Carding won’t be implemented until changes made, Toronto police say

The controversial practice of carding has been on hold since January and won’t resume until fundamental changes are made, Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash said on Wednesday.

Mayor John Tory applauded the decision at an afternoon conference.

“The manner in which so-called carding was carried out, and the way it singled out members of the black community disproportionately, was not acceptable,” he said. “I do not and cannot, as mayor of Toronto, accept that.”

“Toronto police service personnel have not been issuing community engagement reports, or cards, since January,” he added.

“A moratorium on carding was implemented then by former police chief Bill Blair and it continues today. Carding is not taking place at the present time.”

The police board voted in favour of a new draft carding policy in April.

Mayor Tory called the new policy “a beginning, not an end.”

Tory said police Chief Mark Saunders also assured him that information derived from past carding encounters would “be kept in a separate, secure database with very limited access provisions…”

“This is a significant, positive step,” Tory said.

“The Chief has also instructed his officers…that there should be no random stops of citizens, that engagements should only be with those engaged in criminality.”

Earlier on Wednesday, former elected officials, business leaders and community activists gathered at Toronto City Hall to speak out against carding.

Among those speaking out against carding were Coun. Michael Thompson, former mayor Barbara Hall, former councillor Gordon Cressy, and former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry.

Hall said everyone’s rights are at risk with carding, adding that it’s a policy that needs to end now.

“Lately, it feels like we’ve been going backwards. How can that be in 2015?,” she questioned.

“Our job is to say no, not anymore, bad policy, get rid of it. We want to build a positive city.”

The group — Concerned Citizens to End Carding — is calling for an end to carding on the grounds that it violates human rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Hall said carding is “destroying young people’s futures and communities,” and that its effects can have a lasting impact.

“We all know young black men, young brown men and women who’ve been going about a good productive, healthy life, who’ve all of sudden been stopped and treated in a way that changes their lives often,” Hall said.

Former Toronto mayors David Crombie and John Sewell were also on hand for the news conference.

Tory said he met with the group and the “message has been received.”

“I completely accept that strong expression of urgency communicated today by a respected group of community leaders,” he said.

Carding is the act of recording the information received during community engagements. Community engagements are non-detention, non-arrest interactions between police officers and community members that involve the eliciting and/or recording of personal information.

Carding allows officers to routinely stop people in the streets and collect information about them.

“This is the moment that the city comes together and says starting now carding is stopped forever,” Cressy said, calling the issue a “historic moment in our city.”

“It is time to do the right thing,” he said.

Former cabinet minister Mary Anne Chambers, whose son is a police officer, said she was convinced the mayor was not getting the best advice when she was asked by a Tory staffer as to why only black people were concerned with carding.

Chambers said carding is “an insult to every police officer who is committed to serving the protecting the public good.”

McMurtry said the new chief of police has inherited a major controversy and hopes he will withdraw his support of carding.

The former provincial attorney general said carding causes “great collateral damage,” and should be abandoned.

Coun. Michael Thompson, a former member of the Toronto Police Services Board, said the group approached him because of his stance on anti-carding, which he calls a “discriminatory, socially corrosive practice that demeans the people it targets.”

Thompson said carding is a “draconian” method and “should be scrapped now.”

Tory didn’t go as far as to say carding was gone for good, but he did say it needed a serious overhaul.

“The challenge we are trying to meet now, is to find ways for people have their necessary engagements with people…but done in a context where people are aware of their rights, that police are aware of what people’s rights are to not stay if they are not being detained or arrested, and also to make sure that whatever data is collected…is treated properly.”

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