Alberta bans carding, imposes new rules on street checks

·4 min read

Alberta will immediately ban the practice of carding by police provincewide and impose new rules on street checks.

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said both lead to distrust of police and alienation, particularly within minority cultural communities and among Indigenous Canadians.

"There is just no way around it," said Madu. "Carding is an inappropriate use of police power, which is why we are banning it outright throughout the province.

Carding refers to arbitrary stops by police and asking members of the public for their personal information, even if there is no suspicion of wrongdoing.

Both Calgary and Edmonton police have previously stopped the practice.

For years, critics have called the practice racist as it tends to target Indigenous, Black and people of colour.

Street checks

Madu said new rules around street checks, when police say there is a specific reason to stop and question a member of the public, will include a requirement for police services to review street check data four times a year and report to the province.

He said creating a set of standards and forcing the reviews is meant to ensure, in part, that police don't simply revert to carding and calling it a street check.

Police will be required to make it clear at the outset of a street check that it is voluntary and that citizens are under no obligation to provide their personal information or answer questions.

Irfan Sabir, the justice critic for the NDP, said carding was already outside the charter and he wasn't clear on what was actually different after Thursday's announcement.

"What's the difference for a person of colour on this?" he said. "Will they be treated differently today than they were yesterday?"

Sabir said he was willing to work with the government and would reach out to the justice minister for clarification and to offer any help.

Question of sincerity

Samuel Crowfoot, a councillor for the Siksika First Nation, said during a news conference hosted by the government that he welcomes what he said was a long-overdue change, as long as it is sincere and leads to real progress.

"Are we supposed to express gratitude to the police for committing to no longer violate our rights in an age of rallying cries like Black Lives Matter and defund the police?" he said.

"I can't help but wonder what is really driving this announcement."

Crowfoot said he hopes this represents an honest step toward reconciliation.

"If your words are true and you're taking steps to reduce racial profiling and discrimination in policing, I say thank you. But I also say show us, back up your words," he said.

"First Nations people are sick of hearing empty words and promises. Prove to us that this isn't a PR stunt."

Debate around defunding

The announcement comes as Madu has been publicly decrying calls to defund the police as the antics of socialists for whom the concept of law is "alien," pitting him against Calgary's police chief, many on Calgary's city council and others.

On Thursday, he said it was the product of "far left ideology pushed by radical activists," before saying he supports the goal of investing more in mental health and additional resources to tackle the root causes of crime.

The current UCP government reduced funding to police in its last budget, including a reduction of $12 million from the Calgary Police Service.

Calgary city council will debate removing $20 million from the police budget over the next two years. It would put that money toward agencies that deal with mental health and addiction issues.

In September, police Chief Mark Neufeld raised the idea of reallocating some of the police budget to community partners to develop alternative ways of helping people in crisis.

The Calgary Police Service's budget this year was $401 million — the largest item in the city's budget. Council had approved increases of $10 million for both 2021 and 2022.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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