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Ontario looking to ban arbitrary stops by police

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TORONTO—Ontario is proposing new regulations that would ban the random stopping of citizens by police—known as “carding”—and require officers to provide a written record of any such exchanges.

Community Safety minister Yasir Naqvi said the draft regulations, which were posted online yesterday for 45 days of public comment, would establish clear and consistent rules to protect civil liberties during voluntary interactions between police and the public.

“We believe that random and arbitrary stops to collect personal information based on nothing more than the colour of one’s skin are illegitimate, disrespectful, and have no place in our society,” said Naqvi.

“Simply put, the regulation will end the practice of street checks and carding in Ontario.”

The government heard from too many people of colour and aboriginal men and women who said the Human Rights Code was being ignored by police who stopped them for no apparent reason, added Naqvi.

“Whether you are a brown man in Brampton, or an aboriginal woman in Thunder Bay, or a young black man in Toronto: we heard you, and we heard your lived reality, and we are taking action today,” he pledged.

Police would not be allowed to stop people based on how they look, but there would be “narrow exemptions” in the regulation to cover routine traffic stops when someone is being arrested or detained.

“The regulation makes it very clear that police officers cannot stop you to collect your personal information simply based on the way you look or the neighbourhood you live in,” said Naqvi.

If the regulation is passed, police would have to inform citizens of the reason they are being stopped, and also tell them they don’t have to engage in conversation with the officers.

“The police officer must explain to you that the interaction is voluntary and you have the right to walk away,” said Naqvi.

“The officer must also provide to you a written record of the interaction, along with information about the officer and how to access the police complaints system, and the information collected.”

Police wouldn’t have to provide these written records when officers talk to people informally at community policing events where there is no intention of recording the information.

The New Democrats welcomed the draft regulations, but said they needed time to examine the details of what Naqvi was proposing.

“I personally have been stopped a number of times in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion, and I can tell you this is a practice that has been going on and we’re hoping these regulations actually end it,” said NDP justice critic Jagmeet Singh.

“I’m troubled that it took the government so long to move on it but I am encouraged that there is movement on it now.”

Naqvi wouldn’t say what would happen to the personal information of Ontario residents’ already gathered through carding that’s now in police databases.

But he said any information found to have been collected improperly will be moved to databases accessible only by chiefs of police, and eventually would be destroyed after concerns about possible lawsuits have expired.

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