Carding report could hit wall given Ford’s history
January is a time of reflection on the year just past: the good, the bad and the ugly. Firmly occupying ugly territory was the year in crime.
Toronto suffered an unprecedented 96 murders last year, 51 by gunfire. The grim tally surpassed the city’s previous record of 89 homicides, set in 1991. The deadly toll was exacerbated by what Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders described as “two mass casualty incidents” — a van attack on Yonge Street and a shooting spree on the Danforth — carving a scar through the city’s psyche.
Toronto is just one city, but fully one- fifth of the province resides there. An apparent rise in violent crime seems to call out for an institutional response. And therein lies the danger, under provincial leadership that has shown itself more disposed to brash action than thoughtful planning.
A small but vocal chorus of critics has been calling for the return of carding — the rather intrusive police practice of arbitrarily collecting data on citizens not suspected of any crime, nor having information about one.
Toronto police suspended the practice in 2015 under intense public scrutiny. Data from several jurisdictions show a disproportionate impact on racialized communities, in particular black and Indigenous populations. Now, an independent review has recommended the province ban carding outright.
Justice Michael Tulloch of the Ontario Court of Appeal gathered opinions and expertise from more than 2,000 stakeholders, including police and the public, before making his recommendations. His report acknowledges some benefits to random street checks. The information they yield can help solve crimes, or even serve as a deterrent.
But the potential benefits are dramatically outweighed by steep social costs, the report concludes, which ultimately undermine public confidence in policing.
Tulloch differentiates between focused street checks, which have a defined investigative purpose, and random carding.
The trouble with carding is manifold. Data collection becomes, in itself, a productivity metric for police performance, increasing potential for abuse and diverting energy from community policing initiatives.
More broadly, it undermines public trust. Parents described incidents where police recorded information from black children, but not their white friends.
“These first interactions with police have a long- term impact on young people,” Tulloch wrote. “They can establish either a friendly or an antagonistic relationship with police that will last a lifetime.”
Such antagonism creates fertile ground for gang violence and gun violence to take root, bringing the ugliness full circle.
The decision whether to ban carding now rests with the Ontario government.
Premier Doug Ford positions himself as a friend to police. ( The descriptor is both figurative and literal: he controversially elevated a family friend to head up the OPP, pending an investigation by the integrity commissioner.)
One of his first acts in office was to suspend the implementation of new police oversight legislation, a day before it was to come into effect. Bill 175 contained the first amendments to the Police Services Act in 25 years. Many long- overdue changes were the result of a police oversight review, also conducted by Tulloch.
Ford has said he would not bring back carding. Yet it seems to fit with the premier’s tough- on- crime bluster, his tilting at “onerous regulations” constraining police conduct.
Ford also said he wouldn’t cancel the guaranteed income pilot project. And then he did.
Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones’s response so far has been vague.
“We will fix the police legislation the Liberal’s [ sic] broke,” she tweeted New Year’s Eve. “Justice Tulloch’s report will inform this work.”
The report was clear: “Carding is a practice that no longer has any place in modern policing.” write. [email protected] baranyai. ca