As protesters hung their own signs behind speakers at a public meeting hosting consultations on the practice of police street checks, one of the most outspoken attendees of the night was sitting at the same table as Toronto police chief Mark Saunders.
Cecil Peter stood up to interrupt the opening speech by Ontario minister of community safety and correctional services Yasir Naqvi.
"End carding!" he shouted, rising to his feet and encouraging the room to do the same. "There's no legal way to justify carding. It's just like saying, 'Let's find a legal way to justify torture,'" he said.
After Mr. Peter sat down, he continued to confront Chief Saunders, who has previously said he does not plan to end carding.
"The street check thing right now is something that definitely needs to have regulations in place," Chief Saunders said to media outside the room. "We believe in good police work with intelligence-led principles and keeping our officers accountable for their actions ... Those are all lawful things. I'm not going to say our actions are unlawful if they are lawful."
The Ontario government's five-city series of public consultations on police street checks concluded Tuesday in Toronto. The meetings are part of an effort to standardize the controversial practice and respond to criticisms that street checks amount to racial profiling.
More than 100 people came to the Toronto consultation hosted by Mr. Naqvi. The room was divided into tables for small group discussions for the first hour and a half of the meeting and attendees were invited to post feedback on cards at the front of the room, followed by 30 minutes of open-mic commentary. Worksheets provided by the ministry asked attendees to define a street check, suggest rules for when police stop people and record their information and suggest ideas for oversight government should apply to the interactions.
Some attendees criticized the consultation process. Ellie Adekur said she was "offended" by the way the meeting was conducted.
"We don't want to sit around tables and write on sticky notes anymore," she said. "You don't listen to us when we speak to you, and you don't even listen to us when we die. ... These sticky notes are ineffective, the sessions are ineffective, and you need to hear us."
The province announced in June it would introduce province-wide regulations on street checks, also known as carding. While Toronto was not initially one of the cities chosen to host consultations. sharp criticism of its exclusion led to a date being added after stops in Ottawa, London, Brampton and Thunder Bay.
Min. Naqvi said he hoped to bring the regulations in by fall, and that a uniform policy across the province was needed.
"We as the government stand opposed to any random or arbitrary police stop," he said. "For us, that process must end and cannot be justified."
"Street check" is one of the terms used for the police practice of stopping people, collecting their information, and entering it in a database. The stops are carried out even if the person is not suspected of a crime, and they are not arrested.
The province has said a regulation to establish "fair, bias-free and consistent rules" for carding will emerge from the meetings, meant to ensure the practice is "tied to a valid policing purpose."
Data gathered by the Globe and Mail from 21 police forces across the country shows that rules guiding the practice of carding are inconsistent or missing entirely.
About a dozen protesters gathered at Yonge and Bloor in advance of the consultation meeting up the street at the Toronto Reference Library, holding signs that said "Eliminate don't regulate."
In Toronto, recent changes require officers to inform people they may walk away from a carding stop, and police must issue a receipt at the end of each interaction. But public debate about carding has been particularly heated in the city, with people from Toronto's black communities saying carding disproportionately and unfairly targets them. Activist group Black Lives Matter Toronto has strongly condemned the practice, but the group chose not to participate in Tuesday's consultation, co-founder Rodney Diverlus said.
Desmond Cole, a Toronto freelance journalist who did attend the consultation, said before the meeting that the choice not to participate reflects the community's frustration.
"It's demeaning that there would be a consultation on our rights," he said.
Kingsley Gilliam was the first speaker at the microphone when the meeting's open commentary session started.
"We want our people to be able to walk with dignity and pride and to feel that they are served and protected by the police regardless of the colour of their skin," he said.
"We are going to hold [the police's] feet to the fire."
Further comments from the public on street checks can be submitted to the province through an online survey, by e-mail or letter, until Sept. 21.