The future of carding in Ontario is now in the provincial government’s hands, after Justice Michael Tulloch tabled his report calling for a full ban of the controversial policing practice.
At a downtown Toronto hotel on Friday, Justice Tulloch presented his newly released 310-page report on street checks and carding to members of the public, as well as to reporters and police brass from across Ontario. The report – the result of consultations with more than 2,200 people, including representatives from 34 police services across Ontario – aims to provide direction on the murky topic.
While he stresses that there are certainly scenarios where street checks are legitimate and appropriate, he argues that there is no place in policing for carding − which he defines as “randomly stopping individuals to gather their identifying information for the creation of a database for intelligence purposes.”
Current regulations, established in 2016, require police officers to inform people being stopped randomly that their participation is voluntary. Officers are also required to provide a receipt of the interaction.
Justice Tulloch’s independent review − which was commissioned by the previous Liberal government – calls for an outright ban on carding, which has been shown to disproportionately target people of colour, including black and Indigenous people.
“Many police services have already come to this conclusion, and have ceased the practice of random carding. For those services that have not, it is time,” he said on Friday.
Whether his recommendations – which also include standardized data collection of police interactions, and more local hiring – will be implemented by the provincial Conservative government remains to be seen.
In an e-mail statement on Friday, Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said she thanks Justice Tulloch for his “thorough and thoughtful" review.”
“We continue to review and assess the recommendations made by Justice Tulloch. His report will inform our work as we fix the Liberal’s broken police legislation,” she said. “Our new police legislation will reflect a simple principle: racism and discrimination have no place in policing. You can count on us to ensure that our legislation enables police to protect the law-abiding people of Ontario.”
On his first day in office last June, Premier Doug Ford shelved legislation that had been passed by the Liberals last spring to overhaul policing rules in Ontario for the first time in a generation. Mr. Ford argued that the changes in the Safer Ontario Act would’ve hurt police officers.
Asked Friday about concerns that this report, too, could be shelved, Christine Mainville, part of the team of counsels to Justice Tulloch, said they trust this report will “be looked at seriously.”
“With respect to a specific action plan going forward, Justice Tulloch’s mandate was to produce the report, and it’s now in the government’s hands,” Ms. Mainville said. “We have every confidence that they’re going to move forward in good faith but ultimately it’s up to them to decide how to proceed with the recommendations.”
Although some critics have drawn a line between the crackdown on carding and an increase in violence, Justice Tulloch said such a link is unsubstantiated.
The report specifically highlights a need for more education and training to ensure police officers know the regulations and what is expected of them when they stop people on the street.
With clearly defined rules and standards for data collection, Justice Tulloch said police will feel confident engaging with the public − and community members will “know and appreciate under what circumstances and exactly when and how requests for identifying information will be taken.”
Ontario Provincial Police Association President Rob Jamieson was at Justice Tulloch’s presentation Friday, and said later that he was encouraged to see a distinction made between carding and street checks more broadly. He said standardization would be a key part of implementation, but could not speak to the government’s plans.