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.
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