2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 154

Wednesday, June 17, 2015
The Honourable Leo Housakos, Speaker


Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, no Canadian should have to apologize for their race. No Canadian should have to explain their actions because of their skin colour. Their actions are what should speak loudly of them, and yet I am saddened to say there is a practice that our police forces in the Greater Toronto Area use that does exactly this.

The practice of carding is shining a light on a very troubling issue that visible minorities face on a daily basis. Carding is a practice where police officers stop, question and document people during non-criminal encounters. And it is creating a divide between our law enforcement officers and those they are meant to protect.

Honourable senators, I want to share the story of Desmond Cole with you.

Desmond Cole is a young man from Toronto who has spent 10 years under constant police suspicion. In April, Mr. Cole published a telling article in Toronto Life explaining that he has been approached by the police in southern Ontario more than 50 times.

Honourable senators, I want to be clear: Desmond Cole has not committed a crime. He has never been in trouble with the law, but there is one factor that seems to draw the attention of the police — Mr. Cole is Black.

The first time he was stopped by the police, he was a student at Queen’s University. He was walking with a White female friend when the police confronted them and asked his friend if she needed help.

Honourable senators, think of the feeling that young man must have felt when he realized that he was being considered a threat to his own friend, such a quick and extremely insulting judgment of his character. On top of that, he had to endure the humiliation of having his friend assure the officers that no, he was not a threat simply because he was walking with a young woman of a different race.

His experience only reiterates what the statistics tell us: that young men of Black or Brown skin are, on average, five times more likely to be stopped and carded than White individuals. In some parts of Toronto, they are 17 times more likely to be stopped and carded.

Honourable senators, ending carding is the first step in dealing with the racial profiling that so many, like Mr. Cole, face on a daily basis. It is the first step to mending the relationship between Canadians like Mr. Cole and law enforcement, and it is the first step to making all Canadians feel safe in our great country of Canada.