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Activists call on Toronto police to #destroythedata from carding

Desmond Cole is concerned data collected by police carding could affect people's employment prospects, or be shared with other law enforcement groups.

Activist Desmond Cole is calling on police to destroy the data related to street checks and carding.

Torstar News Service

Activist Desmond Cole is calling on police to destroy the data related to street checks and carding.

One of Toronto’s most prominent anti-carding activists is demanding Toronto police “destroy” the data they’ve collected through street checks.

Toronto’s police board is slated to discuss provincial regulation around carding Thursday. The new law, which comes into effect in 2017, sets out rules around street checks in order to prevent racial profiling.

Activist Desmond Cole has been critical of the new law, saying it doesn’t do enough to end carding. In particularly, he said the legislation doesn’t require police to delete any of the data they’ve collected from years of street checks.

Cole is urging people to email members of the Toronto police board, including Mayor John Tory and councillors Chin Lee and Shelley Carroll, and ask them to take action. He’s also encouraging anyone who does to share a copy of their letter on social media, using the #destroythedata hashtag.

“There are literally millions of contact cards police have collected on innocent people in this city,” Cole told Metro. “If you say we need to end carding, but allow police to have that data, you haven’t really ended the practice.

“The negative effects of that data will continue.”

He cited the case of Ayaan Farah, who lost her security clearance – and her job – at Pearson Airport after police used carding data to claim she was connected to a local gang.

Cole’s also concerned police staff might be able to access carding records without authorization.

“It’s begging for abuse to keep the data in police custody,” Cole said, noting two former Toronto police civilian employees are facing charges for allegedly searching restricted databases.

Toronto police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said the force is awaiting direction from the police board on carding changes, including any new policy concerning “records retention.”  

A council committee in London, Ont., approved a motion earlier this week that would ban street checks — a step that goes over and above the provincial regulations.

“I’m hoping our board will do the same thing,” Cole said. “Trying to regulate a process like carding will never address the underlying problem of systemic racism.”

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