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Urban Alliance on Race Relations Deputation on TPSB Community Contacts Policy (TPSB Special Board Meeting: April 8, 2014)

April 8, 2014

Urban Alliance on Race Relations Deputation on TPSB Community Contacts Policy (TPSB Special Board Meeting: April 8, 2014)

Good evening. Before I start, it is with a heart of thanks, and in a spirit of respect and solidarity that I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Mississauga of New Credit First Nations people.
My name is Anthony Morgan. I am a lawyer and Board Member of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (“UARR”). We value the opportunity to speak to this important and pressing issue.

It is the UARR’s position that the practice of carding must not only stop, but also be recognized as a prohibited policing practice of the Toronto Police Service.

Carding is a discriminatory practice in that it violates the equality rights of young Black and Brown people in this city. The right to equality is a fundamental right that our young people are guaranteed under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

This draft policy poses a significant threat to the values of democratic and multicultural citizenship. It seeks to justify the systematic and targeted extraction, collection and indefinite warehousing of the private information of young Black and Brown civilians and the people they are connected with — even when these young people are not suspected of having engaged in any criminal wrongdoing.

This is damaging to Black and Brown youths’ senses of belonging, self-esteem and exacerbates deep feelings of alienation from mainstream society. The 2008 report, The Roots of Youth Violence, as well a many other similar reports attest to how destructive such feelings are to the development of healthy, self-loving and responsible young people. Because of this, the practice of carding has no place as a legitimate form of interaction between civilians and our free and democratic State; of which the police are supposed to be representatives.

At a recent public consultation that UARR held on the practice of Police ‘carding’, we heard directly from youth workers how ‘carding’ stigmatizes at-risk youth and is counter-productive to developing a good relationship between police and marginalized nieghbourhoods. Youth know they are being racially targeted. As one youth worker said at that summit: “If the police want to establish a relationship with us, there are better ways to do it.” Another participant said, “Being Black is not a crime.”

From the perspective of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, one of the most troubling aspects of this draft policy on carding is that it disproportionately and negatively affects young Black male citizens in staggering numbers , whereby since 2008, over 350,000 street checks are documented per year.

Between 2008 and 2011, the number of young black males, aged 15-24, who were documented at least once in the police patrol zone where they live exceeded the young black male population for all of Toronto by 3.4 times. The Star has also noted that Black people are charged with a disproportionate number of violent crime. The UARR is very concerned with these statistics and how they may be related.

The Toronto Star analysis of the Police’s own statistics beg the question of how this practice continues and what, if any, are the benefits of ‘Carding’? How does the police check it’s own systematic biases? We would refer the Police to the still relevant 1995 Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System.
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UARR knows that the current and the proposed Contacts Policy affects social relations between police and certain communities which are widely viewed as a ‘problem’.

What are we really talking about when use the label, “community” in this context?

“Community” is an externally imposed label to describe a group of people who only happen to look the same and experience the same forms of socio-economic exclusions. Yet, “community” is used in the title and throughout this policy. The UARR asks the TPSB to be more accountable and transparent by offering a definition of what it means by “Community” in this policy.

Let’s be honest – community relations by police looks different and is done differently in Rosedale than it is as is Dixon or Regent Park. This ‘carding’ practice, and even this proposed Contacts Policy, targets communities based on race, gender, age and geographic location – namely, TCH and low-income communities where known and alleged street gangs are active.

The use of ‘carding’ as a police practice, actually creates or at least exacerbates the problems that it professes to solve. For example, Carding makes innocent Black and Brown youth feel unsafe in their communities. This practice significantly diminishes public trust, compromises “community understanding” of individual rights and erodes public confidence in the police.

With all due respect to Mr. Addario and those he consulted this Contacts Policy arises almost entirely from individuals who live outside of the common, day-to-day realities of the people that the Contacts policy targets and singles out for heightened scrutiny and monitoring. To be credible and accepted as legitimate, the development of a policy like this demands meaningful partnership with the people the policy specifically targets.

The TPS wants to improve community confidence, enhance community understanding of individual rights, promote community trust and ensure public safety. These are necessary and laudable aims. However, instead of using carding for this, the TPS should develop more proactive strategies to assist what it calls “the Community” by working with them to lobby businesses and various levels of government for:

1. A more equitable, inclusive and responsible education system.
2. A guaranteed livable wage for all Torontonians
3. Affordable housing and food security
4. Accessible and affordable childcare
5. Sustainable youth employment and training opportunities
6. Better funding for arts, sports , health and recreation programs
7. Community safety strategies that are developed for and with the communities served

For the health and well-being of social and race relations in Toronto, what is needed is a more robust and innovative vision of what it means to serve and protect.

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