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January 21, 2022
July 17, 2017

Stop Police Carding in Edmonton

A loud message for the justice minister

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Edmonton was the last stop on an Alberta tour for carding activist, and journalist, Desmond Cole. You can see more about the evening on the Twitter hashtag #stopcarding.

Cole was in Calgary and Lethbridge last week as part of a campaign with Progress Alberta to stop police carding in Alberta.

In Edmonton, Black Lives Matter released analysis of carding numbers from the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) over the last five years.

CBC Edmonton did a separate review of carding data too, focused on 2016.

Hundreds turned out to hear more about the issue. As Cole explained, police carding is when officers stop someone who is not suspected of any crime and ask them for their ID and other personal information. This all goes on file in a police database, possibly forever.

Cole spoke about our country’s long history of racism, particularly in crime and policing, and targeting people of colour in public.

Cole was joined by Tanya Harnett and April Eve Wiberg for a panel discussion. Wiberg shared her own story of being carded and talked about the need for trust in the relationship with police.

Harnett talked about a different kind of carding as systemic racism, showing her Status card as proof she is a “ward of the state”.

The audience Q & A became more of a shared story. People in the room talked about when they had been carded. One talked about how police, government and the justice system round people up into “pockets”, like particular housing developments, to make it easier to police them. There were examples of how difficult it is to walk down the street without fear of police. And how an Indigenous person homeless on the street is one who has shouldered the most difficult burdens of a genocide.

Cole was surprised there were many more stories to questions, but he spoke of being honored that people would take this space to do. It was clear this was a night where people felt safe to share, and, perhaps hope others in the room would not only hear them but take the lessons with them beyond the event to help challenge systemic racism.

There were so many people who wanted to speak that the room’s rental time loomed and couldn’t allow everyone a chance to share. “Time is a colonial construct,” event organizer Reakash Walters joked as she brought things to the final part of the night.

Cole phoned up Alberta’s Justice Minister and Solicitor General, Kathleen Ganley, and the packed room left her a voicemail.

Where to go next

For people who want to get involved in stopping police carding, getting in touch with your political representatives is a good next step. That could included you current Edmonton city councillors, the candidates who come to your door asking for your vote in October, and your MLA. Both the provincial government and the Edmonton Police Commission are reviewing police street checks and carding, so sharing your opinion with your representatives right now is important.

You can also follow Black Lives Matter-Edmonton and the Stolen Sisters and Brothers Awareness Movement to see what they may be planning next to help put pressure on politicians and police to end this form of racial profiling.

There’s also a documentary about Cole’s work on a book about these same issues of racism.

And if you’re looking for more information on this issue in Edmonton before getting involved, you can see everything that’s been going on at our post on carding. It’s got links to stories, background, the data investigations and should be able to help start you on the way to knowing more about carding and where to get involved.

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