Carding, also known as “street checks,” is a practice used by some Alberta police services that involves randomly stopping citizens and asking for information. They document the person’s name, and the time and place, and that information is kept in a database. This typically happens in high-crime areas.
Most Canadians will never experience carding. But for those who do, it can be upsetting.
For many years, indigenous peoples and members of visible minorities have claimed they are disproportionately carded. Recent information from Lethbridge and Edmonton validates these concerns.
As a former patrol sergeant who worked on the streets in downtown Calgary, I harbour deep concerns with random carding. It is arbitrary detention, and, from a policing point of view, it poses unnecessary barriers towards building trust with communities.
The threshold for every peace officer should always be Section 9 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; that is, citizens have a fundamental right not to be arbitrarily detained.
There are, of course, times when an officer needs to stop a citizen and ask questions. But they should only take this step when they have reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred, or when they are investigating a crime.
The question before us today is whether the practice of randomly carding citizens breaches Section 9. I believe it does, as does the Supreme Court of Canada.
Last November, I urged the justice minister to end the practice, and ever since then, she’s been saying she’s reviewing it – first with a working group of police representatives, and now, with a series of yet-to-be announced consultations.
Our PC Caucus has seen this NDP government play many games with “consulting.” For some issues, the government doesn’t consult at all, or does so in a cursory fashion – and then introduces sweeping changes, such as a carbon tax or Bill 6 or labour legislation for their special interest friends. But if the NDP holds long, involved consultations, it’s stonewalling an issue.
To me, carding is clear cut. The minister can provide leadership today by informing all police services that Section 9 of the Charter does not permit the practice of randomly carding citizens. It’s that simple.
It does not mean police cannot still collect information to keep their communities safe. They just need to do it according to the standard set out in the Charter.
So what’s the hold up? Many Albertans are asking this question, and I will continue to pose it for them because it reflects on their fundamental rights.