Updated: see previous posts – November 23, 2015 Police Boards Seek Explicit Power to Enforce Ontario’s New Carding Rules, October 23, 2015 Ontario To End Arbitrary and Random Carding By Police
Ontario police stopping citizens on the street will have to inform them that they have a right to not give any identifying information under new regulations finalized Tuesday.
Police must inform any citizens who voluntarily stop for them on the street that they have a right not to give any identifying information under new carding regulations finalized Tuesday by the province.
That additional protection — along with the appointment of an independent reviewer — were announced by Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi following consultations held since draft rules to clamp down on controversial practice of racially biased street checks were released in October.
The new rules take effect next Jan. 1, with the province developing a program to instruct police officers this spring and training to be conducted through the summer and fall at the expense of local police services.
Police services must also keep statistics on all attempted and completed street checks by age, race and gender and provide details in their annual reports.
“The regulation makes it very clear that police officers cannot attempt to collect your identifying information simply based on the way you look or the neighbourhood you live in,” Naqvi told reporters.
“Arbitrary and race-based stops to collect and store personal information based on nothing more than the colour of one’s skin are illegitimate, disrespectful and have no place in our society.”
Under the regulations, police must also provide citizens with a reason why they are requesting identifying information.
That reason cannot be arbitrary, based on a citizen’s decision to walk away or decline to answer or be based on race just because the person is in a “high-crime location.”
Police must also offer citizens a document with their name, badge number, and instructions on how to contact the office of the Independent Police Review Director if they have concerns about their contact with the officer.
Critics said waiting until next year for the changes to take effect is too long and questioned whether police would try to get around the new rules using traffic stops.
“It’s a serious concern,” said New Democrat MPP Jagmeet Singh, a lawyer, who otherwise called the changes “a step forward.”
“At a traffic stop, absolutely, you must identify yourself according to the Highway Traffic Act. But the other policies with respect to not having to provide additional information should also apply in those circumstances,” he added.
“I think it’s a bit unclear whether the police will be directed, based on the government’s policies, to provide that information at that point.”
Lawyer Howard Morton, of the Law Union of Ontario, called the new regulations an improvement on last fall’s draft but fall “far short” in several respects.
Morton, a former Crown attorney and one-time head of the Special Investigations Unit, said officers may still “approach, interrupt and stop individuals” as long as they don’t attempt to collect identifying information.
There’s an exemption if the officer reasonably suspects an offence has been or will be committed.
“The regulation thereby does nothing to prevent arbitrary and race-based approaches, stops and checks,” Morton said in an email.
Naqvi defended the changes.
“The regulation now applies to more circumstances, and we’ve made it clear when it does and does not apply, such as during an undercover investigation or when executing a warrant,” he said in a news conference.
“Exemptions to the regulations are now minimal and apply largely to immediate safety concerns.”
Naqvi said an independent reviewer will be appointed in the coming months to keep track of how the new rules are working in consultation with an anti-racism directorate that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government is establishing.
There will also be new training for all police officers, to be developed by the Ontario Police College, on how to avoid racism as they perform their duties, with mandatory refresher courses every three years, officials said in a background briefing.
Any information collected by officers, who will be required to keep detailed notes, will have to be double-checked to make sure it complies with the new regulations before it is entered into police databases, with additional random checks for compliance.
After five years, any such information in police databases will be moved to a restricted access area within the computer system.