Dear Minister Naqvi,
You are an inspiration to those of us who are trying to follow, in your footsteps -- in academia, politics, or activism. Your own biography is a reminder that the Canadian dream is still a realistic destination to aspire to, whether one is born in Canada or becomes a Canadian by choice. As my one-time local MPP in Ottawa, you were always thoughtful, accessible and dedicated -- an exemplary community leader.
However, I have been disappointed by some of your actions.
Take for instance, the public consultation you are leading in major cities about the controversial practice of carding, or street checks as they're widely known. Last night, I attended the one in Toronto and it was a publicity gimmick, at best. How can we take the process seriously when it seems that you and your government have already made a decision? You have stated that "Ontario will standardize a controversial carding policy, also known as 'street checks,' used by some police departments." Why the need for a public consultation, then?
The best alternative to carding is the end of it.
As you witnessed last night, people who look like you and I are outraged, hurt and disappointed by you and your government. As the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services and a person of color, you seem to be defending a policy that is racist, arbitrary and discriminatory. How can you ever reform a policy that takes away the basic human rights of ordinary people?
Aren't the protection of human rights a Liberal value? A Canadian value? Isn't that the main reason why people like you and I and our families move to Canada from places like Pakistan because of the human rights protection we enjoy in Canada? I am heartened to know, your father, an inspiring human rights activist in his own right, was once imprisoned for helping lead a pro-democracy march in Pakistan?
In Canada, we value, we must value, those that peacefully protest, participate and advocate for better ideals in our society - what your father was essentially punished for in Pakistan. That is why we honor them with the Order of Ontario.
Then, how can you then defend and advocate a policy that will reduce us to second-class citizenship in Ontario?
I vividly remember when Canadians were outraged in 2010 during the G-20 conference when our neighbors were being stopped, detained and arrested for no valid reason. Those were the darkest hours of our Canadian citizenship. Should that be our reality on a regular basis, for living our lives?
Freedom, democracy, the protection of human rights and free enterprise are mainstream Canadian values. They are still reasons why Canada is seen as a beacon of hope in the world and why Canada is still viewed as an ideal place. Without these ideals, are we the exemplary country we think we are?
When you allow the police to stop us, abuse us and scrutinize us for no criminal reason, we are slowly creating a second-class citizenry and relegating us to the back of the bus based on the color of our skin.
If carding works on rare cases, is the cost of our faith in our system worth compromising?
I hope more people will soon realize the experiences of Desmond Cole are not rare, but rather the widespread experiences of many people I know. As Cole has repeatedly argued, "If Kathleen Wynne is genuinely committed to transparency, she should demand carding info from police forces across the province and share it with Ontarians."
Is that too much to ask, Minister Naqvi?
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