Alberta Bans Carding by Police

Distrust in the police among certain racialized groups is not unusual or uncommon. Police and RCMP in Canada have a history of poor police practices, notably in relation to Indigenous, black Canadians, and other people of colour.

One such practice is what is known as “carding”. Carding is a random stop by police to request someone provide their identification even though they are not being investigated or under suspicion of anything. Carding is often done on the basis of racial profiling and discrimination.

Alberta has now taken action to ban this practice. Although this practice was already formally ended by police in Calgary and Edmonton, this will now be a province wide ban and acknowledges the government is taking a stand against carding.

Even though carding is now formally banned, whether that change will actually take effect in practice remains to be seen. It is doubtful that simply announcing something is banned will then suddenly change a longstanding practice that is often done without any higher authority even knowing about it. There is a lack of accountability and transparency mechanism for what happens on an officer’s daily shift and interactions. Carding is part of a larger police culture that is based in systemic bias that is rooted in an even larger structural racism problem that is then built into the very foundations of our systems and institutions, notably the criminal justice system.

Arguably, it would take much more than simply denouncing or banning a practice to actually create meaningful change and a shift in police culture, which is what is needed. The recent Black Lives Matter movement has brought to the forefront the bias, stereotyping, discrimination, and racism that are present in our law enforcement institutions. Such a culture runs deep and long in time. To expect that suddenly this would change the attitudes and cultures present in police forces and law enforcement agencies is unrealistic. Without further education, a significant culture shift, and reworking from the ground up of the policies and practices that form these institutions, not much meaningful change can be expected.

A platform is needed for those who experience such practices to have a voice to share their lived experiences. When someone comes from a place of privilege, it is often hard to know or be aware of the practices that exist beneath the surface, swept under the rug, or hidden in plain sight. When someone becomes and ally and opens their minds, ears, and hearts to these issues, we place ourselves in a better position to gather around a cause and take part in effecting meaningful change. This change does not end simply with the banning of a practice such as carding, indeed the change has only really just begun.