The Law Union of Ontario (LUO) writes to express its concern regarding the proposed merger of seventeen independent community legal clinics in the GTA into a few mega-clinics.
In particular, we are concerned that this amalgamation does not reflect a model of community lawyering that responds to the needs of low income people. We call on Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) and the Province of Ontario to ensure access to justice by providing increased funding to existing community legal clinics in catchment areas with high levels of poverty. Additionally, any major clinic transformation should only occur after meaningful, extensive, and widespread consultation with clinic-users and low-income communities.
The LUO’s Stop Racial Profiling Subcommittee made the following submissions (also available for download) to the Toronto Police Service Board April 24, 2014.
The Toronto Police Service engaged in the general intelligence-gathering practice known as “carding” for many years without any policy direction from the Board. This practice was a systematic violation of the rights of people in our communities, and especially of racialized youth, and it undermined the public’s trust and confidence in the police service and thereby impaired public safety.
The Law Union of Ontario welcomes the considerable work done by the Board to rein in this practice. The Chair’s report to the Board concerning the proposed new Community Contacts Policy indicates that the policy now seeks to take a rights-based approach to how police interact with members of the public. This is the correct and necessary approach.
However, in measuring the proposed draft policy against this approach, it is apparent that some further modifications will be required to ensure a full stop to the systematic police violation of people’s Charter rights, human rights, and privacy rights through the practice of carding. The policy still allows the police to arbitrarily stop of members of the public as part of a general intelligence-collection exercise in certain circumstances, notwithstanding that the Board’s intention appears to be to put an end to this kind of conduct.
Accordingly, the Law Union submits that the Board should approve the proposed Community Contacts Policy subject to certain further modifications, as described in these submissions.
1. Contacts in the context of a specific investigation
Articles 4(a)(i) and 4(a)(ii) of the proposed Community Contacts policy justify the initiation or recording of contacts for the purposes of: (i) investigating a specific offence, or (ii) preventing a specific offence.
The policy should also require that there be an honest belief on the part of officers initiating contacts that there is some nexus or connection between the person contacted and the specific offence, in order to reduce the potential for misinterpretation or abuse of the policy
Under the present practise of carding, officers have often falsely advised persons that they are investigating a break-and-enter or some other offence in the community, as a pretense for stopping and carding a person. Some officers expand on this ruse by advising a reluctant individual that they “fit the description “of the perpetrator. The use of this kind of tactic (and other tactics) can psychologically compel the person, particularly a young or marginalized person, to comply with the carding process, even if they are aware they have the right not to do so and do not wish to participate.
RECOMMENDATION No. 1
That Articles 4(a)(i) and 4(a)(ii) be amended to read as follows:
(i) Investigating a specific offence, where the officer has an honest belief that the person approached has some connection to the offence whether as a suspect or as someone who has helpful information with respect to the offence; and
(ii) Preventing a specific offence, where the officer has an honest belief that the person approached has some connection to the offence whether as a suspect or as someone who has helpful information with respect to the offence;
2. Contacts in relation to “an identifiable, systemic criminal problem.”
Article 4(a)(iv) of the proposed policy provides that:
a. Valid public safety purposes justifying the initiation or recording of Contacts are:
iv. Collecting intelligence relating directly to an identifiable, systemic, criminal problem and pursuant to a Service or Division – approved initiative.
This purpose seems to be in conflict with article 4(b)(i), which states:
b. Purposes that do not justify the initiation, continuation or recording of Contacts are:
i. Gathering personal information for use in unspecified future investigation [emphasis added].
Article 4(a)(iv) is also inconsistent with the overall rights-based approach articulated by the Board.
Toronto currently could be said to suffer from several “identifiable, systemic criminal problems” which have become the subject of initiatives approved by the Toronto Police Service. Some examples are guns, gangs, drugs and youthful offender delinquency. TAVIS is an example of an existing police initiative specifically directed at violence in our communities. The criminal problems targeted by such initiatives can be said to relate to unspecified future investigations.
The Toronto Police Service has previously attempted to justify the practice of carding or street checks on precisely this kind of intelligence-gathering rationale. Nevertheless, the Board has never sought or received any empirical evidence that carding and the collection of irrelevant personal information is an effective means of addressing these systemic criminal problems. On the contrary, it is apparent that the practice of carding has increased risks to public safety by undermining public confidence in the police.
There are systemic criminal problems in our communities. However, carding is not the solution to those problems, and it may actually make these communities more difficult to police by alienating the members of these communities.
As worded, article 4(a)(iv) would allow the Toronto Police Service to continue the existing practice of carding by simply declaring that they are doing so in relation to an “identifiable, systemic criminal problem.” It would allow an exception to the prohibition against arbitrary stops of community members for general or unspecified investigation purposes. It would allow police to continue to arbitrarily stop and harass members of the community and violate their Charter rights, human rights, and privacy rights, even though the Board has declared that these kinds of practices are unacceptable and that it will be implementing a rights-based policy. This would continue the social damage done to communities, and further erode public trust and confidence in the police service. This does not appear to be what the Board has intended in its policy, but that is how the policy could be interpreted and applied.
In order to ensure the policy is consistent with the rights-based approach articulated by the Board, and to ensure that Contacts are not in fact used in any “unspecified future investigation,” paragraph 4(a)(iv) should be deleted. Paragraphs 4(a)(i) and 4(a)(ii) are sufficient to allow the initiation or recording of Contacts in the context of a specific offence or investigation.
RECOMMENDATION No. 2
That Article 4(a)(iv) be deleted from the Policy.
3. Contacts in the context of ensuring a community member is not at risk
Article 4(a)(iii) states that the initiation or recording of Contacts is justified for the purpose of “ensuring the community member who is the subject of the Contact is not at risk”.
This additional provision is both unnecessary and overbroad, and may allow the continuation of practices that are inconsistent with the Charter and the Human Rights Code.
Article 4(a)(iii) creates an overbroad category of individuals who may be subject to such stops and does not provide appropriate guidance to police officers as to what level of risk is needed to approach an individual for the purposes of initiating and recording his or her personal information. The Law Union does not question the Toronto Police Service’s duty to share information with community residents who might be at risk and/or targeted as victims of crime. Indeed, the Law Union believes that it is the duty of the police to share information with community residents about their activities, in particular to individual community members who might be potential victims of criminal activity.
The Law Union, however, questions the need to collect and retain personal information related to such interactions when they are not related to the prevention of or investigation into a specific offence. This kind of provision could allow such stops to be used as a pretext for carding, and may discourage actual persons at risk from seeking the assistance of the police.
Paragraphs 4(a)(i) and (ii), with the modifications recommended above, already allow police officers to continue to approach individuals who may be at risk as victims of criminal activity. Additionally, individual police officers may disseminate information related to specific investigations to individuals in community without recording and retaining individual personal information through a number of methods that do not infringe upon individual human rights and fundamental freedoms, including community meetings.
RECOMMENDATION No. 3
That Article 4(a)(iii) be deleted from the Policy.
4. Issuance of Community/Officer Contact Receipts
As long as any form of carding will continue, ensuring effective monitoring of police practices and public accountability require the issuance of Community/Officer Contact Receipts after each community contact.
Upon the recommendation of the Streetchecks Sub-Committee, the Board directed the Chief to provide a receipt after each community contact. The Law Union is unaware of any Board direction to the Chief to abandon this practice.
This practice of providing mutual documentation of community contacts should be continued and codified in the proposed Community Contact Policy.
RECOMMENDATION No. 4:
That paragraph 5(f) be added to the Community Contacts Policy stating:
f. An officer who engages in a community contact will issue a receipt to the individual which includes:
i) the officer’s name, badge number and division; ii) the location, date and time of the contact; iii) the reason for the contact; and iv) a copy of any Community Safety Note generated by the Contact.
5. Informing community members of their rights
Paragraph 5(c) provides that the Chief shall establish procedures to ensure that:
(c) Community members know as much as possible in the circumstances about their right to leave and the reason for the Contact
This provision requires further clarity and specificity to ensure that persons approached are aware of their rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights, and of the consequences of agreeing to answer an officer’s questions or not. It should also require affirmation of informed and voluntary consent.
The police are the representatives of the state in the community. Persons approached will continue to include many who are young, racialized and marginalized. The power imbalance between a mature, uniformed and armed officers and such persons is enormous. The policy must recognize this power imbalance and aim to mitigate it in circumstances where the subjects of the Contacts are not legitimately suspected of actual wrongdoing.
RECOMMENDATION No. 5:
That Article 5(c) be reworded to state:
Community members know as much as possible in the circumstances about their right to leave and the reason for the Contact, including by requiring that service members advise every subject of a Contact: (a) that they have the right to refuse to answer questions; (b) that they are free to leave the Contact at any time; and (c) that any personal information that they provide to the service member could be retained in a police intelligence database; and by requiring the service member to ensure the subject’s informed and voluntary consent before proceeding with the Contact.
6. Data retention
The Chair’s April 16, 2014 report to the Board recommends, at item no. 6, that the Chief of Police report within three months on
“the disposition of contact information gathered prior to July 1, 2013 through the former Form 208, otherwise known as ‘Contact Cards,’ that served no public safety purpose as defined in the policy and the procedures.”
Further, the proposed Community Contacts Policy, at article 8(g), states that personal information collected in carding interactions (in Form 208s, Community Safety Notes, etc.) that does not conform to the new policy and procedures (hereinafter “non-conforming legacy data”) should be destroyed.
In order to ensure full compliance with this directive, it is necessary for the Chief to also:
(a) disclose particulars about the manner in which such data was collected and stored, and whether any of the data was ever made accessible to any external entity (such as the RCMP, CBSA or foreign law enforcement agencies);
(b) present a plan for destroying any such data that has been shared with any other Canadian or foreign entity;
(c) establish a procedure for advising every individual whose “non-conforming legacy data” has been shared with any external entity of the particulars of what information has been disclosed about them and to whom.
RECOMMENDATION No. 6
a. That the Board adopt recommendation no. 6 with the following modification:
The Board request the Chief of Police to provide a report within three (3) months on the disposition of contact information gathered prior to July 1, 2013 through the former Form 208, otherwise known as “Contact Cards,” that served no public safety purpose as defined in the policy and the procedures; to include details about whether any of the information was provided to any external entity, and if so to whom, under what circumstances, and whether any of those entities shared the information with any other entity, as part of the report, and also report on the development of a retention and destruction protocol consistent with the policy;
b. That the Board confirm that it will publicly disclose the report referred to in recommendation no. 6 of its report.
c. That the retention and destruction protocol referred to in Article 8(g) include a protocol to promptly: (i) notify personally any individual about whom Form 208 or other Contact data that does not conform to the new policy and procedures (“non-conforming legacy data”) has been disclosed, including notification of what data was shared and with whom; and (ii) take the necessary steps to compel and verify the destruction by any other record holders of non-conforming legacy data.
7. Third-party monitoring and reporting
Given the history of the practice of carding, there is a need for third-party monitoring of the implementation of the policy by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This should be done in a transparent and accountable manner, which would include reporting to the Board and to the public.
RECOMMENDATION No. 7
a. That the Toronto Police Services Board request the Ontario Human Rights Commission to monitor the Toronto Police Service’s compliance with the Community Contacts Policy for a period of no less than ten (10) years to ensure compliance with the provisions of Ontario’s Human Rights Code; and
b. That any incidents of non-compliance with Community Contacts Policy be included in the Chief’s reports to the Board under article 19 of the policy.
8. Community-driven process
Communities want to be safe. Members of the public want an appropriate police presence in their communities to protect their safety. However, carding has not been the answer to ensuring public safety. Rather, it appears to have caused a great deal of harm to many of the individuals that were carded and to communities as a whole. In many ways, carding has been the antitheses of good community-based policing. There are other better and legal ways to engage in community policing. It is necessary to rethink how the police engage with the diverse communities of Toronto. However, those communities must have a focal role in developing better community policing practices. This is essential if the trust and confidence of the members of these communities is to be restored and if public safety is to be protected.
RECOMMENDATION No. 8 That the diverse communities of Toronto be invited to have a central role in the development of the practices to be developed by the Chief pursuant to the Community Contacts Policy, as well as to participate in developing a broader framework for community-based policing.
Carding, Street Checks, Non Arrest Contacts: The Addario Report and Opinion
1. Executive Summary
“Carding” or “street checks” are part of a police intelligence-gathering scheme in which the constitutional and privacy rights of members of the public (disproportionately racialized youth) are systematically violated for the purpose of amassing their personal information in a police database. It has been suggested by the police service that this scheme is intended to preserve public safety and prevent crime. However, the practice is divisive and it is antithetical to building public trust and confidence in the police because it is unlawful and unethical. This undermines the objective of preserving public safety.
The Law Union hereby submits that the Board should exercise its responsibility to protect the public and:
(a) direct that the practice of stopping and questioning law-abiding persons for general intelligence-gathering purposes cease immediately; and
(b) direct that all of the data that has been collected under this program for general investigation purposes be immediately purged.
Mr. Addario’s opinion and draft policy makes it implicitly clear that he views carding as presently practised to be a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code, as well as s.1(2) of the Police Services Act. Thus, as an interim measure (if the Board will not immediately take the actions described above on a permanent basis) the Law Union of Ontario respectfully asks the Board to direct Chief Blair to immediately suspend the practise of carding or street checks while it deliberates Mr. Addario’s proposal or prepares and implements a new policy. Otherwise, the Board would be condoning the continuation of practices that it knows to be unlawful.
The Law Union of Ontario maintains that the practise of stopping and questioning law abiding individuals for general intelligence-gathering purposes violates the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right to be free from arbitrary detention; the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure; and the right to equality before and under the law and the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination guaranteed by the Charter. The practice also violates the prohibition of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code (“Code”), Canada’s commitments under the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD”) and its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“CRC”).
The practice of carding and street checks disproportionately singles out Black and Brown children and youth. This is a form of racial profiling that violates the Code’s prohibition of discrimination in the delivery of a service, and it violates a child’s right not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy under the CRC. Racial discrimination by law enforcement officers causes significant individual and societal damage. It disproportionately criminalizes certain demographic groups, engenders public mistrust of societal institutions, and generates feelings of humiliation, vulnerability, and loss of dignity, confidence, and self-esteem.
“Community policing” has as its philosophy and rationale the embodiment of police building ties with communities and working closely and in a shared endeavour with members of the communities that they have sworn to serve and protect. Racial profiling, monitoring, over-scrutinizing, and arbitrarily stopping and questioning people and treating them like potential criminals because of the way they look – no matter how politely it is done – not only harms community members but serves to strain community/police relations.
Although Mr. Addario’s opinion makes it implicitly clear that he views carding as presently practised to be a violation of the Charter and the Code, the Law Union respectfully submits that the draft new Community Contact Policy fails to fully satisfy the Toronto Police Service’s obligations flowing from the operation of the Charter and the Code. (more…)
At a public (by invitation only) meeting held on October 23, 2013, at the Toronto Police Headquarters, Chief Bill Blair and Deputy Chief Peter Sloly incorrectly stated that Law Union of Ontario member Paul Copeland has claimed the practice of “carding” by the Toronto Police is legal. Below, Paul responds in an open letter to Chief Blair and Deputy Chief Sloly.
October 29, 2013
Chief Blair and Deputy Chief Sloly
Toronto Police Service
40 College St
Dear Chief Blair and Deputy Chief Sloly:
Last week I received information that at a public (by invitation only) meeting held last Wednesday at the Toronto Police Headquarters, you both said that you had advice, or an opinion from me, that the practice of “carding” by the Toronto Police was legal.
The PACER Report mentioned opinions the Toronto Police had obtained from “three eminent jurists”. The Report said that the three lawyers were unanimous in stating that “the police officers may, for legitimate policing reasons, approach members of the community and seek their voluntary cooperation in responding to questions seeking personal data and other information collected for law enforcement purposes. There is nothing legally wrong with collecting, using or retaining that information.”
Attempts have been made to have those three legal opinions released by the TPS or the TPSB. So far the opinions have not been made public.
I am enclosing the partial transcript from the Wednesday meeting. I am distressed that at a public meeting you would appear to interchange what you describe as my opinion (or advice) with the three legal opinions that were obtained from the three eminent jurists by the TPS. I presume when you mentioned advice or an opinion from me you were referring to the Toronto Star article I wrote, or to the material I presented to the TPSB last winter.
“In general, the police can ask you any questions they want but you do not have to talk to them, show them your identification or answer their questions”.
When I made the presentation at the Toronto Police Service Board on January 23, 2013 I presented not only the Know Your Rights material, I also read and presented the enclosed one and a half page Speaking Notes. In those speaking notes I said that I would leave it to others to speak “about the propriety and constitutionality of the police gathering and storing information obtained by police officers in Toronto using the Field Information Reports.”
I would like to add that I was surprised that the Law Union was not invited to your consultation. The Law Union of Ontario is comprised of lawyers and law students who are actively involved with dozens of community groups in the city and it has devoted much time and effort on the “carding” issue. It is puzzling why you decide to exclude them from last week’s consultation.
It is my view that the practice of carding as carried out by the Toronto Police Service violates the Charter Rights and Freedoms of those persons who are stopped by the police and in the discriminatory manner in which the carding is done violates the Ontario Human Rights Act.
Please do not, in future, state that my view of the “carding” process is in line with the three opinions that have been obtained from the three unnamed eminent jurists.
Paul D. Copeland, C.M. LSM
Cc: Howard Morton, Q.C.
Law Union of Ontario