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.