Text Size

Will New Carding Regulations End Historic Anti-Black Racism?  - Post #5

February 28, 2017 Black History Month

On January 1, 2017, Ontario’s regulations governing police carding came into effect. The regulations were passed with the goal of fostering positive public-police relations and notably, as a means of removing the disproportionate bias and discrimination present in policing. Although the regulations seem to only address police carding, it is of importance to racialized communities because of the inevitable link between police carding and racial profiling. The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines racial profiling as:

“any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection, that relies on stereotypes about race, colour ethnicity, ancestry, religion, or place of origin, or a combination of these, rather than on reasonable suspicion, to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment” (OHRC).

In essence, racial profiling is a matter of stereotyping. Historical processes of ‘Othering’ have led to systemic, racist and colonial assumptions that blackness is criminality. 

 Police carding then, ought to be understood as the application of this stereotype to law enforcement (i.e. the disproportionate and arbitrary stops of African Canadians solely due to race and ethnicity).  Recognition of the prevalence of these discriminatory practices led to the drafting of the carding regulations which have been called for by the OHRC and other advocates for years.

The Regulations

So, what do these regulations say?

They include explicit sections such as section 5 where the collection of identifying information is prohibited if: (a) any part of the reason for the attempted collection is that the officer perceives the individual to be within a particular racialized group […].

The regulations apply when police are:

  • investigating general criminal activity in a community;
  • inquiring into suspicious activities to detect offences;
  • gathering information for intelligence purposes.

As a result of the regulations, officers must:

  • inform individuals of their right to refuse to provide identifying information and;
  • provide a reason for requesting identifying information.

 The discretionary power of officers to request identifying information is presumably diminished since the reason cannot:

  • be arbitrary
  • be that the person declined to answer a question or attempted to end the interaction
  • be based on race or solely because that individual is in a high crime location.

During public-police interactions, the regulations place a positive obligation upon officers to provide their names and their badge numbers and to keep detailed records of each interaction.

To increase police accountability, the regulations also mandate the appointment of an independent reviewer. This individual will complete reviews of the regulations in consultation with the Anti-Racism Directorate. As such, where concerns arise as to the nature of a public-police interaction, officers must provide information on how to contact the office of the Independent Police Review Director. Failure to comply with the regulation will lead to a Code of Conduct violation for police officers.

The Regulations are a Start But…

While the regulations are a positive step in remedying the relationship between the police and racialized communities, there are concerns.

For example, section 5 of the Regulations includes exceptions in three areas. Exceptions are provided if; 

  • the officer is seeking a particular individual,
  • being within a racialized group forms part of the description of the particular individual or is evident from a visual representation of the particular individual, and
  • the officer has additional information, in addition to information about the particular individual being in a racialized group, that may help to identify the individual or narrow the description of the individual.

As a result of the exceptions, many activists argue that the regulations have not gone far enough.

Desmond Cole, a writer for the Toronto Star is one. Cole (pictured below)  rightly suggests that provincial rules on carding, which have simply not existed until now, can’t fully eliminate arbitrary police stops or disproportionate police suspicion of black people.”

Although the regulations are a long awaited response to the mistreatment of racialized groups by law enforcement, these changes will not result in the eradication of anti-black racism.


Links to visit:



*Black History Month posts have become an annual tradition for us at the Clinic.  The process of putting the posts together is energizing and promotes thoughtful reflection and discussion at the clinic.  We hope readers have found the posts of interest. Thanks to all those Clinic staff who made contributions to this year’s Black History Month.  

Leave a comment