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Letter to the Toronto Police Services Board regarding the practice of carding

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January 13, 2014

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Dr. Alok Mukherjee
Toronto Police Services Board
40 College Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5G 2J3

Dear Dr. Mukherjee:

Thank you for receiving the Commission’s deputation on racial profiling and carding on November 18, 2013.  

We understand that the Toronto Police Services Board (the TPSB”) has retained Frank Addario to provide an independent legal opinion on carding, and that he has a broad mandate to look at “the entire process of interactions between police officers and members of the public”.[1]

As you are aware, the Commission is concerned about the significant negative impact of the Toronto Police Service (the “TPS”) practice of carding on racialized communities, and particularly upon young Black men.  In our view, Mr. Addario’s opinion must assess the practice against the Charter and the Human Rights Code, having regard for the following:

  1. In the majority of cases, TPS officers stopped civilians and asked for, recorded and stored their personal information and circumstances with no greater justification than the purpose of “general investigation”.  Similarly, the Police and Community Engagement Review Report authorizes carding in situations broadly defined as “drawing the attention of police” or “engaging public safety”;[2]
  2. Such stops may lead to unreasonable questioning, requests for identification, intimidation, searches and aggression;[3]
  3. Civilians stopped may feel that they are not free to leave, and indeed, are not told that they are free to leave; and
  4. The gross over-representation of African Canadians being issued contact cards in all Toronto neighbourhoods, including the patrol zones in which they live, and under the category of “general investigation”.[4]

We look forward to the results of Mr. Addario’s legal opinion.  In the interim, until clear and lawful criteria are developed and assessed against the Human Rights Code and the Charter, or guidance is provided in the form of an order by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario or the courts, our position remains that the practice must be stopped.   

Yours truly,

Barbara Hall

Chief Commissioner

[1] Patty Winsa, “Police carding: Toronto board seeks a legal opinion on Charter-friendly street checks” (December 18, 2013) Toronto Star News.

[2] In 2008, 55% of the contact cards filled out fell into the category of “general investigation”.  See Toronto Star, Toronto Star Analysis of Toronto Police Service – 2010: Advanced Findings (2010) at 8 and 9.

Between 2008 and 2012, 79.1% of contact cards filled out fell into the category of “general investigation”.  See Toronto Star Analysis Package (August 7, 2013) at 5 and 16.

Toronto Police Service, the Police and Community Engagement Review: Phase II – Internal Report and Recommendations (October 4, 2013) at 3 and 53.

[3] CCLA Deputation to Toronto Police Services Board, March 21, 2012

[4] Although they represented only 8% of the Toronto population, Black people were the target of almost 25% of all contact cards filled out between 2003 and 2008. Moreover, from 2008 to mid-2011, the number of carded young Black men was 3.4 times higher than the young Black male population. The data indicated that Black people were issued a disproportionate number of contact cards in all Toronto neighbourhoods. See Toronto Star, Toronto Star Analysis of Toronto Police Service – 2010: Advanced Findings (2010); Jim Rankin, “Race Matters: When Good People are Swept Up With the Bad” (February 6, 2010) Toronto Star A1; Jim Rankin, “CARDED: Probing a Racial Disparity” (February 6, 2010) Toronto Star IN1; Jim Rankin & Patty Winsa, “Known to Police: Toronto police stop and document black and brown people far more than whites” (March 9, 2012); ACLC Deputation, April 5, 2012; Toronto Police Services Board Minutes (April 25, 2013) at #P121, Appendix A, Summary of Deputations Toronto Police Accountability Coalition.
Toronto Star Analysis Package (August 7, 2013) at 5, 7, 15-17; Jim Rankin & Patty Winsa, “‘Devastating. Unacceptable’; Toronto police board chair appalled by Star findings that show a stubborn rise in the number of citizens stopped and documented by our police officers – with black males heavily overrepresented” (September 28, 2013) Toronto Star A1.