The Ontario government is banning the controversial practice of carding, prohibiting police officers from randomly stopping people and collecting information on them based simply on the colour of their skin or the neighbourhood they live in.
Ontario is the first province to take this step – the result of months of emotional and moving consultations with residents who have been victims of the practice.
On Wednesday, Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi unveiled draft regulations that ban random and arbitrary collection of personal information from people, and establishes procedures for taking information when people voluntarily speak with officers. Members of the public will have a 45-day period to give input on the changes.
"Ontario is doing something unprecedented. I think I can tell you other jurisdictions are looking at Ontario …," Mr. Naqvi said. "We have zero tolerance for any form of racism or discrimination."
For some, the measures, though welcome, have not come quickly enough. There are also still concerns about police attitudes toward racial groups.
Carding has been around for years, but no government seemed concerned about it until last spring, after journalist Desmond Cole wrote in a Toronto Life magazine article that he has been stopped countless times by police for no reason but that he is black.
Mr. Cole attended the news conference on Wednesday.
"Today represents our best chance to end carding to date," he said. "This has been a really, really long struggle and it is not over. The police have been abusing our rights and treating us as criminals in our community and we are finally starting to get some acknowledgment that it is going on."
NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh has also been pushing to have the practice quashed. As a young man in Windsor, and even since he was elected in 2011, he has been stopped for no reason by police.
He said he believes the government is moving in the right direction, and is encouraged that it is dealing with the "poisonous message" of police stopping people in their own neighbourhoods and that race will no longer be used to stop someone.
However, he is troubled that it took the government so long to act. "This is something that we have known about for a long time," he said.
For Anthony Morgan, the policy and research lawyer at the African Canadian Legal Clinic, the regulation represents "a very important and historic step forward in the discussion."
"[We] look at [it] as an opportunity to build a lot of the trust that has been lost through a lack of guidance for officers in exercising their duties to keep communities safe," he said.
But he sees some problems with the new measures, including what he characterized as a "glaring error" that they make no distinction between adults and youth, saying young people are disproportionally targeted.
"We would like to see how we can further the conversations to have a differentiation in that regard," he said.
The Toronto Police Services Board, the civilian group that oversees the Toronto police, said in a statement it welcomes the changes "that will govern how police perform street checks in Ontario."
The group will conduct a "comprehensive view of the draft regulation," the statement said.
The ban on random and arbitrary collection of information comes into effect March 1, and regulation on voluntary interaction with police on July 1, Mr. Naqvi said.
The new measures will include training for officers in areas such as "bias awareness, discrimination and awareness," according to documents explaining the regulations. Officers who do not comply will face consequences.
And there are exceptions to the rules if the member of the public is under arrest, or the officer is undercover.
Rules will govern who gets access to any information collected, and annual reports will be released publicly on stops and the age, gender and race of the people involved.