News / Halifax

'It’s illegal and it’s wrong:' Desmond Cole talks about carding in Halifax

Ahead of a speech in Halifax this week, the Toronto journalist and activist talks to Metro about the effects of street checks on the Black community.

Desmond Cole addresses the crowd during an anti-racism meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory at Daniel's Spectrum in Toronto.

Melissa Renwick / Torstar News Service

Desmond Cole addresses the crowd during an anti-racism meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory at Daniel's Spectrum in Toronto.

No matter what you call it, Desmond Cole wants to end it.

The Toronto journalist and activist has been fighting the police practice of carding for years, and he’s speaking at the University of King’s College this week.

In Halifax, police refer to carding as street checks, and have long insisted that it’s a different practice from the one now significantly curtailed by provincial regulations in Ontario.

“Who cares what they call it? Are they stopping people who are not suspected of a crime? The answer is yes. When they stop those people who are not suspected of a crime, are they taking down their information? The answer is yes,” Cole said in an interview.

Data released earlier this year show Black Haligonians are three times more likely than white people to be street checked. The province’s Human Rights Commission recently appointed a researcher to sift through the data to determine whether the numbers show racial discrimination by police.

“You can call it whatever you want. It’s illegal and it’s wrong,” Cole said. “And because it’s happening disproportionality to Black and Indigenous people, it’s racist.”

Cole said carding makes Black people – in Halifax or Toronto or anywhere else – feel like they’re not welcome.

“It reminds Black people that our government doesn’t believe we belong in our own streets, that the government doesn’t believe that we have the right to drive a car, that we have the right for our children to walk to and from school, without being harassed by police officers and asked personal questions about ourselves,” he said.

“It reminds us that we are not wanted.”

Halifax police Chief Jean-Michel Blais and the board of police commissioners have said new rules around street checks are coming, but police have refused to suspend the practice.

To Cole, the response sends a clear message to Black people: “We don’t care about you.”

“What I think that folks out here can learn from what I saw in Ontario is that politicians will find all of the right things to say, and then they will try very hard to do what your folks are doing here right now, which is stall, stall, stall,” he said.

“Hope that the public anger subsides, hope that the media coverage subsides, just hope that over time, people stop paying attention to this, and then keep doing exactly what you’re doing.”

Cole speaking at King’s

Desmond Cole will talk about his activism and journalism in a speech at the University of King’s College, in the KTS Theatre on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The event will also feature a panel discussion on issues in the news that affect African Nova Scotians and Black Canadians.

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