Tactics used by Toronto police lag far behind the city’s rich multiculturalism, according to critics, and nowhere is this more evident than with carding – a practice community advocates say amounts to racial profiling.
That was the message Jamil Jivani of the Policing Literacy Initiative brought to Humber Lakeshore campus Wednesday for the latest installment of the President’s Lecture Series.
The lecture, entitled “Bridging the Divide Between Police and the Community,” fell on the one-year anniversary of the Ferguson, Mo., grand jury’s decision not to charge Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown.
“Why does a Canadian sitting in Toronto look at what’s happening in Ferguson on CNN and feel like there’s a connection to that?” Jivani asked.
It’s because of the racial biases shared by police in both the U.S. and Canada, said Jivani. Carding is a manifestation of this systemic racism, he continued.
Jivani defines carding as when one is “stopped for no criminal investigation,” but has “personal information recorded by a police officer and then entered into a database.”
After studying police data obtained through a Freedom of Information request, a 2012 Toronto Star investigative report concluded that black Torontonians are four times more likely to get carded than their white counterparts.
Andray Domise, co-host of the Canadaland Commons political podcast, is a long-time Rexdale resident who’s seen the effects of racial profiling on his community.
“If I am stopped and carded, then the information from that interaction can find its way through some database, which then comes back to haunt me later on,” Domise said. “I’ve spoken to people who that’s actually happened to.
“It used to be that (the police) could repress you physically, but now they can repress you socially,” he said.
Domise emphasized that not all Toronto cops are racist. From his experiences in Rexdale, he noticed many officers making genuine efforts to engage with the community and its leaders.
But these efforts are undermined by TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy) officers who are sent from outside to intensively police neighbourhoods perceived as crime ridden. They have no genuine connections, social or otherwise, with the areas they police.
“They don’t care about working with people. What they care about is getting their arrests (and) their carding information,” he said.
Former Toronto mayor John Sewell also has a lot to say about carding. He founded the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition in 2000 after gaining a reputation as a passionate critic of Toronto police.
“You aren’t engaging with someone who you’re threatening. And that’s what police are doing when they’re carding,” said Sewell.
“If you’re constantly carded by police and treated as if you’re a criminal, you’re going to feel as if you don’t belong in society,” he said. “That’s not a good thing for police to be doing to people.”
The Ontario government recently announced plans to rein in carding, but under the new legislation, police are not required to provide receipts detailing their interaction, nor are they required to dismantle their database of information.