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PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE BEING ERODED BY POLICE POLICIES

There has been considerable controversy in the media this past year over the Toronto Police carding policy that allegedly targets minorities. In April of 2014 Toronto Police Services Board unanimously voted to approve a new policy that will prevent Police from randomly stopping and detaining individuals to question them without any legitimate grounds that the individual was involved in any criminal activity. The new policy requires police to have reasonable suspicion before they can stop, detain and question an individual. In addition police must document the interaction as they are now required to provide a receipt to each individual they interact with; the receipt must include the police officer’s name, their badge number and the reason for the contact with the individual being questioned.

According to certain reports and studies by different media outlets, the former carding policy was wide spread and disproportionately targeted young black and brown skinned individuals. To many youths in the city this unfair policy was viewed as discrimination and racial profiling. Several class action law suits have also been filed in court as well as at the Human Rights Tribunal against Toronto Police and Peel Regional Police during the last 12 months for allegations of racial profiling. This wide spread policy enabled police to stop, detain and question individuals without any legitimate grounds, which according to most criminal lawyers and civil liberties associations was in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

After one was questioned and their dignity was violated an individual’s information including name, weight, height, occupation, and date of birth was stored in a police database and would remain there indefinitely. Most individuals didn’t even realize that their short contact with police would result in any real consequences. However, many individuals who were never charged let alone found guilty of any criminal allegation have been devastated to learn that their contact with police was enough to disqualify them from a prospective job or entry into the United States.

The lack of legislation and uniform policy across the different police agencies meant there was no guidance for police to determine whether they ought to disclose and share non conviction information to individuals and employers requesting it. An even greater concern is that non conviction information is being shared with U.S. Border authorities, and as a result individuals are being denied entry to the United States simply because they have been charged with a criminal offence, even though that criminal charge was never proven in a court of law. For many the result means the presumption of innocence no longer has any value as the entire bedrock of our values and the fundamental rights we all enjoy as Canadians is being challenged by these policies.

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