By Riaz Sanyani-Mulji
Recently the Hamilton Police Service admitted that they do indeed track race-based statistics. In doing so, they've given us proof that racialized citizens, especially black people and aboriginals in this city, are disproportionately carded.
Finally, the veil has been lifted on the Hamilton Police Service's racist policing. For years, they told those of us who submitted Freedom of Information requests and who met with senior management that they don't record race-based statistics. "We don't racially profile," were their words. They were defensive when we used the "r-word", and told us that they were "colour-blind."
For too long, both the Hamilton Police Service and the Hamilton Police Services Board ignored the stories we shared, of racialized young people in our community being stopped and searched without cause, of being ticketed for driving or biking while black, or their stories of these interactions escalating into assault by ACTION officers. The ACTION team is a provincially-funded unit arguably tasked with carding, racially profiling and harassing historically marginalized communities. While these are anecdotes of police brutality, not proven in a court of law, it is evident that carding poses the risk for extrajudicial measures such as physical assaults, trumped up or unwarranted charges and ongoing harassment by the police. See, for example, Justice Frederick Myers' finding of facts in the May 2015 case of Sudanese refugee Mutaz Elmardy against Toronto police, where a carding interaction led to him being punched twice in the face by a police officer. Elmardy was subsequently awarded $27,000 by the court.
While Justice Myers did not rule on this issue, it is clear that carding, or street checks, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code. Policing powers in Canada do not provide for the ability to stop people without cause and coerce them to produce identification. Section 9 of the Charter protects against exactly that — arbitrary detention. And given the litigation commenced by the Law Union of Ontario, a court will no doubt make a ruling confirming this in due time.