Update: see previous post – November 17, 2013 Toronto: Police Sued Over Carding Practice (Racial Profiling) for $65 Million by Black Action Defence Committee
The city’s police board has hired a well-known criminal and Charter lawyer to get an independent legal opinion on carding.
Lawyer Frank Addario is expected to deliver his assessment in January, which will delay the board’s promise of a carding, or street check, policy until later that month.
Addario has “a fairly broad mandate to look at the entire process of interactions between police officers and members of the public,” said Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee.
“The service and chief have said that engaging the community is an invaluable tool for gathering information. So we are asking: What constitutes a practice that is legitimate, legal and consistent with Charter and human rights legislation?” he said. And further: “What are the requirements on the part of a police officer who engages with a community member?”
A series of Star investigations in 2010, 2012 and 2013 has shown the practice of carding, whereby police stop and document individuals in what are typically non-criminal encounters, disproportionately affects black- and brown-skinned people.
More on carding at thestar.com:
The move to solicit an opinion is long overdue, say some legal experts.
The police board passed a motion after the Star’s 2012 investigation asking the city solicitor to provide a legal opinion on carding, which is still outstanding.
“We haven’t seen that and we’re still waiting for it,” says former prosecutor Howard Morton, a member of the Law Union of Ontario, which has been urging the board to get an opinion for more than a year.
The law union says the practice violates the equality section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the Ontario Human Rights Code and should be stopped.
Morton says Addario is a good choice.
He’s a “very fair-minded, balanced person. An excellent lawyer involved in criminal law. And he will understand both the Charter and policing issues.”
The police board decided to hire Addario after a public meeting in November held at city hall to discuss a new draft policy on carding.
There, board members heard from more than 20 speakers, most of whom called for an end to carding or described their personal experiences being stopped by police.
Afterwards, board members Michael Del Grande and Michael Thompson, who are both city councillors, questioned the wisdom of creating a policy that would further entrench a police procedure that may be illegal.
“I think we actually have a major problem here,” said Thompson at the time.
Mukherjee said that meeting was a kind of turning point for the board, the first time he heard “explicitly from all board members, not like we need to study this more, but a clear statement from each of them that this is serious. And that we have an obligation to act.”
Meanwhile, a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging racial profiling, brought by the Black Action Defence Committee against the police board and Chief Bill Blair, has been broadened to include as defendants the Ministry of Community Safety and Corrections as well as Minister Madeleine Meilleur.
Several individuals, as well as the group Justice is Not Colour-Blind have also been added as plaintiffs in the suit, which now seeks $200 million in damages and additional remedies.