Citing overrepresentation of Indigenous, Black people, Vancouver's mayor calls for end to street checks
The Vancouver Police Department headquarters is seen in a CTV file image.
VANCOUVER -- Mayor Kennedy Stewart says he'll be introducing a motion to Vancouver City Council to ask the city's police board to end street checks.
The mayor said his motion is the first step in halting the controversial practice of stopping a person outside of an investigation, often obtaining their personal information in the process.
Vancouver has already ended "89 per cent" of street checks, also known as carding, Stewart said in a statement Monday. "Now is the time to bring the practice to a complete end."
He said it's been long criticized by Black, Indigenous and other communities of colour.
Data released two years ago showed almost 100,000 street checks were conducted between 2008 and 2017, and members of those communities were "significantly overrepresented" when compared to the city's population.
The data compiled by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs through Freedom of Information requests suggested 15 per cent of those carded during that time were Indigenous – a group making up just two per cent of the general population.
About four per cent of those carded were Black, despite Black people making up less than one per cent of Vancouver residents.
Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer has defended the checks in the past as a necessary tool to root out suspected crime, saying they occur when an officer encounters someone believed to be involved in criminal activity or a suspicious circumstance.
"They are not random or arbitrary checks," he said in a statement back in 2018, when the data was released.
An 18-month review was conducted, and the Vancouver Police Board approved changes to how those checks were conducted back in January.
Since that time, there's been an 89 per cent decrease in carding, the mayor says.
Stewart chairs the police board, but he can't vote unless there's a tie, and can't move police board motions.
However, if council directs the mayor, he can write to the board "that while Council deeply appreciates recent efforts to reform policing services and the efforts of the police department to quickly implement related changes, Vancouver City Council's priority is to end the practice of street checks in Vancouver."
The motion comes as local and global organizations call for police reform.
Among those calls are suggestions to defund police departments, meaning some of the funding earmarked for police budgets would instead be put toward initiatives that support long-term community safety, including those involving mental health and restorative justice.
When questioned, Vancouver police said they disagreed with the approach, but that the department does support "community partnership programs" that combine the services of police and health-care professionals.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Andrew Weichel