Carding, a.k.a. “street check,” a now-suspended process by which on-duty Toronto police officers could stop any and question any citizen, without cause, and record basic data including skin color on a "Field Information Report" form. Anyone so documented is then permanently “known to police” during any future name check, even if they have never been detained, arrested, or charged.
Although police officials disagree, carding is generally felt by the public and the press to disproportionately target black youth. A Toronto Star analysis of police data obtained via a freedom of information request shows that:
While blacks make up 8.3 per cent of Toronto’s population, they accounted for 25 per cent of the cards filled out between 2008 and mid-2011. In each of the city’s 72 patrol zones, blacks are more likely than whites to be stopped and carded. The likelihood increases in areas that are predominantly white.
Toronto Police Service suspended carding in January 2015. The Toronto Sun, the city’s conservative-slanted paper, reported in February 2016 that shootings and stabbings had increased dramatically since the process was suspended. The Sun directly blamed that increase on the suspension of street checks, claiming that no other explanation made sense.
In March 2016, the Ontario provincial government announced regulations to safeguard people’s rights. The new rules effectively ban carding without cause. Police can still stop and question people, but can’t put them in the database without consent. Carding data can still be legally collected during traffic stops or other official police interactions (arrests, executing warrants). Civil rights activists claimed that the regulations were too soft, and the police complained that the rules were cumbersome and subjective. The regulations take effect on January 1, 2017, giving time for police forces to be trained on the new procedures.
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