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Banning random carding will help protect people's rights

The Ontario government’s decision to ban arbitrary and random carding is a move in the right direction toward ensuring that people's rights are protected, says Toronto criminal lawyer Elham Jamshidi

“This legislative change recognizes that the Charter is not just a theoretical notion, but is a fundamental safeguard that assures that people's rights and freedoms are respected in this country,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com

Jamshidi, of Jamshidi & Associates, says she is encouraged to see the legislative change.

“Canada is a democratic country and we take pride in the fact that we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which sets out citizens’ liberties,” she says. “Giving police the power to arbitrarily and randomly stop citizens without reasonable and probable grounds is against the Charter and is illegal.”

Jamshidi weighs in on the subject after Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi made the announcement following a discussion around a private member’s motion from NDP MPP and deputy party leader Jagmeet Singh to ban the random and arbitrary police practice of carding, says the Toronto Star.

“We as a government stand opposed, Speaker, to any arbitrary, random stops by the police simply to collect information when there are no grounds or reason to do so,” Naqvi said. “We have heard from the community that street checks, by definition, are arbitrary as well as discriminatory and therefore cannot be regulated; they must simply be ended. The province agrees that these types of stops must end.”

The ban on arbitrary checks is expected to become law in the coming weeks and will be part of the Police Services Act, which oversees Ontario’s police forces. The ban will include: stronger guidelines for police who conduct street checks; rules guaranteeing that Charter rights will be respected for anyone who is checked; clear rules on how police can collect and use carding data, as well as how long the information can be stored, says the article. 

Jamshidi says the regulations are positive and she hopes they will go a long way to stop the practice of carding.

“I hope all police services abide by these regulations,” she says. “Warrantless searches are generally illegal and the police know that, but they still exist. So, notwithstanding the fact that safeguards are in place, sometimes these injustices still happen.”

Assuming that the police assertion that carding helps officers solve crimes is accurate, Jamshidi says, the prejudicial effect of carding on individuals still outweighs the value of the practice.

“It’s important to note that the investigative value that carding brings is far less than the impact it has on individuals’ civil liberties and the communities that are affected by it,” she says. 

Black individuals are more than three times more likely to be carded than whites and other minorities are also disproportionately stopped, according to data from Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton and London, says the article.

"Canadian citizens should be outraged that visible minorities are targeted," says Jamshidi.

“It's not OK. We need to put a stop to this — everyone should have equal rights. This is Canada, where we appreciate and expect that our rights will be respected and not violated."

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