Toronto’s rising violence can’t be blamed on the decline of carding


The new year had barely been rung in —12:35 a.m. — when there was a fight on Queen St. W., the victim taken to hospital in critical condition.

By the time this column is published, that man might be Toronto’s first homicide of 2019, blood splatter on a fresh page as the calendar flips. If not him, some other poor soul.

Across the city, violence struck here, there and everywhere on Jan. 1: A shooting, a stabbing, a broken bottle ground into a male’s face, a hit-and-run collision, several vicious kicks to the head.

Doubtless, as right-wing editorial writers sharpen their pencils, as tabloid columnists crank out vilifying copy, somebody will blame the chronic mayhem on law enforcement stripped of their investigative tools. To wit: the curtailment — not necessarily the end — of “carding,” as mandated by Regulation 58/16, introduced by the previous Liberal provincial government in 2016.

The correlation is dubious.

That is one of the findings contained in a 310-page doorstopper of a report by Justice Michael Tulloch, the Ontario Court of Appeal judge tasked with reviewing how the regulation has been applied throughout Ontario and its effectiveness.

Read more:

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Carding — a subset of street checks — is a bust, the regulation unevenly implemented, with cops largely uncertain of when they can legally stop and query, leading some jurisdictions to completely abandon face-to-face encounters with the public even when they might have reasonable cause to question, as long as it’s not random or arbitrary but based on intelligence-led “articulable cause,” a “constellation of objectively discernible facts.”

The language is lawyerly dense, which is an intrinsic fault of the regulation, writes Tulloch; perceived as “being too complicated and hard to follow,” written for lawyers, not police officers or civilians. “Even lawyers who I have consulted with agree.”

Example: The regulation sets out information that a police officer must record in a “regulated interaction” — those encounters which fall under 58/16. Yet the required information does not include the location of the stop or the age or the race of the person stopped. “Only by inference later in the Regulation — when such information is required to be analyzed — does it become apparent that such information must be recorded in every stop encounter.”

I’ve spent hours poring over the report and am still not altogether certain I understand all its contents. Whose brilliant idea was it to release the thing at 3 p.m. on Dec. 31, the day before a statutory holiday, to be speed-read by reporters, by which time it was well nigh impossible to reach experts in the field who might provide illumination.

Somebody in the government decided to pull that trick. A Tory government which did not set Tulloch upon this year-long review and which could, if it chooses, ignore its numerous recommendations completely.

Tulloch’s core recommendation is blunt: Random carding has minuscule value as a law enforcement tool and should be sharply curbed where it’s still being practised, specifically because its iffy value is not worth the damage caused to individuals — particularly those in disproportionately scrutinized minority communities, Black, brown and Indigenous — to say nothing of heightening distrust between those segments and police.

“It is recommended that the practice of randomly stopping individuals to gather their identifying information for the creation of a database for intelligence purposes be discontinued.”

Purely random stops, absent any discernible subjective and objective reason for doing so, based on some vague “spidey sense”: Never.

“A widespread program of random street checks involves considerable time and effort for a police service,” Tulloch writes, “with little to no verifiable results on the level of crime or even arrests.”

Many cops will disagree. It is precisely the “spidey sense” that informs their policing instincts as front-line officers with intimate knowledge of a place, a neighbourhood, a scene that feels wrong. But that can’t be enough, Tulloch argues, because of either tacit or overt biases. Under the regulation, race is absolutely prohibited in forming any part of a police officer’s reason for attempting to collect someone’s identifying information — information which no individual is compelled to provide unless police are making inquiries into suspicious activities, investigating an offence that has been or may be about to be committed, or gathering information for intelligence purposes, circumstances wherein a suspect can be detained or arrested.

Simply creating a database containing information on tens of thousands of people who’ve committed no crime — the crux of random carding — is a misuse of resources, an invasion of civil rights and indefensible.

It has become to too easy and knee-jerk malevolent to draw a straight line between carding reduced and gun/gang activity increased in Toronto in 2018. In fact, the Toronto Police Service had voluntarily curtailed street checks since 2014. There was nevertheless a significant decrease in gun deaths between 2016 and 2017 before last year’s surge. Between 2016 and 2018, Tulloch points out, the number of shootings declined by a combined 40 per cent in some designated high-priority neighbourhoods with historically high incidences of poverty and crime. Nor did a steep decline in street checks prevent Toronto police from a 65 per cent increase in gun seizures from 2017 to 2018.

More broadly, Ontario experienced the greatest reductions in homicides, along with Saskatchewan, in 2017, the year that the regulation came into effect.

“Overall, it is difficult to see anything contained in the wording of the regulation or in its proper application that would cause a spike in gun crime or violent crime,” writes Tulloch.

It may be true, however — and I wish that Tulloch had undertaken a deeper exploration of this area — that abandoning street checks has contributed to more flagrant gang activity in Toronto.

The argument pro random carding has become circular, says Tulloch. “Some police street checks were proper. The improper practice of random carding led to the Regulation. The Regulation led many police officers to not conduct any street checks, whether proper or not. The lack of any street checks at all might have encouraged some types of crime to increase. This increase in some crimes has led some people to argue that we should return to random carding. This assumes that it was the reduction of random street checks that caused the increase in some crimes, as opposed to the reduction of all street checks.

“The solution to these issues is not for police officers to fail to conduct street checks when it is prudent and appropriate to do so.”

Which means better understanding of the regulation, improved training and “supporting police officers who conduct proper street checks when there is a subsequent public complaint.”

Tulloch emphasizes that the regulation did not, does not, eliminate street checks. “Without any restriction, police officers can stop, question and ask people to identify themselves — if the officer reasonably suspects criminal activity.”

All that’s changed is that there has to be a good, justifiable or “articulable” reason for asking them to provide their identity.

“That is not an onerous requirement.”

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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Pittsburgh attack comes amid rising anti-Semitism in North America – National


Fourteen synagogues across Canada receive mail warning that “Jewry Must Perish.” A Nazi flag and graffiti saying “Jews did 911” mars a high school. A U.S. Holocaust-denier comes to Toronto to speak at Al-Quds Day.

The attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 dead and six injured occurred at a time of rising anti-Semitism in both the United States and Canada, according to statistics from authorities in both countries.

More than half of the religiously-motivated hate crimes in the U.S. in 2016 targeted Jews, FBI figures indicate, and the Anti-Defamation League said 2017 was even worse – a trend mirrored in Canada.

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Jews were the most targeted minority for hate crimes reported to police in 2016, Statistics Canada said. Anti-Semitic incidents increased 24 per cent that year. B’nai Brith Canada said 2017 saw another increase.

Only a handful of the incidents were violent, with harassment and vandalism accounting for the bulk, but they speak to what some see as a growing legitimization of anti-Semitism, one that sometimes goes unrecognized.

When Jewish high school students attended an anti-racism seminar at York University, they were told to “shut the f*** up” and listen to “real persecuted minorities,” according to B’nai Brith’s annual anti-Semitism audit.

What we know about Robert Bowers, suspect in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

“We remain deeply concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism, including violent anti-Semitism, around the globe,” said Martin Sampson of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Sampson said anti-Semitism was unlike other forms of bigotry and hate, and was in many ways more pernicious, being longstanding and grounded in conspiracy theory.

“What underpins true anti-Semitism is a belief that the Jews are extra-evil, that they are some sort of cosmic evil, that they control the world, that they’re at the root of all that ails us,” he said.

WATCH: Anti-Semitic incidents up in 2017, according to B’nai Brith

“Anti-Semites believe this, which puts their belief one step away from action. Who is to blame them if they demonize or kill a cosmic evil? Yesterday was this exact dynamic.”

Sampson said when people needed scapegoats in complicated times, Jews have long been the targets they turned on. “Anti-Semitism is on the rise because hateful anti-Semites are intellectually deficient, angry and need someone to blame.”

He said it was important to call out, ridicule, prosecute, and marginalize anti-Semites.

“For those of us who are watching closely, yesterday was shocking, infuriating, and deeply saddening. But it was not surprising.”

Police presence in Jewish communities across Canada to be increased following Pittsburgh shooting

Increases in anti-Semitism are sometimes linked to events overseas. When a Montreal Jewish school was firebombed in 2004, the 19-year-old who did it said he was angry that Israel had killed the leader of the Hamas terrorist group.

More recently, the impact of last year’s white nationalist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va. was felt in Canada, setting off what B’nai Brith called a “massive wave of vandalism featuring swastikas and other pro-Nazi imagery.” President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem similarly led to anti-Semitic hate speech.

“What is most frustrating about these incidents is the culture of impunity that surrounds them,” B’nai Brith said. “The government often talks a good game about ‘zero tolerance’ for anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, but the reality is quite different.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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‘CBD is becoming kind of an ‘it’ word in cannabis’: Expert says demand for low-potency weed rising – National


As recreational marijuana legalization looms, some industry insiders are predicting a hot niche in the market for less potent products.

At the centre of the shift is an expected influx of new consumers more interested in dabbling than getting blitzed, creating demand for pot products with lower doses of psychoactive ingredients.

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A report by Deloitte forecasts that legalization on Oct. 17 will bring a consumer into the market who is more risk averse, older and less likely to consume the drug as regularly as existing recreational users.

“Today’s consumer is what we describe as a risk taker. They’re young, typically with a high school or college education. In their quest to live life to the fullest, they’re more likely to put their health or safety at risk, even going so far as to skirt or break the law,” it says.

Newer recreational customers will typically be 35 to 54 years old, and three-quarters of them will have some experience with recreational pot but only 41 per cent will have used it in the last five years, it says.

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“This consumer is more of a conservative experimenter – typically middle-aged, with a university or graduate school education. They don’t tend to put their personal interests before family needs or other responsibilities,” the report says.

It says almost half of current consumers say they would move to the legal market if there were more choices in terms of product potency.

Producers are paying attention.

Andrew Pollock, vice-president of marketing for The Green Organic Dutchman said many consumers are asking for products with higher concentrations of non-psychoactive cannabidiol, also know as CBD, rather than tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the main mind-altering ingredient in the plant.

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“CBD is becoming kind of an ‘it’ word in cannabis. We see a real trend there,” Pollock said.

CBD and THC are some of the most common compounds found in marijuana.

Plants with high CBD give more clear-headed relief to symptoms of anxiety, pain and inflammation. THC gives users a “high,” an appetite and relieves symptoms like pain and nausea, Pollock said.

“What we’re finding is more and more consumers are just looking for something to help them relax, to take away the stress, maybe to help them sleep. What most consumers are looking for in this day and age is calm,” he said.

The Green Organic Dutchman is building 130,000 square metres of cultivation facilities in Ontario, Quebec and Jamaica.

Ali Wasuk, store manager of WestCanna dispensary in Vancouver, says CBD products are already popular among the company’s medical clients, especially older users without recreational experience who are wary “getting high.”

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“That crowd was the main one who kind of wanted to dabble, get their feet wet with the lower dose stuff,” he said. “Generally the medical side of it is mainly lower dose THC.”

South of the border, less potent products have already entered a market once dominated by black market pot that packed a punch.

“Products are now being scored and packaged and marked in low doses,” said Tom Adams, managing director of BDS Analytics in Colorado.

Part of that comes as a result of what industry members refer to as the “Maureen Dowd Effect,” he said. The New York Times columnist wrote a piece detailing her experience sampling a cannabis-infused chocolate from one of Colorado’s newly legal pot shops in 2014 that left her “curled in a hallucinatory state” for eight hours in her Denver hotel room.

Since then, the industry has made a concerted effort to cater lower-dose products to new users and emphasize responsible consumption, especially with edibles.

Coca-Cola reportedly in talks with Aurora Cannabis to make infused drinks

“The industry has very much harped on the theme of, ‘Start low, go slow,’ ” Adams said.

There are also regular users in the market who want to take some edge off without getting high.

“(They say) two milligrams or three milligrams just has a mild relaxing effect and doesn’t interfere with you going about your day,” Adams said.

The shift is occurring mostly at the processing level where the plants are used to create concentrates, oils, edibles and other products, he said.

Some companies are banking on recreational consumers having less fluency in dosages or chemical components and who are instead looking for an “experience.”

WATCH: Cannabis connections may hurt Canadians at U.S. border

Adine Carter, chief marketing officer for High Park, based in a Nanaimo, B.C., said the company is highlighting its recreational products’ effects instead of its medicinal components.

In other words, you can buy “Sun” under its Irisa brand if you want energy or “Earth” for balance and focus.

“It’s a very different approach to product development than the medical products that are geared toward having the patient understand exactly what the potency is for their condition,” Carter said.

“We believe that telling them what the products are designed to do will resonate better with them as consumers.”


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