What to do if you’re carded by the cops at Caribbean Carnival

Some of the province's new regulations around street checks have already come into effect, but others have not. Here's a working list of what to do if you're stopped.

For many Caribbean folks, the Toronto Caribbean Carnival parade Saturday (July 30) is a day to celebrate: it is Toronto’s largest annual celebration of Caribbean culture.

But, it is also known for its heavy police presence and hyper-policing and surveillance.

It is well documented that Black people are far more likely to be stopped and questioned and their personal information collected by police than their white counterparts. But non-Black people of colour are also affected by “carding,” the police practice of street checks.

There has been a lot of mobilizing around the elimination of carding by activist groups like Black Lives Matter – Toronto (BLM-TO) and community organizations like the African Canadian Legal Clinic. A Charter challenge currently before the courts argues that police do not have the right to retain personal information that is collected during carding.

Many groups have highlighted the problems, including its detrimental impact on job opportunities. Still, Black people are most targeted by this practice, regardless of the fact that they may be a Hamilton city councillor.

At the recent public meeting held by the province’s Anti-Racism Directorate in Regent Park, Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, reiterated community calls for the elimination of the practice, as well as carding data collected by police.

But people confronted by police on the street cannot challenge unjust laws, let alone exercise their rights if they are not aware of what the law says in the first place. And the latter is no easy task with new carding regulations passed by the province that are complex and riddled with exceptions.

Parts of these regulations came into force on July 1, 2016. Other provisions, however, won’t come into effect until 2017.

Criminalized communities need to be vigilant. 

For example, Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival parade will wend its way down Lake Shore Boulevard. Close to the route is the nearby south Parkdale community, a priority neighbourhood in downtown Toronto.

One of the important changes in the province’s new carding regulations is the provision that you cannot be carded simply for being in a neighbourhood like south Parkdale. However, this specific provision does not come into effect until January 2017. So, what does this mean for those who are hanging out near the parade route? The answer is not clear.

Sections that came into full force July 1 mean that the information or identification that you may provide if you’re stopped may or may not be recorded in police databases. This presents several issues relating to people who do not have status (as citizens in Canada) or who do not have identification (like homeless people and others in situations without identification).

Here is a working list of what you can do:

1. Document the police interaction. Now there’s an app for that:  Legalswipe is an excellent and accessible resource to know your rights if you are stopped by the police.

2. Call friends or family to make them aware of what’s going on.

3. Provide emotional support to those who have been stopped.

4. Document everything that is going on, whether on your phone, on social media, or on paper.

Ignorance of the law is not a defense. But if we must operate within the current system, then we must protect those who are criminalized by it.

Samantha Peters and Mayoori Malankov, along with Naomi Sayers, are co-creators of Between the Lines a recently launched public legal education initiative.

news@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto

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