Ontario Ombudsman slams police street checks (The Ottawa Sun)
The Ottawa Sun
Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
By Matt Day
The fact police can randomly stop a person on the street and ask for identification if they suspect that person is up to no good is illegal and a violation of human rights, says Ontario's Ombudsman Andre Marin.
Carding, or street checks as they are commonly called, is a key tool Ottawa police use to help solve and prevent crime, Acting Insp. Mark Patterson said during Monday's police service board meeting.
But Marin, whose role as Ombudsman includes investigating complaints about the province's government services, publicly slammed police street checks Tuesday while giving his annual report.
"I've always thought that carding is an illegal measure," Marin said. "Whatever benefit the police get out of it is outweighed by the breach of individual liberty involved in carding."
A street check is when police record information about people they meet on the street -- including their race -- and file it away, hoping it might be helpful in a future investigation.
Patterson's report revealed a black person is four times more likely to get carded in Ottawa compared to a white person. Twenty per cent of people who are carded are black, while the city's black population stands at just under 6%.
While Marin's annual report doesn't specifically address complaints about street checks, the former Crown prosecutor and past director of the provincial Special Investigations Unit spent some time talking about the controversial info-gathering method.
He called street checks a "microcosm of what happened in the G20." Toronto police were heavily criticized for allegedly carding and detaining people illegally during the G20 Summit in 2010. Class action and individual lawsuits against the province and police are still before the courts, according to the Ombudsman's report.
Defence lawyer Leo Russomanno said he was unhappy the police service board accepted Patterson's report without question Monday night.
"The police enjoy a very broad right. They can still detain under reasonable suspicion, but street checks occur on a rung of the ladder below that where there is no suspicion," he said.
On June 16, the Ontario government announced it would begin the process of standardizing street checks. Currently, the practices followed by police services related to street checks varies by jurisdiction.
Ethnicity of those carded in Ottawa
14% Middle Eastern
1% East Indian
1% Latin American