06/11/2015 08:13 EDT | Updated 06/11/2016 05:59 EDT

Fairness Falls Short: Carding Continues Across Canada

Lonely Planet via Getty Images

In Ontario (and elsewhere in Canada), race has been a factor in determining who rightfully belongs here, and who is, by default, an intruder to be wary of. Betraying Canada's mantra of multiculturalism, a constant cloud of suspicion follows dark-skinned Canadian citizens every day. Whether they are walking while black, driving while black, flying while black, banking while black, busing while black... People who look aboriginal or Arab tell similar stories of being presumed risky guilty before being proven innocent.

All over Canada (not just in Toronto), police regularly stop law-abiding citizens in the hopes of finding a needle in a haystack gathering evidence or intelligence to supposedly reduce crime. There is no evidence to support this race-based targeting actually works, but the carding custom continues.

Carding is the practice by which law enforcement systematically stop, interrogate and document (mostly) dark-skinned citizens who are committing no crime and display no evidence of having committed a crime.

They coined the practice "stop-and-frisk" in the USA. Whatever the terminology employed, it's called "racism."

Notably, Ontario's "activist" Premier Kathleen Wynne has sidestepped the issue. Wynne's awkward silence follows a pattern of favouring certain demographics. Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau did one better: his cronies recruited former Toronto Police Chief and carding defender Bill Blair to run in the upcoming federal election. It will take a tornado of spin for the "multiculturalism-inventing" Liberals to square that circle: Trudeau has been traveling the country while waving a banner of "fairness."

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

One wonders when these elected leaders will frog-leap onto the right side of history.

Bravely breaking his counterparts' deafening silence, deputy leader of the Ontario NDP Jagmeet Sing stood up and clearly verbalized his quest to quash carding, province-wide.

At first, former Progressive Conservative party leader and current Toronto Mayor John Tory didn't seem bothered by bigotry behind the badge. In a stunning about-face enlightened evolution, Mayor Tory announced the end of carding in his city this week. As the congratulatory backslapping spread across Hogtown, the rest of the province and the rest of the country is left eating dust. For us, carding carries on.

Journalist Desmond Cole's courageous and personal account of unrelenting and unwarranted police interrogations describes incidents in St. Catharines and Kingston. Neither are covered by this week's partial victory.


It was in 1956 that Ontario became the first province to enforce the Fairness Accommodation Practices Act, thus granting new equality rights to its Black and Asian residents. For the first time in Canadian history, racial equality was declared a civil right, and "racial discrimination in was confirmed as illegal." Following Ontario's lead, legislative civil rights flowed outward from coast to coast.

Today, since our provincial leaders are not willing to defend the most vulnerable citizens and uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, individuals have to band together to force the issue. Just as Bromley Armstrong and Ruth Lor served as the test cases for racial equality 50 years ago, Rohan Roberts has stepped up to the plate to challenge carding in Ontario. In what could be a landmark case, Roberts filed a Human Rights complaint against Toronto Police. The defendants have access to taxpayer dollars to fund their retort. Roberts is a working class guy. In the pursuit of justice writ large, Mr. Roberts will sacrifice himself and his financial security in a bid to realign law enforcement with the values we hold dear. (I've launched a crowdfunding drive to help defray his legal bills.)

To eradicate carding in Canada, this case must be heard in the highest courts. Judges must remind all citizens, including mayors, premiers and prime-ministerial hopefuls, that equality and fairness are more than filatures for flowery speeches. Mayor John Tory was pulled and prodded into doing the right thing. The first domino has fallen. But we've not yet reached the promise land.


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