The mayor meets with a newly formed anti-carding group, says that he understands concerns better since he continued the status quo in April.
More than 30 prominent civic leaders gathered at a City Hall press conference to call for an end to carding this morning, signalling increased momentum in the push to end the controversial police practice.
The group, Concerned Citizens to End Carding, included current and former members of the United Way, the presidents of Toronto’s two downtown universities, and two former Toronto mayors. The mostly non-black group urged John Tory and Chief of Police Mark Saunders immediately cease carding, a practice where police have disproportionately stopped people of colour to take their information, despite not being accused of any crime.
The mayor took a meeting with the group, and indicated he appreciates the importance of the issue more than when he continued the status quo of the issue in April as part of a Police Services Board vote.
The conference heard from six representatives of the Concerned Citizens in a 45-minute speech given in the hallway on the second floor of City Hall.
Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre), the sole black member of council, stated that carding results in public alienation and heightened policing efforts, rather than unifying police and community.
“While policing may be easier when you take people’s rights away, making policing easier is not as important as protecting the rights of our citizens,” he said to a gathered audience of media and citizens. “When controlling behaviour is more important than basic rights, a society’s freedom is endangered.”
The anti-carding campaign argues the practice infringes on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is tantamount to racial profiling. Thompson added that this preconceived bias promotes anger, suspicion, and mistrust of the police within the community—the opposite of the policing outcomes the City wants to achieve.
Former cabinet member Mary Anne Chambers, who also worked as the Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services, created the Youth in Policing Initiative in 2006. The initiative not only served to provide a work opportunity for youth in low-income/high-crime neighbourhoods, and sought to build positive interpersonal relationships between youth and police.
But Chambers worried that Toronto Police’s carding policy “takes this relationship several steps back.”
“As a law-abiding citizen, I strongly believe that the proper conduct of law enforcement serves the interest of public safety. Proper conduct means being true to the principles of transparency and accountability and the articulation of what it is being done,” she said.
Chambers added, “Biases, whether racially charged or influenced by socio-economic factors, undermine proper conduct and ultimately undermine the interest of public safety,” and stated that respect for justice and human rights must be front and centre in all policies to properly serve and reflect public interest.
Saunders, who became Toronto’s first black head of police in April, spoke in a North York conference shortly after his succession, stating that he would not put an end to carding and calling it instead a viable and resourceful policing tool. However, in a departure from the language used in April when the Police Services Board continued the status quo, today he and Tory said that there is a sense of “urgency” that “fundamental change” is needed for carding.