DCI President Agnes Samler, wrote an opinion piece regarding the carding of Toronto’s youth by police officers. Her letter was published in the Reader’s Letter section of the Toronto Star on October 5th. Click here to be directed to the Toronto Star website or scroll below to read the letter in it’s entirety.
Devastating, Unacceptable,’ Sept. 28
The practice of “carding” is a violation of human rights, pure and simple. To stop a young person without cause, to ask their name and birthdate, where they live and where they are going, to demand the names of their friends or to search their belongings, these are violations of our most basic rights.
Attempts have been made to justify the practice. It has been described as a way to help the police solve crimes but does that mean any right can be violated? And when did we decide that the police have the power to choose which rights to violate?
A second justification is that it is mostly a practice in high crime areas. Does that mean if you live in a particular area, or are a member of a minority group, you have fewer rights? I wonder how long carding would be tolerated if it took place on the corner of King and Bay Sts. or outside of an expensive private school? It has also been said that carding creates no harm. Ask a young person how it feels to be carded. It is often a demeaning and frightening experience and there is the added fear that a police record is being created which is permanent.
Finally, police have referred to carding as a way to get to know the community and form positive relationships. I once asked a group of young people what would happen if they talked to a police officer about their rights when being carded. The group exploded with hoots of laughter and one young man summed it up by saying, “You would just get your face busted.” Whether true or not that was the consensus of the group.
The police now give out receipts to people who are carded, an approach that makes little sense to young people. There is also talk of reforming the carding system. But when you have a practice that is discriminatory and harmful, one that inherently violates rights, the answer is not to modify the practice but to end it.
This would also be a good time to expunge the records of the hundreds of thousands of citizens who have been carded without charge or arrest.
Agnes Samler, President, Defence for Children International-Canada, Toronto