Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Abolish Police "Street Checks" to Safeguard Human Rights and Improve Health

Dear Minister Naqvi,

This letter is to thank you and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services for listening to concerns about proposed regulation of "street checks" or "carding" by police services across the province. As noted in the Minister's update: "we have heard from the community that street checks by definition are arbitrary as well as discriminatory and therefore cannot be regulated – they must simply be ended. The province agrees that these types of stops must end." The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario(RNAO) appreciates the Minister's promise to ban street checks through regulations.

There is overwhelming quantitative and qualitative evidence that racialized Ontarians are disproportionately targeted by street checks. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Law Union of Ontario, Ontario Bar Association, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) are among the organizations that have raised concerns about the human rights implications of street checks. In 2002, the OHRC documented the corrosive impact of racial profiling on individuals, organizations, institutions, community, and systems. More than a decade later, the evidence of the negative health impacts of racism has only grown.

While banning street checks is a necessary first step, the larger issue of improving community policing to address racism remains an ongoing challenge. The two fundamental principles identified by the Minister in relation to police interactions with the public are important but not sufficient: "Number one, we take the protection of human rights very seriously, and there is absolutely zero tolerance when it comes to any kind of racial profiling or discrimination; second, that we stand opposed to any police stops that do not have a clear policing purpose and which are predicated solely on bias."

RNAO recognizes that "racism is systemic in our society and endemic in our institutions." Just as the health system, organizations, and workforce, including nursing, must acknowledge and actively address racism, so too must every public service, including policing. To balance police subcultures that may perceive racial profiling as integral to their work, it is critical that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services continues to listen and work together with individuals, communities, and advocates on reimagining public engagement as part of community policing. The province has reached a tipping point with failure of the Toronto Police Services to implement rights-based reforms on community contacts specified by the Toronto Police Services Board in April 2014, contested interpretations of what constitutes a street check and its legality, and ongoing public dismay about this issue.

In addition to a permanent end to police street checks, RNAO looks forward to the development of new regulations on how police may interact with the public such that human rights obligations as well as public safety requirements are met

We look forward to your response.
Kind regards,

Doris Grinspun, RN, MSN, PhD, LLD(hon), O.ONT
Chief Executive Officer, RNAO

Copy:
Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario
Honourable Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
Ruth Goba, Interim Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission

See the full letter with references below.

Resource Type: 
Letter