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OHRC letter to the Toronto Police Services Board on the current practice of carding

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July 2, 2013

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 Street Checks on June 20, 2013.  I wish to follow-up and confirm our message in writing. 

The Commission has a number of significant human rights and Charter concerns with the current practice of carding. It has also heard similar concerns from community and advocacy groups. Those concerns include:

  • the gross over-representation of African Canadians in the Toronto Police Service’s contact card database, which may indicate racial profiling;[1]
  • how interactions associated with contact cards are commonly experienced as detentions and restraints of liberty;[2] and
  • how such stops may lead to unreasonable questioning, requests for identification, intimidation, searches and aggression.[3]

While the current practice of carding significantly affects the African Canadian community, its impact is not limited to that community.  

Gathering intelligence and community engagement are laudable goals and necessary activities of police services, but the manner in which these goals are pursued must conform to the law.  Thus, the TPSB, the TPS, and the public must be assured that the practice of carding conforms to the Human Rights Code and the Charter.

In light of the significant human rights and Charter concerns associated with the current practice of carding, we recommend that the current practice be stopped until policies and procedures are fully developed and completely and transparently assessed against the Code and the Charter.

The Commission, the TPS, and the TPSB have worked together in the past and have made progress in addressing racial profiling.  We would be pleased to continue to work with the TPS and TPSB to apply a human rights lens and help ensure that the policies and procedures which are developed comply with the Code and the Charter.    

Yours truly,

Barbara Hall
Chief Commissioner

c: Chief William Blair

[1] 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 – regardless of the local crime rate or local composition.  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

[2] Toronto Police Services Board Minutes (April 25, 2013) at #P121, Appendix A, Summary of Deputations, Deputation of Law Union of Ontario; CCLA Deputation November 14, 2012

[3] CCLA Deputation, March 21, 2012