you why they are asking for your identification (i.e.- if the officer is speaking to you because they have received a tip from a confidential informant)
  • Tell you that you have a right to refuse to give you identification (i.e.- if the officer suspects that a passenger in your vehicle might be a victim of human trafficking)
  • Provide you with a receipt (i.e.- if the officer receives an urgent call requiring their attention and must quickly end their interaction with you).

In any such instance where the new rules are not followed, the officer must record their reasons for not following the rules.

We will continue to follow developments with the new rules and what they will mean in practice for those interacting with the police and will update our readers as necessary.

In the meantime, if you have questions about your rights, or interactions with the police, or if you have been arrested or charged with an offense, schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable and experienced Oshawa lawyers. We have 24-hour phone service for your convenience. contact our office online or at 905-404-1947.

Ontario to Regulate Police Carding Practice

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Late last month, following significant public outcry over the controversial practice of carding, the Ontario Liberal government announced that it would be introducing new regulations banning the arbitrary and random stopping and questioning of citizens by the end of the fall. Opponents of the practice expressed concern that the tactic disproportionally targets ethnic minorities, particularly young black men. The campaign for change was launched by deputy leader of the provincial NDP, Jagmeet Singh, a lawyer representing the riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton, who knows his rights and had himself been carded over 10 times by police.

According to Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi, the new regulations would establish clear and consistent rules to protect civil liberties during voluntary interactions between police and the public. Naqvi said police will no longer be able to stop people based on how they looked or in which neighbourhood they live. Exemptions would be made in the rules to cover routine traffic stops, situations where someone is being arrested or detained or where a police officer is working undercover. Ontario police would only be able to stop, question and document members of the public if they have a valid policing purpose, defined as “detecting or preventing illegal activities.” Police would have to inform an individual of the reason for the stop and that the individual has the right to walk away. The province is allowing 45 days for public consultation, which will then be reviewed and considered. The province will then amend the regulations and allow time for police boards to make the necessary changes to policy and procedures. Once passed, the regulations would ban random and arbitrary stops as of March 1, 2016. By July 2016, the regulations around voluntary interactions, such as the need to inform individuals that they can walk away, would come into effect.

Police forces across the province, have been resistant to the call for change thus far. In response to the province’s announcement of the new regulations, the police forces have stated that although they will abide the regulations once they are put into place, they are currently working to halt some aspects of the proposed restrictions, claiming that they will prevent officers from interacting with the public. Although police forces have claimed that carding is a useful practice that helps them fight crime, they have not been able to provide any meaningful statistics that show that carding is a valid use of resources that actually prevents crime.

To discuss your criminal charges with an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Sources:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/carding-regulations-ontario-1.3292277

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2015/10/28/province-to-unveil-limits-on-carding.html

Carding, Street Checks and “Community Engagement”: Know Your Rights

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

What is Carding?

Carding (sometimes referred to as street checks or “community engagement”) is a controversial police practice of stopping people, apparently at random, to ask a series of intrusive questions and collect information. Carding often begins when a police officer approaches someone in a public place – on the street, in a park, outside a convenience store – and strikes up a conversation, asking an individual or group what they are doing. The officer then asks for identification, without placing the individual(s) under arrest.

According to investigative reports conducted by the Toronto Star , people stopped for carding between 2008 and 2013 were more likely to be African-Canadian than white, and the vast majority of encounters did not involve an arrest or charges. Despite charges not being laid, details about each individual were recorded and entered into a massive database. The Star reporters found that Toronto police filled out at least 2.1 million contact cards involving 1.2 million people between 2008 and 2013.

In 2014, rules about carding were briefly amended to require police to inform people of their rights and issue a receipt to the individual which would include the officer’s name and badge number. However, these rules were never fully implemented. In April of 2015, a new policy was announced requiring police officers to tell people why they are being stopped if they ask, and inform them that they are free to walk away. Police would also be required to give citizens business cards instead of receipts.

Although the police have claimed that the practice is legal, the legality of the practice is still unclear. Earlier this week, departing Ontario ombudsman Andre Martin stated in a report, “Stopping citizens without an objective an reasonable basis for believing that they may be implicated in a recent or ongoing criminal offence, or where there are reasonable and probably grounds to arrest them, is unconstitutional – it’s a form of arbitrary detention contrary to section 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Those calling for an end to the practice see no distinction between carding and racial profiling.

Know Your Rights

Many people are not aware that Canadians are not required to carry identification except when driving. In addition, an individual has the right to walk away from the police if he or she is questioned and not offered a legitimate reason for the police interest. If an individual is being arrested, he or she also has the right to counsel. But many people who have been carded report being intimidated by the confrontation and feel pressured to speak to police.

Jurisdictions across Ontario have been considering whether to suspend the practice as they await provincial regulation. Hamilton and Peel Region announced this week that they would not be suspending carding. Meanwhile, Queen’s Park has been consulting with police, concerned community groups, civil libertarians, the Ontario Human Right Commission and the general public with the aim of introducing a reform of carding later this fall.

If you have any questions about carding or to find out more about your rights, contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Sources:

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/knowntopolice2013.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2015/01/06/toronto_police_chief_bill_blair_suspends_controversial_practice_of_carding.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2015/04/16/toronto-police-board-passes-revised-carding-policy.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/09/25/peel-chief-refuses-to-suspend-carding.html