Vancouver mayor to meet with anti-carding activist Desmond Cole Friday

A media spokesperson for Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says Stewart will be meeting with Toronto-based writer and advocate Desmond Cole Friday after an incident earlier this week where Cole was stopped by a police officer.

Cole, known for his criticism of the controversial police practice known as "carding", claims he was stopped by an officer in Vancouver on Tuesday because he's black. 

Cole was walking near Marina Square Park on Tuesday when a police officer in a car pulled over and told him he was breaking a city bylaw for smoking in a park.

But Cole, who is in Vancouver to give a talk, says he wasn't in the park — he was walking on the sidewalk. The officer then repeatedly asked Cole for his name, he says, which he refused to supply. 

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Cole is an outspoken critic of carding, also known as street checks — when officers stop, question and demand identification documents from people, despite not being suspected of any specific crime. 

In a statement, Mayor Stewart said he was looking into getting more information from the VPD about the incident, as well as speaking with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. 

"Policing in our city should be free of bias," Stewart said.

Earlier this year, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the province's police complaints commissioner, based on data released under a Freedom of Information request.

The data shows that 15 per cent of all street checks conducted between 2008 and 2017 were of Indigenous people — even though they make up just two per cent of the population.

According to police data, four per cent of those checked were black, despite black people making up less than one per cent of Vancouver's population.

Vancouver Police on bylaw enforcement

In an email, Const. Jason Doucette, a spokesperson for the Vancouver police, said Vancouver police officers are empowered to enforce city bylaws.

He says Cole was stopped for the bylaw infraction of smoking in a park. 

Though Cole says he was walking on the sidewalk, the Vancouver police dispute it and say he was smoking in the park. This is why, Doucette says, the officer approached Cole. 

The penalty for the bylaw infraction is $250. 

Doucette say Vancouver police officers have "hundreds of informal contacts," with members of the public every day. 

"Tickets are written in very few instances. The incidents are typically resolved informally with co-operative members of the public. In most cases, education is all that is required," Doucette said.

Doucette could not list the number of bylaw tickets the police issued, repeating the number of tickets issued would be fewer than the number of issues resolved.

With files from Maryse Zeidler and Bridgette Watson