Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

A Toronto activist and writer who was stopped by Vancouver police a day after arriving in the city says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents.

Desmond Cole has worked for years to end street checks or “carding” in Toronto and says he was the subject of a street check by a Vancouver police officer on Tuesday.

Street checks involve officers stopping a person and recording their information, regardless of whether an offence has been committed. Opponents say street checks disproportionately target people of colour.

“I get to leave Vancouver this weekend, but people have to live here every day. That’s what I really want people to sit with,” said Cole in an interview Wednesday.

“If this is what happened to me, what is everyday life like for vulnerable residents in the city of Vancouver and in this province? That’s the question people have to ask themselves.”

RELATED: Toronto man shot dead while attending memorial, investigators say

Vancouver police data shows that 16 per cent of street checks last year were of Indigenous people, who make up two per cent of the population. Another five per cent of street checks involved black people, who make up one per cent of the population.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs have filed a complaint with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner calling for an independent review of the practice.

Police in the city conducted an internal review and released a report that says there was “no statistical basis” to conclude officers use the checks to discriminate against certain races.

Cole is visiting Vancouver to deliver a speech on racial inequality at a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives fundraiser. After the interaction with police on Tuesday afternoon, he posted a video of himself discussing the incident on Twitter.

In the video, he said he was smoking a cigarette on a sidewalk near Stanley Park when a police cruiser passed, pulled a U-Turn and stopped next to him. The officer told him he was breaking a bylaw against smoking in parks, Cole said.

Cole said he replied that he was not in a park and wasn’t from the city. He refused the officer’s repeated requests to give his name or show identification. He said the officer threatened to arrest him, but after about 15 minutes he left without issuing a ticket.

Cole said as the officer drove away, he said: ”I’ll be seeing you around again.”

In the interview, Cole said the officer also asked several times whether there were any warrants out for his arrest.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians from unlawful search, seizure and detainment by police, he said.

“I could have just given the police officer whatever he asked for. But I don’t want to live in a police state. I actually want the laws that are on the books in this country to apply to me just as they’re supposed to apply to everybody else,” Cole said.

RELATED: Two men from Toronto rap scene shot dead

Vancouver police issued a statement saying a street check was not conducted and no information was recorded. The officer approached Cole because he was smoking on the south side of the park, but chose not to serve a ticket, Const. Jason Doucette said.

“Our officers work through difficult situations every day and a key component of maintaining public safety is interacting with the public. VPD officers carry out their duties with integrity, compassion and respect and are accountable for their actions.”

Cole said police appear to have classified the incident as not being a street check because no information was recorded, although in his case he refused to provide any.

“If it was an unsuccessful street check, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a street check,” he said.

After the incident, Cole said he visited the police station and a sergeant later met him to discuss the encounter at a cafe where he was meeting to discuss carding with Josh Paterson, director of the civil liberties association.

Cole said he decided not to file a formal complaint because he doesn’t have faith in the ability of police to investigate themselves, and the civil liberties association complaint to the police complaint commissioner has already raised the issue.

Paterson said his group’s complaint also covers police stops where no information is recorded into the database.

He said he was saddened, though not surprised, by Cole’s experience.

“It’s a really stark example of what we’re talking about, in terms of arbitrary police stops where race is a factor.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The donation by LNG Canada will support in-class and online learning for SD82 students, as well as JABC TechWorks, a program that introduces students to tech and tech-related careers. (Black Press file photo)
LNG Canada commits $50,000 to support B.C. students

Half of the money will support online and in-class learning for Coast Mountains School District 82

<em>Black Press file photo</em>
Kitimat RCMP investigating two-vehicle collision on Haisla Hill

Police said a pickup truck collided with a taxi headed in the opposite direction

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Oct. 27 saw the highest number of cases in the Health Authority since the beginning of the pandemic

<em>Black Press file photo</em>
Water Quality Advisory in effect for Kitimat

The advisory is due to increased turbidity levels in the Kitimat River

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Most Read