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Address racial bias in policing to stop carding, advocates say

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Kofi Hope was sitting in a car outside a Mississauga nightclub with a few friends trying to decide if they should brave the cold and get in line, when he says several cops suddenly surrounded them with flashlights, demanding they get out of the vehicle.

“They kept saying to us, ‘we know one of you has the record. Who has the record? Who has the record?’ ” Hope, now 35, says of the incident about 15 years ago.

No one did. After looking at all of their IDs, searching them and the car, he says police let the young men go. Hope is not sure what the officers did with his information from that night. But he says he does know he’s been stopped multiple times and he’s not the only one.

“I think most young people of colour in the GTA have had those experiences,” says Hope, a senior policy adviser at non-profit think tank the Wellesley Institute and a Rhodes Scholar.

“It’s disempowering, it’s insulting, you feel unsafe.”

A 300-plus page independent review of street checks known as “carding” that dropped on New Year’s Eve has advocates calling for urgent changes, saying arbitrary and discriminatory street checks like what Hope describes cannot be stopped without measures to address racial bias in policing.

The report from Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch includes a review of the province’s 2017 regulation on carding and concluded that random street checks should be banned as they have little impact on reducing crime and have caused significant damage to racialized communities, especially among youth.

It includes recommendations to clarify when police can stop to collect identifying information outside of an active investigation — including that there should be some suspicion based on objective and credible grounds justifying an inquiry.

“It’s not news to anyone who’s been doing this work, or advocating around carding,” Hope says of the report’s conclusions.

“The issue is not about carding, the issue is about racial bias in policing ” he adds. “Carding is just one manifestation.”

There has to be better training, oversight and accountability, Hope says, because “the consequence of having even a few officers with those views is hugely detrimental.”

Staff Sgt. Valerie Graham of the Peel Regional Police told the Star in an email she’s unable to comment specifically on Hope’s encounter. She said the service follows the provincial legislation on street checks.

“Peel Regional Police has never supported random arbitrary race-based stops of any kind, and if an officer was found to participate in such a stop, they would be disciplined,” she added.

Toronto police Const. Rob Reid told the Star on Monday he and his colleagues take the report “very seriously.”

In the report, Tulloch recommended further training for both front-line and supervising police officers on why the carding regulation was instituted, how it applies and what the legal basis for police stops are. The training should also include bias awareness, he wrote.

Asante Haughton, a 33-year-old peer support leader who says he’s been stopped by police so many times he’s lost count, agrees training is key.

“Just because a bias or a prejudice is there currently doesn’t mean that it’s going to sustain itself if we work intensely against it,” he said, adding carding breeds distrust, which can get in the way of solving actual crimes.

During his teen years living near Regent Park, he says he was stopped going to school, coming home from school, even in front of his own door. He says he’s been stopped at least 25 times, even though he’s never been arrested or involved with gangs.

Haughton knows his rights but says he still gives his info to police every time he’s asked.

“In the moment there’s just this feeling of danger and this feeling of powerlessness, and being hyper vigilant about what I say, what I do. What’s my body language? What’s my posture? Am I behaving in a way that could be perceived in a way that’s resisting or combative in some way?” he says.

“Because ultimately I’m trying to avoid the escalation of a police encounter.”

The report also outlines how officers should conduct and record such interactions, including that, as the regulation requires, the individual must be informed that providing identifying information is voluntary and that the officer must offer to provide a receipt for the interaction.

Tulloch said the person should also be told the specific reason the information is being requested, that the information may be recorded and stored in a police database and that some of the information, such as the person’s religion, is being requested to help eliminate systemic racism.

The 2017 regulation bans collecting identifying information if the stop is arbitrary or based on the person being part of a racialized group. Tulloch recommended this be expanded to include socio-economic status and other prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Tulloch also recommends the data should be destroyed after five years at the most. That’s something Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Sandy Hudson was glad to see, but thinks it should go further.

“Five years is a long time to wait if it’s something that’s preventing you from getting a job,” she says. “Especially the retroactive stuff, can we just get rid of it? We know it’s been collected incorrectly.”

Hudson, like Hope, was happy to see Tulloch’s conclusion that random carding doesn’t serve an investigative purpose, but says it’s not news to communities who’ve been working on the issue.

“We so know this,” she says. “Right now what’s necessary is political will to actually address the racism that our communities are experiencing from the police.”

Sylvia Jones, Ontario minister of community safety and correctional services, has said in a statement the Progressive Conservative government will review Tulloch’s recommendations.

Repeated analyses by the Star of Toronto Police Service carding data have found Black people were more likely than white people to be stopped, questioned and documented in each of the city’s more than 70 patrol zones, and that the likelihood increased in areas that are predominantly white.

A report released mid-December by the Ontario Human Rights Commission into racial profiling and discrimination by Toronto police noted several instances where the Special Investigations Unit found no legal basis for the police to stop or detain Black civilians and heard from Black Torontonians about instances where they were arbitrarily stopped by police while walking or driving.

Toronto police suspended carding in 2015 and now, like all Ontario police forces, are governed by the provincial carding regulation.

Lawyer and community organizer Knia Singh, who has previously shared his experiences with carding with the Star, says he supports enhanced anti-bias training for police officers that involves members of the community who have experienced racial profiling and discrimination. He also wants to see increased oversight and stiffer penalties for police misconduct, saying there should be repercussions when an officer engages in discriminatory behaviour.

He said it is unfortunate that in 2019 resources are still having to be invested in researching these issues and undoing the damage done to communities and trust in police, rather than into crime prevention measures and positive community supports.

“The last line of defence is police officers themselves. Officers have to hold other officers to account,” Singh said. “All as we can do as a community is hope for the officers to make the right decision not to engage in practices of targeting and discrimination and report officers who do … we rely on them to keep us safe and that includes from people in the organization who pose a threat.”

With files from Jacques Gallant and Wendy Gillis

May Warren is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11

Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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