Carding, Racial Profiling and Racial Discrimination in Ontario

This past week, the Toronto media reported on two new studies relating to racial discrimination or racism perpetrated against African Canadians by persons, agencies and institutions that are central to the supposed equal application and benefit of the law pursuant to section 15 of the Charter and related sections of the Ontario Human Rights Code, without discrimination on the basis of race and other grounds. The racial discrimination and racism perpetrated by the practices of these law administration and enforcement persons, agencies and institutions violate also sections 8, 9 and 27 of the Charter and related sections of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

These studies were reported by the media in total isolation from each other but they are entirely connected, and we must insist on the connection of these studies albeit they were done in isolation but their release within the same week is a positive omen.

The first study by the Community Assessment of Police Practices found out that the policy of carding that had supposedly been outlawed by the Toronto Police Services Board has actually been ignored by the police on the beat and that carding continues unabated. What is most distressing is that a lot of faith had been placed by the community in that initiative that for once something was being implemented to accord with their political, legal and moral pressure on the Chief of Police and the Toronto Police Services Board to address and redress their grievances. But now to no avail. Other very distressing aspects of the revelation of the continued carding are the responses of the Chair of the Board who, while disappointed with the results of the study, deferred to the reaction of the police chief. The Police Chief’s reaction was most distressing. Instead of embracing the results of the study and promising to do better in outlawing carding and racial profiling, the Police Chief instead, attacked the study and the luke-warm reaction of the Chair of the Police Services Board. In other words, the Toronto Police Chief had not yet gotten it, that carding and racial profiling continue to be practised by his force at the expense of the constitutional rights of African Canadians. This carding and racial profiling is not limited to the youth or to African Canadians driving expensive cars. It catches every African Canadian who is unfortunate to be the target that day.

The continued carding and racial profiling further justifies the continued class action law suits against these practices by the Black Action Defense Committee that were launched last year and this year against Toronto Police, Peel Police and Federal Correctional Facilities. These suits are in the process of being amended and judges have already been assigned to case manage them. BADC continues to call on those carded and racially profiled and who have documentation to come forward.

The second study was released by the Law Society of Upper Canada and which documented that African Canadian lawyers in Ontario are subjected to endemic racism, racial discrimination, racial profiling, harassment and marginalization within the legal profession. It is clear therefore that carding which supposedly only affects the youth or African Canadians driving expensive cars is not only mythical, it is an untruth as racism and racial discrimination, racial profiling and harassment practices are broader and more systemic than that. They are perpetrated against African Canadians who are supposed to have made it in the supposedly one of the safest harbours in Canada, the legal profession. And this racism, racial discrimination, racial profiling, harassment and marginalization practices are perpetrated by the men and women of the law in the legal profession and legal institutions. These are people who are supposed to know the constitution, people who swear to uphold the law? It can be seen that carding is not an outlier, it is embedded and finds support within the legal system.

Exactly twenty years ago, this October, Charles Roach, Dudley Laws, Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, Miguna Miguna, Norman Otis Richmond, Afua Pam Cooper, Kike Roach, Marlene Norbese Philip, Colin Browne, Bev Folks and many other community members met at The University of Toronto and issued a manifesto, which is available upon request, denouncing racism, racial discrimination, harassment and marginalization perpetrated against African Canadians by the judiciary, the politicians, the police, the legal profession, the media and mainstream society in general. These practices have occasionally led to shootings of black men and women.

The two studies released last week manifest the continuation of racism and racial discrimination against African Canadians, no matter what their supposed station in life is.

Munyonzwe is a Toronto-based criminal lawyer where he has practiced law for close to 25 years. He is counsel for the Black Action Defense Committee in their three class action law suits against carding and racial profiling. Read other articles by Munyonzwe.