In advance of Toronto’s consultation on Tuesday, a look at three concerns raised by critics about the province’s street checks review and responses from the ministry and police associations:
The definition of “street checks” is too broad
In an online form the ministry calls its “discussion document,” street checks are defined as a tool police use “to engage and record interactions with individuals whose activities and/or presence within their broader context (e.g., location, time, behaviour, etc.) seem out of the ordinary.”
But Knia Singh — who has launched a Charter challenge against police carding and says he has been stopped by police 30 times — says the ministry’s definition is does not capture the reality of street checks, which involve arbitrary detentions.
The majority of community members who are concerned about carding are not opposed to police having the ability to stop and question people for a legitimate investigative purpose.
“What we’ve always been fighting is the non-criminal investigation of people,” Singh said. “What they’re missing is the whole point of people just walking on the street, standing on the corner or minding their own business are getting stopped.”
“If they are going to use the word ‘street check,’ they have to define it correctly,” Singh said. “Then we can have a discussion.”
Jonathan Rose, spokesperson for Naqvi’s ministry, said it’s in the process of updating the content of its street-check document online “to reflect the feedback that we have heard from our public consultation and online channels,” though he did not specify what changes were being made.
“We intend to make these changes to the web page content in the coming days,” Rose said in an email.
It misses the root problem of racial discrimination
In a lengthy submission to the ministry, the Ontario Human Rights Commission states its central concern with the street checks review is that it does not go far enough to address the “systemic issue” underlying the over-representation of racialized people in street-check interactions.
Ruth Goba, the OHRC’s interim chief commissioner, says the ministry does not go far enough to define when it is appropriate to perform street checks.
The OHRC challenges the suggestion that police may perform street checks when individuals’ activities “seem out of the ordinary.” That is just simply too broad, Goba says — and unguided officer discretion to initiate street checks is “fertile ground for racial profiling,” the OHRC writes.
Also, the larger issue “of racial profiling is not explicitly mentioned,” Goba says, “and that is a significant gap given how the issue has manifested itself.”
Rose said Naqvi has made it clear the government “takes the protection of human rights very seriously and that we have zero tolerance for racism or marginalization.”
It is taken for granted that street checks solve crime
In its description of street checks, the province describes the practice as “a necessary and valuable tool for police” that helps solve and prevent crime.
Chris Williams, an outspoken carding opponent and member of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, says stating carding’s usefulness as fact is problematic. Numerous groups, including TPAC, the Law Union of Ontario and the OHRC have argued there is a dearth of objective evidence supporting the claim that street checks solve crime.
Police forces and associations across Ontario often cite the importance street checks can play in solving crime…