rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Carding: An open letter to the City of Toronto and Province of Ontario from Black intellectuals, writers and organizers

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: Ted Drake/flickr

On November 17, 2016 the Toronto Police Services Board voted to continue the practice of carding in a revised form. The decision by the TPSB represents a significant impact on the rights of Black, Indigenous, and Brown people, as well as homeless people and other marginalized people in our Toronto community.

In "Known to the Police," the Toronto Star's ground-breaking analysis of street checks data, better known as carding, it was confirmed that the practice of carding in Toronto disproportionally impacts the lives of Black and Brown men in the City of Toronto. The Star's analysis dramatically confirmed what Black people and Black activists had been maintaining for many years, that Toronto Police disproportionately target Black and Brown young people in their street checks. In these street checks the personal information of these young people is unconstitutionally and illegally gathered and stored in a database for unspecified use in the future.

Many people who have been carded have come forward to explain how the practice of carding robs them not only of their Charter rights but of their dignity as well. There is growing evidence that the information gathered in the database has been used to deny persons access to resources and jobs for which they would have been otherwise qualified. The corrosive effects of carding, on the lives and rights of Black Canadians in particular, have been a clear signal of their marginalization in the City of Toronto.

The practice of carding is so egregious that the Province of Ontario in a recent set of consultations suggested that it be significantly reformed. We say reform is not enough. Carding not only violates Charter rights of Black Canadians and others, but carding robs its targets of dignity, bodily integrity, freedom of movement and freedom of assembly, and, makes clear to them that they are not seen as necessary or instrumental parts of the City of Toronto. Carding, as a recent UN Special report confirmed, yet again, after a fact-finding visit to a number of cities, has an impact on Black people in Canada that is deeply destructive to their lives.

We the undersigned call on both the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto to immediately abolish carding, destroy all the data that is the fruit of these illegal detentions and issue an immediate directive to police officers that carding cannot be used in the Province nor the City as an "investigative tool." We further demand that police officers should be clearly held to account for their behaviour when they violate the human rights of Black, Brown and Indigenous people through the surreptitious methods of carding.

We make these demands in light of the fact that the citizenship rights of Black Canadians are being violated and indeed made null and void each time a Black person is carded. The new regulations announced on November 17 on carding suggest that Black young people now and into the future will be targeted as collectively and generally suspect because of the colour of their skin. The new regulations confirm the intention of ongoing, sanctioned intrusion into the lives of Black citizens. If we say that young people are our future, then the clear message that carding and data collection and storage send to young people of African descent is that they have no future in this country. The new regulations signal open season on Black life. This is unacceptable in a multiracial and multicultural society. In fact, carding is an abhorrent practice that mars any claim of a just society in the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto, let alone the country.


Rinaldo Walcott

Dionne Brand

David Chariandy

Olive Senior

Sylvia Hamilton

Pamela Mordecai

Angela Robertson

Carol Allain

Beverly Bain

Debbie Douglas

Richard Fung

Afua Cooper

Katherine McKittrick

Beverley Mullings

Pablo Idahosa

D. Alissa Trotz

Camille Orridge

Dionne Falconer

Andrea Davis

OmiSoore Dryden

Sandy Hudson

Kit Lang

Lali Mohamed

Audrey Dwyer

Christopher Smith

Ellie Ade Kur

Punam Khosla

Ronald Cummings

Ayende Constant

Abdi Osman

Crystal Mark

Rai Reece

Cassandra Lord

Ronald Cummings

Karina Vernon

Kamala Kempadoo

Melanie Newton

Malinda S Smith

Michele Johnson

Grace Adeniyi Ogunyankin

Tamari Kitossa

Camille Turner

Warren Chrichlow

Delores V Mullings

Carl James

Honor Ford Smith

Melanie Knight

Anthony Mohamed

Anti-Black Racism Network

Idil Abdillahi

 Marieme Lo

Aisha Sasha John

Martin Mordecai

Photo: Ted Drake/flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.