Canadian Province Addresses Racial Profiling

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders

Racial profiling is a concern beyond our northern border. To address the issue, Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi announced June 16 that the province of Ontario will standardize its controversial carding policy, the Canadian Broadcast Corp. reports.

The safety minister said that in too many cases, police conduct identity checks without having probable cause. He added that the province has “zero tolerance when it comes to any racial profiling and discrimination,” and it cannot continue, according to the CBC. A Toronto Star investigation in 2010 showed that race is a key factor in who gets stopped. Black men ages 15-24 were stopped two-and-a-half times more often than their white counterparts.

It was Desmond Cole’s Toronto Life magazine article in April that set off the most recent debate, according to the CBC. In his piece, “The Skin I’m In: I’ve Been Interrogated by Police More Than 50 Times—All Because I’m Black,” the journalist describes his numerous stops by police because of his race.


Cole said that the minister’s announcement is a first step. “There seems to be some reluctance to come right out and say that the police have been engaging in rampant racial profiling,” he said, according to the CBC.

Beyond racial profiling, the so-called street checks also raise privacy concerns. As the Globe and Mail reports, authorities in Ontario and throughout Canada routinely enter into a police database the names and other personal information of people they randomly card.

Naqvi said that he plans to regulate—not eliminate—carding. He believes that it’s an important policing tool to investigate suspicious activity.

Mark Saunders, the police chief of Toronto, Ontario’s provincial capital, agrees that carding should continue. “When we do it right, it’s lawful,” Saunders, who is black, told the CBC. “When we do it right, it enhances public safety.”

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