Police carding affects racialized students on university campuses, activists say

Toronto police cruiser parked downtown Toronto. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Toronto police cruiser parked downtown Toronto. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Despite a suspension of carding across the city, it is still occurring and students of colour are disproportionately affected, says Black Lives Matter Toronto activist.

“It would be very difficult for you to find a university or college aged black person who hasn’t had some kind of experience with carding or knows someone that’s had some type of experience with carding,” said Sandy Hudson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto and former executive director of University of Toronto Students’ Union.

Hudson spoke at a panel discussion hosted by The Jack Layton Leadership School. Anthony Morgan, a staff lawyer at the African-Canadian Legal Clinic at Ryerson University and Anna Willats, an activist and member of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition were also on the panel.

Carding is a practice where police officers randomly stop and question individuals and document information on a card. The card includes information such as birthdate and skin colour. This information is then stored on a database. Most of the time, these stops do not result in any arrests or charges.

The Jack Layton Leadership School was held at Oakham House over reading week. The three-day program for Ryerson students helped promote activism and social justice.

“The problem with carding is that it’s not random,” said Morgan. In 2013, black people were four times more likely to be stopped than other ethnicities in Toronto.  Data shows that carding targets black and indigenous people – especially young, black men.

As a placement coordinator for social and community services students at George Brown College, Willats has noticed the effects of racial profiling and carding on students.

“I continue to see the long-term impacts when (students) can’t get a placement or can’t even get into nursing school because they can’t pass a police government check.”

Anne-Marie Singh, associate professor in the criminology department and moderator of the panel said, “(This) is not a concern for some of us, but for all of us.”

After a Toronto Star investigation on carding and racial profiling in the Greater Toronto Area created controversy, former police chief Bill Blair suspended carding in January 2015. Despite this suspension, officers are still carding citizens, according to Hudson, who said she knows someone who has been carded in the last few weeks.

“To imagine that those people are having emotional responses, mental health effects of dealing with racism on a daily basis and then having to go through class and achieve in the same way as people that don’t have those types of barriers,” said Hudson. “It could affect your ability to live.”

Last fall, the province’s Minister of Community Safety, Yasir Navqi, proposed regulations on carding that would put restrictions on how police officers stop, question and record information from citizens.

“I’m not optimistic,” said Hudson about the future of carding in Toronto.  “A lot of education needs to be done. That regulation is not the end of carding, it’s a how-to manual.”

This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Feb. 24, 2016.

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