Posted on Apr 19, 2021
UCP’S BILL 63 INCLUDES LOOPHOLES TO ALLOW FOR CARDING IN ALBERTA, NDP DEMANDS CHANGE
EDMONTON – Alberta’s NDP and representatives from communities across the province are raising significant concerns over the UCP’s Street Checks and Carding Amendment Act that the legislation will open avenues to greater police interference and creates no clear ban on carding.
In November last year, the UCP announced guidelines to ban carding, a method involving the stopping, questioning, and documenting of individuals information when no particular offence is being investigated.
“The UCP’s bill is ineffective in actually stopping the practice of carding in Alberta,” said NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir. “The UCP bill introduces broad authority for police officers to collect information based on little more than a hunch. We are calling on the Government to overhaul the bill and remove enabling authorities that allow police to conduct carding.
“This Bill without a doubt will cause distress and harm to racialized, Indigenous, and disproportionately targeted persons.”
The six-page proposed legislation provides multiple exceptions for a police officer to use the practice of carding. The Bill:
- Allows police officers to collect personal information that is “voluntarily provided” if information is obtained during the course of – for example – crime prevention, or intelligence gathering
- Provides no proactive legislative requirement for police to inform the public that an interaction is voluntary, or to provide documentation to the member of the public.
- The Bill also creates the authority for police to do “street checks”: “a police officer is not engaging in carding if the police officer considers a prohibited ground of discrimination or a person’s socio-economic status as part of the reason for attempting to collect information, including personal information, from a member of the public and…” subject to provisions that are too loose to uphold the Alberta Human Rights Act.
The NDP Caucus and Justice Critic Irfan Sabir are proposing amendments to achieve an outright ban to carding to address the shortcomings and carding. The Bill should include the following:
- Police officers to proactively inform individuals may decline and discontinue a conversation and to provide information.
- Disciplinary procedures for police officers.
- Police to record and report activities and offer documentation to individuals.
- Establish public education and outreach, particularly on community policing.
- General and specific corrective actions and practices be reported to the public.
- Training for police officers on bias discrimination and racism.
- Require a 90-day public posting and public consultation, and an enhanced and formal Consultation with Indigenous communities on any regulations on further police-public regulations to be developed under the Act.
The Alberta NDP are also urging Government as part of their Police Act Review to:
- Develop a framework for independent oversight of policing matters with a specific mandate to collect race-based and other demographic data.
- Establish formal monitoring of equity practices in policing.
Irfan Chaudhry, a human rights researcher at MacEwan University, said the Bill has the potential to “legislate racial profiling.” He also raised major concerns with the data being collected during streetchecks, a new process introduced with Bill 63.
“Would Albertans be victim to further checks because they have been streetchecked in the past?” Chaudhry questioned. “For me, the biggest question is how will this data be used in a way that does not further embed systemic bias and discrimination within our province.”
Imam Syed Sohardwardy with the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Assembly agreed the bill will legitimize racial profiling.
“It’s carding again,” he said. “Racism is getting legalized with this bill.”
Vanesa Ortiz, Secretary for the Association of Mexicans in Calgary worries that Bill 63 fails to address the issue of discrimination during the practice of street checks and carding with excuses and loopholes.
“Racialized Latino communities in Alberta carry the burden of racial profiling and discrmination on a daily basis, we know this because we live it every day,” said Ortiz. “Although Bill 63 intended to reduce these disparities in the administration of justice, it fails to do so. Bill 63 must be clear and honest, carding practices must come to an end, this is long overdue. Our families deserve the right to live in peace and without fear in their own communities. We will continue to stand up against policies that strengthen and perpetuate institutional racism.”
Rishi Nagar, a member of the Calgary Police Service Anti Racism Action Committee and Anti Racism Committee for the City of Calgary, wants the UCP to release the data of the people stopped by the police during these practices, so that the public has a clear picture of which groups are involved.
“My community and my colleagues are very concerned over the way this bill is presented,” he said. “Anti-racism requires bold steps, not half measures. Many racialized Calgarians experience disproportionate policing on a daily basis and have called for an end to the practice of carding. Unfortunately, Bill 63 fails to do that and places vulnerable Albertans at greater risk.”
Amira Shousha, Alberta Regional Team Lead for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said her organization is deeply concerned about the ability of police to gather and retain information under the premise of crime prevention.
“In other words, it might be OK to card my friends and I and to retain that information under crime prevention activities,” Shousha said. “That’s not progress and that’s exactly the problem with carding and street checks in the first place.”
NDP Justice Critic Sabir said the UCP is building walls where it could have built bridges to help overcome systemic racism in policing.
Bill 63 creates disadvantages for the people that are meant to be protected by this law. The purpose for police is for the collective good, and the UCP are creating a greater separation between the police and the public,” he said.
The NDP Caucus is currently finalizing the drafting amendments to Bill 63.